On 31st August 2016, 60 cadets and 16 staff set off on 1289 Squadron’s annual journey to Arnhem in the Netherlands to take part in the ‘Airborne Wandeltocht’, the world’s largest one-day walking event commemorating the allied operation to liberate the Netherlands in 1944, codenamed Operation Market Garden.
This years group, the largest to date with cadets and staff from across Warwickshire and Birmingham Wing, spent time visiting museums detailing various aspects of the operation. A notable museum is the ‘Glider Collection Wolfheze’, where artefacts of the glider landings are displayed by a local, Paul Hendriks, in his rather large garden shed! Also part of the trip is a battlefield tour. The cadets visited the Ginkel Heath, known as Drop Zone Y during the battle, where soldiers of the 4th Parachute Brigade dropped in September 1944. The site offers a poignant reminder of the cost of battle.
The Dutch people celebrate and remember the actions of allied forces to this day. On march day upwards of 34,000 people descended on the small town of Oosterbeek. After a sombre two minutes silence and march past, the celebratory, party-like atmosphere took hold. Walking in teams, the cadets rallied together, singing and handing out ‘Air Cadet Future Pilot’ stickers to excited Dutch children.
Flight Lieutenant Dave Ariss RAF VR (T), the expedition commander, said, “This is a fantastic opportunity for the cadets to learn about one of the key battles of the Second World War and have the experience of learning first hand how the allied forces lived and fought to bring us the freedom we enjoy today. Cadets carried out several acts of remembrance to commemorate the fallen, whose actions helped to bring the end of the Second World War closer.”