CROWDS gathered to pay their respects on the anniversary of a major Second World War battle.

The heroism and sacrifice of the soldiers who took part in Operation Market Garden in September 1944 was honoured at a commemorative service at Colchester town’s War Memorial yesterday.

The service also celebrated the town’s relationship with the Dutch town of Arnhem where the battle took place.

Colchester Borough Council signed a bond of friendship with Renkum, the Dutch district including the town of Oosterbeek where soldiers landed and then made their final stand, to mark their common relationship with the British Army’s airborne forces.

The Dutch flag and Pegasus flew from the town hall in September to mark the nine days that the battle lasted 75 years ago.

The ceremony began with a civic procession, which arrived through Castle Park gates entrance.

Crowds were welcomed by Rev Tony Rose, of the Royal British Legion, before opening prayers were given by Bishop of Colchester the Right Rev Roger Morris.

A retrospective on the Battle of Arnhem was told by Captain Rory Falls of the Royal Logistics Corps.

Royal British Legion representative Terry Sutton read the Ode to the Fallen and a bugler from the Band of the Parachute Regiment played the Last Post and a two-minute silence was observed.

The bugler then played Reveille and wreaths and flowers were laid.

Finally, Dave Bennett of the Royal British Legion read the Kohima Epitaph, the Airborne Forces Collect was given by 16 Air Assault Brigade senior chaplain Rev Mark Grant-Jones, and a final blessing by Rev Roger Morris finished the event.

George Lazenby, of the Colchester Garrison, was at the ceremony in the town.

Mr Lazenby said: “It was great, and the weather managed to hold off.

“We had about 150 people attend with a mix of dignitaries and the public.

“We also had member of the Colchester Polish community attend the ceremony.

“From a community perspective, we are delighted to see them joining in so we can come together to remember the fallen.

“This kind of event is always warmly received.”

He said it will become an annual event.