A hugely generous offer of a new site from the owners of the Burrough Court Estate, for the commemorative sculpture to The Tenth Battalion The Parachute Regiment, has been gratefully accepted by charity Friends of The Tenth (FOTT).

The site is situated on the Twyford Road and opposite Burrough Court. It is almost central to all the locations where the Battalion was billeted in 1944 prior to its departure for Arnhem. Of the 582 men that deployed only 36 returned two weeks later.

Friends of the Tenth, at their recent committee meeting, voted unanimously to accept the offer of the new location for the planned commemorative sculpture to the Battalion and to withdraw the current planning application on Somerby village green. The sculpture has been commissioned to commemorate East Leicestershire’s part in the hosting of the Battalion during the second world war. Sculptor, Graeme Mitcheson, is a renowned artist based in Leicestershire who has completed several works for the National Memorial Arboretum.

Alec Wilson, the charity chairman and a founding member of FOTT, said “The new location means that we can celebrate all of the communities involved with the 10th Battalion in 1944. It overlooks the dramatic valley where the paras dropped in training exercises. The site allows us to revert to our original impressive design with its sensational impact that had been significantly reduced due to the constraints of Somerby village green.

Patron of the Friends of the Tenth, Major General Ranald Munro CBE TD VR said:

“Having embarked on a planning application to erect a memorial to the men of the 10th Battalion The Parachute Regiment on Somerby Green we have since received a very generous offer to erect our memorial on a site almost opposite Burrough Court just outside Somerby – a place of significance to the Battalion.”

“Having visited the proposed site I am very excited about the opportunity that the location provides. It will allow for greater freedoms in scale and design and afford a more appropriate spot for quiet thought and reflection. As a Patron of Friends of the Tenth I commend the new site to all our supporters.”

Dawn Wilson of the Burrough Court Estate said:

 “We are delighted to be in a position to be able to help with providing a suitable site for this historic memorial, with Burrough Court having played a significant part in preparing the 10th Battalion the Parachute Regiment for their extreme bravery in the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.”

Melton Borough and Somerby ward councillor Leigh Higgins said:

“As a member of the Royal British Legion and Royal Air Force Association I naturally support such initiatives.  However, as the Ward Councillor, and someone who loves the area, I think this is a fantastic location and will be a significant memorial to the Parachute Regiment’s eternal link with our villages.  I also pay tribute to Fred and Dawn, who take great pride in the area, for their very generous offer.”

“The setting is absolutely superb where the visitor can not only reflect on the memorial but the grand vista of rolling countryside around it.  This will be a “Jewel in the Crown” of the Somerby Ward and enhance the amenity for residents and visitors alike.”

Alec Wilson ended by saying “We will be submitting a new application to Melton Borough Council to locate the sculpture on the magnificent site given to us on Burrough Court Estate. Their generosity is greatly appreciated by all those who have worked on the project and those who have contributed so much money to making it happen. We will continue with all our aims, in particular the educational initiatives, and we will also maintain the connection between the Battalion and Somerby with the annual commemoration parade and church service. September 2019 will mark the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden and it is our intention to unveil the completed sculpture at the new location at that time.”


Graeme Mitcheson’s artistic impression of the sculpture in situ.

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For 74 years, Albert Willingham has remained one of the unsung heroes of Arnhem. In my opinion, the actions bringing about his death on 21st September 1944, should have brought him recognition of the highest order – yet he received no award of any kind.

I first became aware of him when researching my father’s time at Arnhem (actually, of course, Wolfheze and Oosterbeek). My Dad, Pte. Alex Wilson was part of Chalk number 673, which carried a stick 18 men. Of those 18, a staggering proportion, one third or 6 men, were killed or died of their wounds! It is no wonder my Dad never spoke of those times.

Those on Chalk 673 who didn’t make it were; Col. Ken Smyth (the battalion’s CO), Capt. Myles Henry (the intelligence officer), Pte. Albert Willingham, L/C Walter Secret, Pte. Robby Hill and Sgt. Austin Francis.

Albert was, I’m told, the Colonel’s ‘minder’ and he certainly stuck close by his side until the bitter end. That end came in the cellar of 2 Annastraat. In that grim and bloody place was the badly wounded CO and Major Peter Warr. It was the last HQ of the devastated battalion. But also sheltering there were some 20 Dutch civilians, including Mrs Bertje Voskuil and her 8-year-old son, Henri. As German infantry won ground and took the house, a stick grenade was thrown down the cellar steps. Immediately Pte. Willingham jumped between Bertje and young Henri, protecting them from the inevitable blast – and lost his life in the process.

Nearly 75 years later, Dilip Sarkar MBE, the prolific author, historian and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, is about to ensure that Albert Willingham gets the recognition he deserves. Firstly, Albert is one of the forgotten heroes in Dilip’s new book ‘Arnhem 1944: The Human Tragedy of the Bridge Too Far’. Secondly, Dilip, who has Albert’s family’s full cooperation and support, has liaised with the Parachute Regiment and initiated a special commemoration for Albert in Oosterbeek next year. I think that I speak for all the Airborne community and the relatives of ‘that manner of men’ that fought at Arnhem, when I say that we wish Dilip every success in this endeavour.

I can’t wait to read Dilip’s book and have pre-ordered a copy. I urge all of our ‘Friends of The Tenth’ to do the same.

You can pre-order by clicking on this link:


Author: Alec Wilson

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During a recent assembly in Somerby Primary School, the children were thrilled to receive their ‘Friends of The Tenth’ and ‘Myrtle’ T shirts from Major Sean ‘Pinkie’ Philips of the Parachute Regiment. Along with Sean were Alan Staff and Jack Gilbert, both veterans of the Parachute Regiment.

The story of The 10th Battalion The Parachute Regiment’s time in Somerby during 1944 is well known to the children. They especially love the story of Myrtle the Parachick who is featured on the back of the T shirt.

Myrtle was the red chicken, taught to fly by Lt. Pat Glover. Pat took Myrtle in the aircraft and they dropped together into the famous Battle of Arnhem. Myrtle even has a role in the film, ‘The Bridge Too Far’.

The shirts have been donated by charity, Friends of The Tenth. Amanda Howe, one of the Somerby representatives of the charity, together with teacher, Sarah Moulds are helping lead an initiative to form a lasting relationship between Somerby school and the Marienborn School in Oosterbeek, Holland.

Oosterbeek was the village where the 10th Battalion held its famous ‘last stand’ in September 1944. From the 582 who left Somerby only just over 30 men were left to fight.



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