A COMMEMORATION service was held to honour the servicemen who served in the Second World War’s Battle of Arnhem.

Colchester’s deputy mayor Tim Young, the Bishop of Colchester the Rt Rev Roger Morris, and the High Sherriff of Essex Simon Brice were all in attendance at Colchester War Memorial to honour the sacrifices of Allied forces in the Netherlands in 1944.

The Battle of Arnhem was part of Operation Market Garden in which the 1st Airborne Division - the forerunners of the Parachute Regiment - landed by parachute and gliders at Arnhem on September 17 1944 to capture the final bridge across the Rhine.

Anticipating they would be relieved within 48 hours, the soldiers instead held out through nine days of prolonged fighting.

More than 1,600 British soldiers were killed at Arnhem and nearly 6,500 captured.

At Friday’s ceremony, poppy wreaths were laid by dignitaries including Mr Young, Deputy Lieutenant of Essex Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Toler and Lieutenant Colonel Richard Piso.

There were also pupils from primary schools in attendance and they laid sunflowers at the war memorial, replicating the Dutch tradition which takes place at the main commemorative service at Oosterbeek, where Allied forces landed to begin the operation.

It continues Colchester Council’s partnership with the Dutch district of Renkum – which includes the town of Oosterbeek – after a bond of friendship was signed between the two councils in 2019.

Lt Colonel Toler was born three years before the Battle of Arnhem but his father fought in the campaign.

Lt Colonel Toler said: “The important thing is if we don’t learn the lessons of yesteryear, we will repeat them in the future.

“I think it’s important children understand however glorious an operation may appear at the outset, there will be people coming back who they as children will have remembered here today.

“My father was in the Second World War, my uncle was in Arnhem as a fighter pilot and he got out on the final day by swimming across the river.

“If you come here as a youngster at an impressionable age, you hear these stories about Lieutenant Grayburn earning his Victoria Cross, that really is moving, and it was for me as well.”

The Dutch flag and Pegasus – the emblem of the First Airborne Division and now the Parachute Regiment – will fly from Colchester Town Hall until September 25 to mark the nine days the battle 77 years ago.

But Colonel Toler added a final note of caution.

“Of course, the memorial will become cluttered - we have Afghanistan, we have Iraq, we have the Balkans, we have Northern Ireland - we don’t want to clutter the landscape any more.”