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Battle of Arnhem Commemorations September 2017.
Next September marks the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, it is sad but inevitable that the number of veterans is now tiny, however, we are marking the event with a very special Battlefield tour. This will take place on Thursday 14th September 2016 and is to be ‘Friends of the 10th Battalion Tour’. An all day event, we will start at Ginkel Heath drop-zone and follow the Battalions’ eight days of fighting during September 1944.
Our own ‘Tenth’ tour guide will be Grahame Warner. During the commemoration weekend, Grahame is also launching his book, the long awaited definitive history of the battalion, ‘Eight Days to Oblivion’.
The tour will be followed in the evening by an ‘invitation only’ dinner for relations and friends of the battalion.
The battlefield tour will be free of charge.
Please let me know if you would like to register an interest in the tour and dinner?
The Erection of a memorial to the 10th Bn in Somerby.
The story of the Battalion’s time in Somerby is well known to you but I think the following is worth repeating?
On September 18th 1944, 582 men left the village, by lorry, bound for nearby Spanhoe airfield where they emplaned for Arnhem. Some two weeks later only 30 men arrived back in the village. The well planned ‘welcome home’ banquet laid on by the villagers and Land Army girls was nothing short of a tragedy. It was this tragic and devastating return of so few that led to the annual Somerby Commemoration. For nearly 73 years, the village has never forgotten those brave young men.
It is now our intention to raise a memorial on the village green. In memory of not just the 582, but to all the men who served in the battalion during it’s short life.
A PROGRESS REPORT, FRIENDS OF THE TENTH, May 2017
It was in July last year that I first approached Somerby Parish Council with a proposal to erect a memorial in the village to the 10th Battalion the Parachute Regiment.
I was received with a good deal of enthusiasm and support and by the time of inaugural meeting of ‘Friends of the Tenth’ on 30th November we had put together a group of similar minded people. This group includes, next of kin, villagers, Leicester PRA and other interested individuals.
The first meeting was fantastic, again, the level of enthusiasm and support as well as original ideas and thinking was outstanding. We agreed and adopted the name ‘FRIENDS OF THE TENTH”. We adopted a constitution and elected officers for the various roles required. We even had offers of support from such diverse characters as Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits (why?…google ‘Brothers in Arms’) and former chief of The British Army, General Sir Mike Jackson.
We decided upon our recommendation that the memorial should be located on the Village Green opposite to All Saints Church. We also decided that a ‘high quality’ maroon leather bound memorial book should be held at the Church to complement the stained-glass memorial window, the plaque to the fallen as well as our now famous golden cockerel weathervane (Myrtle the Parachick).
We were offered the pro bono support of Reach Marketing to construct a website and co-ordinate all fund raising and publicity. This is invaluable; Nick Lucy and Ashley Keir-Bucknall of Reach have attended all subsequent meetings and their level of support and advice is proving priceless. http://www.reachmarketing.co.uk/
The project is, however, not only about a memorial. We agreed that we would embrace, extend and continue the existing September commemoration and our mission would include educating and informing, especially the younger generations now and in the future. Grahame Warner’s forthcoming book of the history of the Battalion ‘8 Days to Oblivion’ is also a key element in this process. There was a proposal that we should attempt to gain some kind of twinning process with one of the communities in the Netherlands where the Battle of Arnhem was fought.
After this meeting I contacted Everard's Brewery in Leicester and the result was a pledge to brew and market ‘Myrtle the Parachick’ beer during September of the this and next year. There is even a hope that we may be able to export this elixir to Holland.
With the help of Somerby resident and architect, Keith Hamilton, I obtained some initial ideas and costings for a memorial from monumental masons. This was useful in giving us some idea of a provisional budget. We therefore arrived at a figure of circa £70,000. We also decided that the monument should not be just that, but also, possibly by way of providing seating, a community asset, a place for quiet contemplation or merely somewhere to sit and eat lunch! This idea was somewhat inspired by the Airborne Memorial at the Wolfheze rail crossing (the scene of so much devastation of the Battalion). Again, you can google this
The second meeting on 9th February was as equally constructive as the first and more great ideas were forthcoming. We moved forward with designs and decided to approach Ketton Stone for designs and costings.
It was proposed that a series of ‘maroon plaques’ could be affixed to buildings intrinsic to the story and to ask the Parish Council if the red telephone box could be painted maroon? An ‘Arnhem’ tour of Leicestershire was proposed as well a 10th Bn. walk between the villages where our lads had been billeted. ‘Myrtle the Parachick’ beer was, of course, given the thumbs up! Once again it was reported that the Parish Council were fully on board even to the point of considering a donation.
Lots of vital work which included legal and accountancy advise was carried out to decide the exact format of Friends of the Tenth. We shall be registering as an official charity with the Charity Commission which will mean that when we start fundraising we shall be able to offer the benefit go ‘gift aid’ on donations. We obtained designs and costs from Ketton Stone but unfortunately, they were neither consistent with the brief nor the budget. This led me to contact Leicestershire sculptor, Graeme Mitcheson. Graeme has designed and constructed several memorials at the National Arboretum. Graeme’s website is well worth a look; http://www.chisel-it.co.uk
A leaflet drop in the villages of Somerby, Burrough on the Hill, Ashby Folville and Thorpe Satchville, requested by Grahame Warner, for information led to the amazing discovery of Neil and Jane Thorley from the Vines
in Thorpe Satchville of boxes and boxes of memorabilia found under the floorboards of that house. B Company and some of Support Company (including our old friend, veteran, Harry Herbert) were billeted here in 1944. Neil and Jane have now joined our group.
By the time of our next meeting on 11th April, Reach Marketing had advised that the website was ready to go subject to some fine tuning and, unsurprisingly, we felt that we needed some definitive ideas about the design of the memorial before the website is launched. To this end, Graeme Mitcheson came along to the meeting and presented his portfolio of work and some great and original ideas. The group were unanimous in asking him to join and work with us to achieve a unique and special monument.
Grahame Warner also attended the meeting and gave a full and frank presentation regarding his view about the accuracy of the historical information available. Grahame’s misgivings about the accuracy of much of the information available led us to re-think the design and composition of the proposed memorial.
At our May meeting, we felt that, to move forward, it was important to decide about the design and style of the memorial and what information it would hold. A lively debate led to a consensus and it was decided that the stone memorial should on one side, portray images of men of the battalion in Somerby village and on the other side, name and recognise those men killed (The Fallen). This is the brief that we have now given to Graeme Mitcheson.
Chairman Friends of the Tenth