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War Veteran, 97, Parachutes Over Dutch City 75 Years After World War Two Operation

War Veteran, 97, Parachutes Over Dutch City 75 Years After World War Two Operation

A 97-year-old World War Two veteran has parachuted over a Dutch city to mark the 75th anniversary of a major military operation.

Sandy Cortmann, from Aberdeen, was just 22 when he took part in Operation Market Garden, which saw 35,000 troops parachute near Arnhem in September 1944 with the goal of opening up an attack route for allied forces.

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The young soldier was later taken as a prisoner of war by the German forces.

But more than seven decades on from that fateful mission, Sandy made an emotional return to the city and took part in a mass parachute event to commemorate the assault.

Sandy jumped with a parachutist from the Army's Red Devils display team and glided over the Ginkel Heath nature reserve.

Looking back on his original mission, the brave serviceman said: "When the fighting started we were just in amongst it.

Sandy jumped with a parachutist from the Army's Red Devils. Credit: PA
Sandy jumped with a parachutist from the Army's Red Devils. Credit: PA
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"You can describe it as brave, you thought you were brave, but once you got down there, Jesus Christ, terrified, absolutely terrified.

"You just heard bangs and machine guns. I didn't understand what that was all about."

Operation Market Garden was depicted in the 1977 Hollywood film A Bridge Too Far.

Allied soldiers landed on secure bridges on the Dutch and German border. They were expected to receive support just two days later but some spent more than a week fighting.

More than 1,500 British soldiers were killed and almost 6,500 captured.

Sandy remembers the battlefield being 'strewn with bodies' and recalls one young soldier calling out for his mother.

He said: "I crawled out, I just touched his hand, grabbed it and he died. I thought, 'what a thing to happen'. I was choking, but I was alive."

Sandy was captured by German forces during Operation Market Garden. Credit: PA
Sandy was captured by German forces during Operation Market Garden. Credit: PA

During Sandy's visit, he went to the cemetery where one of his friends Gordon Matthews, who was fatally injured by a mortar shell during the mission, is commemorated.

Sandy said: "I wanted to come back. I wanted to see Gordon's stone so I could look at him and speak to him and just say 'hi pal' and think about him for a wee while."

Sandy says he and his comrades had attempted to escape the fighting by crossing a river, but the veteran couldn't make it as he didn't know how to swim.

But rather than leaving him, his pals stayed. Sandy was eventually captured by German troops and spent the next year as a prisoner of war.

Sandy also visited the grave of his friend Gordon, who died during Operation Market Garden. Credit: PA
Sandy also visited the grave of his friend Gordon, who died during Operation Market Garden. Credit: PA

Overwhelmed by the commemorative event, he added: "The attention I'm getting, I don't think I deserve it."

Alana Davidson, 27, from Fairview nursing home in Aberdeen said it had had a profound effect on Sandy.

She said: "I've never seen him this happy before. In the care home you don't have much time to sit for ages, but you hear the stories. I never realised how much of a hero he was.

"It's just unbelievable what they went to do at such a young age. It's just crazy."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: World News, uk news, Daily Ladness, Inspirational, Interesting, History, World War Two

Dominic Smithers

Dominic graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in French and History. Like you, Dom has often questioned how much use a second language has been. Well, after stints working at the Manchester Evening News, the Accrington Observer and the Macclesfield Express, along with never setting foot in France, he realised the answer is surprisingly little. But I guess, c'est la vie. Contact us at [email protected]

 

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