Paulton Honors Soldiers Who Died in WWII Gliders

The use of WWII gliders was important to the war effort, providing a quick way of transporting troops to battle. They were used during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as well as during many other points in the war. During one particular operation, almost two dozen soldiers lost their lives when WWII gliders crashed in Paulton. To pay tribute to these soldiers, Paulton recently held a service which included a memorial fly-past.

It was 1944 when the crash occurred, and the soldiers were on their way to the Battle of Arnhem at the time. Many may recognize the Battle of Arnhem for the important part that it played in the novel A Bridge Too Far as well as the subsequent film adaptation. Had the crash not occurred, the WWII gliders would have transferred nearly two dozen soldiers to take place in the seizure of several German-occupied bridges in the Netherlands. Instead, these soldiers lost their lives in the Double Hills field. They were just shy of taking part in Operation Market Garden, which is the biggest airborne military operation in history. Approximately three and a half thousand troops were transported to the operation in the same manner as the deceased soldiers.

The memorial ceremony recently held is actually an annual event, and has been occurring every year for the past thirty-five years. This particular ceremony was led by a veteran with a loose connection to those who died. Lieutenant Colonel John Humphreys fought in the Battle of Arnhem, the same battle for which the WWII gliders were bound. Although he was captured on the bridge, he survived captivity and is currently ninety-three years of age.

As a part of the memorial ceremony, the Army Air Corps performed a fly-past over Paulton. Although Operation Market Garden was ultimately unsuccessful, with the British withdrawing after over six thousand of their men were captured, those who died in the WWII gliders are still honored every year by village locals who remember the crash as if it were a recent event. One man, Peter Yeates, has been in charge of organizing the ceremony every year since its very inception, the BBC News reports.

According to Yeates, the fate of the soldiers in the WWII gliders still causes pain for surviving family members to this day. He believes that the annual ceremony is growing in importance, which would make sense given that this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the crash. This ceremony also shows that a soldier does not have to die in battle to be honored, as the people of Paulton continue to honor the dead soldiers of the crashed WWII gliders regardless of the fact that they never got to carry out this measure of service.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE