Justin Murray, Year 12, writes about his experiences at Arnham last weekend:
Last Thursday, the St James School minibus revved into life, carrying 13 cadets of 239 Para Cadet Detachment to the town of Arnhem, Holland. As it does every year.
Affiliated as we are with the Parachute Regiment, 239 annually attends the commemoration ceremony of the Battle of Arnhem. This conflict, which was fought on Dutch soil in September 1944, was the largest in the history of airborne forces. Under the plan codenamed ‘Market Garden’, thousands of paratroopers from four nations jumped into Holland to seize strategic bridges in an attempt to seek an easy way into Germany and bring the war to an early close. This weekend, as every year, veterans, civilians, and troops currently in service, gather all alike to remember their fight.
During the four days there on the 65th anniversary of the conflict, St James cadets visited the Airborne Museum outside Arnhem, where we learnt much about the battle and its consequences. We attended the memorial service at the Airborne Cemetery: a very sobering display. We were present at the Drop Zone (DZ) to witness the commemorative parachute jump by both modern-day parachute troops and veterans who had first jumped there 65 years previously.
That evening we served drinks at the cocktail party reception, at which many important civil and military dignitaries – including the Secretary of State and several senior generals – were present. This was a highly uncommon but extremely rewarding experience: not many other sixth-formers can say that they have served champagne at such a high-profile event! Moreover, the breath-taking display by the Red Devils (the Parachute Regiment’s elite parachute-jumping team), and the performance from the Paras’ own military band is not to be missed.
For me, however, the highlight was seeing and speaking to the veterans of the 1944 campaign who still travel to Arnhem today; men over eighty years old who will stand stock still to remember their fallen comrades. I end with a quote from the wall of the Airborne Museum:
“If in the years to come any man says to you ‘I fought at Arnhem’, take off your hat to him and buy him a drink,for this is the stuff of which England’s greatness is made.”