Around 200 descendants of a brave band of Second World War paratroopers gathered at Burrough on the Hill on Saturday to see the unveiling of a lasting memorial in their honour.
The stunning sculpture - three double-sided memorial plaques measuring seven metres long and two metres high - will now commemorate the deeds of the 10th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, for generations to come.
A total of 582 10th Battalion men stationed in Somerby, Burrough-on-the-Hill and Thorpe Satchville left Saltby Airfield in September 1944 to parachute 64 miles behind enemy lines into the iconic Battle of Arnhem.
Tragically, only 36 returned, with the rest being killed in action, wounded or captured by the Germans.
A charity group called Friends of the Tenth raised more than £100,000 in less than two years to fund a permanent memorial to the Battalion and the sacrifices they made.
Chairman Alec Wilson, whose own father, Alex, was captured during the battle, made a poignant speech during the memorial unveiling ceremony.
He said: “At the heart of this is a tragic, courageous story that we want people to remember.
“But until now there has been nothing cast in stone; no actual place where children, grandchildren can go.”
Of his father’s experiences at Arnhem, he said: He came home in 1946 and shut that book for ever.
“He died in 1989, never having told me anything about any of this.”
And what does he think his dad would make of the memorial and the campaign to get it installed: “I hope he’d be proud. I’m very proud of him.”
The centrepieces of the memorial are the double-sided memorial plaques, made by Leicestershire sculptor Graeme Mitcheson and depicting members of the battalion in Somerby in the 1940s on one side and a list of names of those who died in the Battle of Arnhem on the other.
A digital QR code is embedded into the sculpture, providing access to information about the 10th Battalion, and a comprehensive history.
Contributions to the project included five lorry loads of topsoil for the memorial garden from Bellway East Midlands, which is building new homes at nearby Frisby and Waltham.
The memorial is on a half-acre site off Twyford Road donated by Dawn and Fred Wilson, of the Burrough Court Estate.
It was originally planned on a grassed area in front of All Saints’ Church at Somerby but plans were withdrawn after dozens of people objected to it because they feared it would dominate what was effectively the village green with one person saying it would be an ‘eyesore’.
The site finally adopted is almost central to all the locations where the battalion was billeted before they flew out to Arnhem to take part in Operation Market Garden, which was immortalised in the film A Bridge Too Far.
****Tickets are still available for a special screening of A Bridge Too Far, a classic 1977 movie which tells the story of Operation Market Garden and the Battle of Arnhem.
It will be shown in the Tower Building at Pera, on Nottingham Road, Melton, just yards from Staveley Lodge, where 156 Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, were billeted prior to their involvement at Arnhem.
Tickets are free for the night, which begins at 6.45pm, on Wednesday September 18, exactly 75 years after they took part in the iconic battle, but donations will be invited for the Friends of the Tenth group, which campaigned for the memorial at Burrough for the 10th Battalion.
All seats for the screening must be booked in advance, via www.eventbrite.co.uk (search for ‘A Bridge Too Far’) or by calling 01664 501501.