The heroism and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Arnhem will be honoured in a service at the town’s War Memorial on Friday 17 September.
Members of the public are invited to attend a special service to remember the 77th anniversary of Operation Market Garden and celebrate Colchester’s relationship with the Dutch district where the battle took place.
The Allies’ aim was to break into Germany by a combined airborne and armoured advance, striking a decisive blow that would bring the war in Europe to an end by Christmas 1944. The 1st Airborne Division landed by parachute and glider at Arnhem on 17 September 1944 to capture the final bridge across the Rhine. Expecting to be relieved within 48 hours, the soldiers held out through nine days of prolonged and brutal street fighting before withdrawing across the river on 25th September. Over 1,500 British soldiers were killed and nearly 6,500 captured, while five Victoria Crosses were awarded.
The soldiers of 16 Air Assault Brigade, which is based at Colchester Garrison, serve under the same Pegasus emblem as 1st Airborne Division, with the badge serving as a reminder of the bravery and commitment of their forebears.
In 2019, Colchester Borough Council signed a bond of friendship with Renkum, the Dutch district including the town of Oosterbeek where soldiers landed and made their final stand, to mark their common relationship with the British Army’s airborne forces. The Dutch flag and Pegasus will be flying from Colchester Town Hall from 17 to 25 September to mark the nine days that the battle lasted 77 years ago.
The public is invited to join dignitaries, including the Deputy Mayor of Colchester Cllr Tim Young, the Deputy Lieutenant of Essex Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Hugh Toler, Dutch defence attaché Lieutenant Colonel Richard Piso, and a small contingent of troops and senior officers from16 Air Assault Brigade. Pupils from local primary schools and Colchester Institute will lay sunflowers at the War Memorial, replicating what Dutch children do at the main commemorative service at Oosterbeek cemetery.
The Right Reverend Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester, and The Reverend Joe Mairara CF, Colchester Garrison Chaplain, will lead prayers, and a bugler from The Band of The Royal Anglian Regiment will play The Last Post and Reveille. A two-minute silence will be followed by the laying of wreaths, and the reading of the Kohima Epitaph.