Operation Market Garden glider crew honoured at Paulton commemoration
The 23 servicemen who became the first casualties of a major Second World War operation have been remembered during a commemoration on Sunday.
In brilliant sunshine hundreds turned out at Double Hills on the edge of Paulton to remember those who died when a Horsa glider taking them to the start of Operation Market Garden crashed into the field killing all on board.
The glider had been taking part in a major operation to land troops behind enemy lines and take control of the major bridges over the River Rhine.
The action, immortalised in the film “A Bridge too Far”, was one of the biggest airborne military operations ever mounted.
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Sunday’s event also saw the unveiling of a Pegasus symbol sculpted by the nephew of the youngest sapper to die in the crash.
Blacksmith Dave Tigwell created the symbol in stainless steel as a tribute to his uncle Joseph Beale who was just three days short of his 19th birthday when he climbed aboard the ill fated Horsa.
The figure was unveiled by the youngest sapper from the 9 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers (Air Assault).
The youngest person taking part in the ceremony itself was the six year old great grandson of Double Hills organiser Peter Yeates.
Cameron Webber was called on to read a poem written by nurse Ruby Bowell who was walking evacuees across the field at the time of the accident and who, after making sure her charges were safe, returned to try and help the servicemen.
He was taking over the duty from his mum Sophie Wilson who had read the poem every year for the last 20 years.
All eyes were on the sky while a Lynx and two Gazelle helicopters took part in a flypast to mark the event.
Also being remembered were the seven crew members who lost their lives in the Pearl River incident.
It was 60 years to the day when communist forces opened fire on a motor launch of the Hong Kong flotilla killing crew members.
The parade was reviewed by Colonel Peter Eadie, commander of the Army Aviation Centre at Middle Wallop.
Mr Yeates said that this year’s commemoration had been a magnificent event.
“It was a lovely day and I estimate we must have had 600 people there.
I would like to thank all those who helped and supported us.”
Mr Yeates is now looking forward to next year which will mark the 70th anniversary of the battle for Arnhem.
He is also appealing for the owner of a classic Triumph motor cycle to come forward.
The motor cyclist helped Mr Yeates track down the piper who plays during the ceremony and was waiting at the wrong place.