Melton war hero’s ashes to be parachuted into Arnhem battlefield

The late Dennis Collier pictured (third from left on back row) at this year's parachute battalion reunion at Melton in October EMN-181221-140203001
The late Dennis Collier pictured (third from left on back row) at this year's parachute battalion reunion at Melton in October EMN-181221-140203001
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Plans are being made to have the ashes of one of the last heroes of the iconic Battle of Arnhem parachuted in on its 75th anniversary next year.

Dennis Collier was a member of the famed 156 Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, who fought for a strategic bridge in Holland during the Second World War.

Dennis Collier, a member of 156 Battalion Parachute Regiment stationed at Melton during the Second World War, and who fought at the Battle of Arnhem. He has passed away at the age of 95. EMN-181221-140900001

Dennis Collier, a member of 156 Battalion Parachute Regiment stationed at Melton during the Second World War, and who fought at the Battle of Arnhem. He has passed away at the age of 95. EMN-181221-140900001

He was the only member to attend October’s latest reunion events at Melton’s St Mary’s Church and at Saltby Airfield, where he and his comrades flew off to fight from in 1944.

Dennis was looking forward to going back to Arnhem next year, 75 years on from the battle which was immortalised in the Hollywood movie, A Bridge Too Far, but he passed away on December 12 aged 95.

Poignantly, he will still be part of the memorial events in Holland, though, thanks to his close friend, Dave Petfield.

Dave told the Melton Times: “I am arranging for his ashes to be parachuted in with a member of The Parachute Regiment but I am still talking to his family about what we will then do with his ashes.

Dennis Collier, pictured during the Second World War when he fought at Arnhem with 156 Battalion, The Parachute Regiment EMN-181227-131725001

Dennis Collier, pictured during the Second World War when he fought at Arnhem with 156 Battalion, The Parachute Regiment EMN-181227-131725001

“One of the options is to scatter them on the drop zone where he and his comrades came down at Arhem or they might be interred at the military cemetery at Oosterbeek.

“I am sure he would have loved what we are planning to do.”

Dennis was a regular attendee at the annual reunions of 156 Battalion, who were based at Melton during the Second World War and who suffered devastating losses at Arnhem.

This year he laid a wreath at the service at Saltby despite being in a wheelchair.

Dennis Collier (in the wheelchair), who fought at Arnhem with 156 Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, pictured at a war memorial event EMN-181227-131736001

Dennis Collier (in the wheelchair), who fought at Arnhem with 156 Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, pictured at a war memorial event EMN-181227-131736001

After being dropped into Arnhem at the age of just 21, Dennis was involved in hand-to-hand fighting during the battle, which was also known as Operation Market Garden.

Dennis was captured on September 20, just two days after landing in Holland, having been earlier wounded in the right foot.

He lost a couple of toes in the incident when he was hit in the Bilderberg woods.

After capture he spent time in several POW camps before being liberated by the Russian army in 1945.

He made friends with fellow war veteran Malcolm Petfield and the pair made regular trips to Arnhem and to Normandy, where both took part in the D-Day landings.

After Malcolm passed away his son, Dave, continued to take Dennis to reunions.

Dave added: “He never used to say much when he went back but you could see in his face what it meant to him.

“Dennis was one of this country’s first ever paratroopers and he was very proud of that.”

A funeral service will be held for Dennis in Harrogate on January 4 followed by cremation.