After a couple of years of designing, consulting, redesigning, consulting and redesigning, the memorial sculpture to commemorate the 10th Battalion the Parachute Regiment is finally underway. The 3 piece Woodkirk sandstone sculpture will be located on land formerly used as a drop zone for the Battalion, just outside of Somerby in Leicestershire.
The Battalion were stationed in the area for 3 years during World War 2 before taking part in the fateful Operation Market Garden, a mission to capture strategic bridges in Holland in 1944. Of the 583 members of the Battalion who left Somerby in September 1944, only a few dozen arrived back in the village following the disastrous drop near Oosterbeek in Holland. The sculpture, of course pays tribute to the fallen members of the Battalion and tells the tragic story of the doomed operation however it also commemorates the time the soldiers spent in the area. For 3 years, the Battalion became friends with the locals, drank in the pubs, had relationships with land girls and generally were made to feel very comfortable in their temporary Leicestershire home, far away from their own families. The sculpture contains detailed carved images of the soldiers that capture some the stories that have filtered down through the years, including a reference to the very well known tale of Myrtle the Para chic who, after completing many many practice jumps, took part in the drop over Holland.
The sculpture is almost 6 metres long and has an arc shape across the top, a nod to the the bridge in Arnheim that the mission had set out to capture. There is detailed carving of the figures on one face while on the other side, a list of over 150 names of the fallen and a summary of the story. The sculpture will be unveiled in September, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the mission.