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War hero returns to the battlefields
VETERAN soldier Arthur Shackleton is making a pilgrimage to Holland at the age of 94 for the anniversary of a historic Second World War raid.
The former glider pilot flew into Holland in September 1944 for Operation Market Garden – the largest airborne operation in history which included the Battle of Arnhem.
Now Mr Shackleton, of Owermoigne, is returning to the battlefields with old comrades thanks to support from the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2 programme.
Mr Shackleton was shot during the retreat from the raid and left for dead before being spotted and saved. He is heading to Holland for the 69th anniversary of Operation Market Garden at the end of September. It will be his 33rd trip back. The party will visit the battlefields, cemeteries and villages.
Mr Shackleton was a 25 year old staff sergeant and a first pilot in the Glider Pilot Regiment, now the Army Air Corp. He flew troops from the South Staffordshire Regiment to a landing strip at Wolfheze, eight kilometres from Arnhem, as part of the first wave of landings on Sunday September 17.
Mr Shackleton said that they took up position in a derelict house while the Parachute Regiment and glider troops attack Arnhem.
He said: “At dawn we started the attack. But they were waiting for us with Panzer tanks. Three hundred and fifty of us were killed in one hour.”
It was 10 days after their initial landing that the troops finally got the order to pull out towards the Rhine.
“Suddenly I heard this burst of machine gun fire and I felt like someone had hit my arm with a sledgehammer. When I turned I saw that the others were dead. Then I felt my hand was sticky and blood running down my sleeve. I was put in a boat with other wounded.
“We were crossing over when I heard this muffled bang and suddenly I was in the river on my back.
“I felt my leg bump down into some mud and I heard someone say ‘here’s a body washed up’ and I shouted, ‘I’m not a body, I’m alive.’ The Heroes Return programme deadline has been extended till 2015.
Veterans who have already been funded since the programme opened in 2009, can again apply for a grant.
Call 0845 00 00 121 or visit biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn
Thousands died in assault
OPERATION Market Garden was the largest airborne operation in history and included the famous Battle of Arnhem, immortalised in the film A Bridge Too Far.
The force of over 86,000 men comprising paratroopers, glider troops and ground units were involved in the daring operation to seize control of bridges and river crossings in Germany and the Netherlands.
The Allied assault on September 17 to 25 was initially successful, but ultimately ended in defeat with thousands killed and many more injured or taken prisoner.
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