Veterans commemorate Rhine Crossing date
World War II veterans commemorated the 67th anniversary of the Rhine Crossing on Saturday, the biggest airborne operation in history.
Serving and retired members of the British Sixth Airborne Division, Croydon Branch and the Parachute Regimental Association (PRA), gathered at the war memorial in Manor Park, Sutton.
They were lead by ex-glider Private Johnny Johnson, one of the only remaining living veterans from the operation (Op Varsity), who first started the memorial nine years ago all by himself.
The ceremony has since grown, with other branch members now joining in and mayors from South London.
A speech was given by Colonel John Power, followed by the Last Post and a minute’s silence, with refreshments provided by Morrisons after.
They were joined by the mayor of Sutton Councillor Gerry Jerome, mayor of Croydon Councillor Graham Bass and the mayor of Kingston Councillor Patrick Codd.
Pt Johnson, 90, who has lived in Sutton since the 1950’s said: “It is one of those things to remember our old comrades.
“The paratroopers were shot to pieces. It was the worst day of my life, it was really a disastrous day, 2000 men died. We were lucky to get out of it.”
Pt Chris Hefferman, 86, said: “Johnny is our hero, the reason we are here today. If we were not here today, nobody in Sutton would be remembered.”
Janet Dann, 77, of Sutton, whose husband died while serving during the War said: “It is a great moment to come to these things. I feel honoured to come here today and remember these people.”
The Rhine Crossing was the final push into Germany in the last year of the War. It remains the biggest airborne operation to this day, with most veterans regarding the Rhine Crossing as the worst day for men lost.
PRA membership spans from WW2 Veterans to current service in Afghanistan.
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