An appeal has been launched to raise £75,000 for a stone memorial at Somerby to honour hundreds of troops who gave their lives during an iconic Second World War battle.
A total of 582 members of the 10th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, were billeted in and around Somerby and Burrough-on-the-Hill when they flew off to be dropped behind enemy lines in Holland in September 1944.
But only 36 returned after their battalion suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Arnhem, which was later immortalised in the 1977 movie A Bridge Too Far.
Friends of the Tenth, a group which aims to raise awareness of the sacrifices made by those brave men, have commissioned Leicestershire sculptor Graeme Mitcheson to create the stone memorial, which will be erected on the village green.
It will have three stone blocks, inspired by the bridge in Arnhem, which was the intended destination for the battalion on the ill-fated mission.
One side of the stone work will tell the story of their time spent in the area, with the other side remembering those who gave their lives.
Alec Wilson, whose father, Alex, was one of those who survived after being parachuted in to Ginkel Heath, about eight miles from the Arnhem Bridge, said: “Graeme has certainly captured what we are looking to create and we believe this will be a fitting memorial for the 10th Battalion.
“There has been some excellent feedback from those who have seen the artist’s impression, so we are confident this will accomplish what we have been aiming to achieve in launching this appeal.”
A list of fundraising events is being drawn up, some of which will be focused on the annual commemoration and parade, which takes place in Somerby over the weekend of September 9 and 10.
There will be a screening of ‘A Bridge Too Far’, a Teddy bear parachute drop, a World War Two paras exhibition and a 1940s tea dance, as well as the traditional church service and parade on the Sunday morning.
Mr Wilson said: “The level of support which we have already received, not only from local people, but also from many with the interests of the parachute regiment at heart, fills us with confidence that this fund-raising and awareness campaign will be successful.
“It is our aim to cement and perpetuate this almost unique legacy of the bond between Somerby
and the parachute regiment in every way possible.”
The battalion were initially set to be deployed during the D-Day Landings in the June of 1944 but they were held back and finally went off following 16 cancelled operations in the previous nine months.
Conditions were incredibly challenging in what was officially called Operation Market Garden but is known as the Battle of Arnhem.
The drop zone, which was a heather and grass heath, was largely on fire and the paratroops encountered heavy gunfire, before being engaged in fierce and heavy fighting with German SS panzer grenadiers.
Mr Wilson added: “We intend to raise awareness and education among all generations, but especially young people, to help ensure this chapter in local history retains a prominent place.
“This is the start of an exciting journey which will hopefully lead to the unveiling of a memorial in Somerby at some point in the near future.”