Some 1,500 parachutists floated out of clear blue skies in the eastern Netherlands on Saturday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of a daring but ultimately unsuccessful mission that sought to end the Second World War.
Operation Market Garden was British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s ill-fated plan to drop some 35,000 paratroopers deep behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Netherlands.
Forces captured and secured key roads and bridges, so that Allied troops that were massed in Belgium could pour into Germany’s industrial heartland and bring the conflict to an end.
On Saturday, military aircraft flew low over Ginkel Heath and parachutists – including 97-year-old veteran Sandy Cortmann, from Aberdeen – leapt out as thousands of spectators looked on, applauding as the soldiers walked past after landing.
The British 1st Airborne Division led the huge airborne assault in September 1944 that also involved the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division and 82nd Airborne Division, along with Poland’s 1st Independent Parachute Brigade.
But once on the ground, the Allied troops met with stubborn German resistance in and around the city of Arnhem, and their advance stalled on a bridge spanning the River Rhine in a battle immortalised in the book and Hollywood film A Bridge Too Far.
More Allied troops – about 11,500 – died in the nine days of Operation Market Garden than during the D-Day landings.
Prince Charles and the former Dutch queen, Princess Beatrix, were among dignitaries who joined the ever-dwindling group of veterans who took part in the operation for the annual commemoration event.