European and American paratroops in mass parachute to commemorate the Battle of Arnhem

Thousands of soldiers lost their lives in the battle, part of the controversial Operation Market Garden

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The Independent Online

Paratroopers from Europe and the United States are staging parachute jumps in the Netherlands today, to commemorate the 70 anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem.

Allied forces were defeated after two days of heavy fighting, when they landed behind German lines near Arnhem in Operation Market Garden during World War Two, the theme of the epic 1974 film A Bridge Too Far.

There will also be a short remembrance service, at the cemetery at Oosterbeek, tomorrow remembering the thousands who died in the battle.

According to the British Army, today’s events are among the largest multinational jumps to take place in Europe this year.

One of the conflict’s veterans Tom Hicks, attending today’s service, said when he and his fellow soldiers first landed the Dutch thought they had been liberated.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hicks said: "They brought milk out and flowers and thought the war was over. They thought they were liberated.”

“And we knew there was a long way to go before they were liberated. Children [were] holding your hand and skipping …. Think ‘oh, back to normal life’.”

Instead, Arnhem became one of the most controversial operations of the Second World War after German forces put up a strong resistance. It was left to the airborne troops to defend themselves without support from ground troops, who were unable to reach their positions.

John Saint, aged 82 from East London who served in the British 1st. Battalion Parachute Regiment pay his respects to fallen comrades

Operation Market Garden was intended to inflict a decisive blow on the Germans, ending the war by Christmas 1944.

In all, over 1,200 British and 3,400 German soldiers were killed. Nearly 3,000 British men were taken prisoner.