On a very wet Monday members of Friends of the Tenth were delighted to meet 50 excited and enthusiastic children at the 10th Parachute Battalion Memorial, Burrough on the Hill. Serving Paratrooper, Corporal Danny Mawson, with ‘Myrtle the Parachuting Chicken’ and Paul Turner, dressed in WW2 Para uniform with his Jeep and equipment, also greeted the children.

Our aim throughout the day was to actively engage the children, get them to imagine and think what life would have been like for the young Paras, billeted locally. The children were split into ten teams, each with a name relevant to the history; we emphasised the importance of teamwork in the Army and in all walks of life. The children were asked to find the stories portrayed on the Memorial sculpture which were discussed later in the day.

We were deliberately focusing on the positives of life in wartime, rather than the horrors to follow in the Battle of Arnhem. The children enjoyed learning about some of the antics which the ‘naughty’ Paras got up to, like ‘borrowing’ bicycles to get home and ‘ditching’ them in Somerby Horse Pond, but especially the infamous tale of the Paras burning down Burrough Court after blowing off the doors of the wine cellar whilst trying to get to the ‘booze’!

The star of the day was ‘Myrtle, the parachuting chicken’ and her full story was dramatically recounted by 4Para’s Corporal Danny Mawson who has recently parachuted into the Arnhem and Normandy Commemorations with his own ‘stuffed toy’ version of Myrtle.

Davina Bates who attended Somerby School during the War and lived at the Village Bakery, gave a fascinating account of wartime school life. It was probably difficult for the children to believe that until after the War she had never eaten, or even seen a banana!

During our Activity Day, Paul Turner not only showed the children the concours WW2 Willys Jeep, but also deactivated original Bren and Sten guns, rifles, pistols, and grenades. Jane and Neil Thorley from the Vines in Thorpe Satchville displayed photographs and artefacts, which 80 years ago, had been left behind in the house before the Paras parachuted into ‘The Battle of Arnhem’.

We visited All Saints Church, seeing the various memorials to the 10th Battalion. The children especially liked the ‘Somerby Golden Cockerel’ which inspired ‘Myrtle the Parachick’ asking; ‘Is it real gold?’; ‘How many bullet holes are there?’; and ’How did they get it off of the roof?’

Wet and cold weather didn’t dampen their enthusiasm of exploring Somerby, spotting the maroon 10thBattalion plaques which mark places where the paras worked, stayed, and played. Again, pupils were encouraged to think about and imagine what life may have been like for the Paras, the Land Army Girls housed close by, as well as the villagers, who so generously, welcomed the Paras into their lives during the nine months they spent in the area.

Somerby Memorial Hall was the base for our Activity Day.  Drinks and delicious home-made cakes proved to be a great success.

We would like to thank Somerby & Ab Kettleby Schools for inviting us to take part. Working closely with them has been a pleasure, and we hope that our relationship will be developed in the future. This project has been a natural progression to the involvement of Somerby School Council in our various commemorations at the Memorial, when children lay flowers and crosses to the memory of the fallen of the 10th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.

The charity aims of Friends of The Tenth include ‘educating and informing’ and we would be pleased to hear from any other local schools or colleges who would be prepared to join us on our mission.

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Rivers International School: Arnhem

Our Dutch representative, Liset Vos-van Der Ven, has, as usual, done us proud in establishing a new relationship with the Rivers International School in Arnhem.

This is Liset’s report:
“Today we welcome a new school into the group 🙏! Art teacher Mairi Roy has fully embraced the remembrance of the 10th Battalion and Market Garden. Wanting to learn and know all about it , she started off with the making of this beautiful Remembrance Tree in the main hall of the school. Today I visited the school to deliver some ’10th goodies’. We’re very happy to welcome you on board and we’ll help you teach your international pupils all that they want and need to know.”
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The Arnhem Oak


In time for Remembrance Sunday, Friends of The Tenth, have planted a Dutch Oak tree in their 10th Battalion Memorial Garden at Burrough on the Hill. The tree was grown from an acorn collected from under a battle-scarred oak in the grounds of The Hartenstein Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek, the Netherlands.

In September 1944, during the Battle of Arnhem (Operation Market Garden), the then Hartenstein Hotel became the headquarters of British First Airborne Division. Only a few hundred yards from the hotel, the remnants of the 10th Parachute Battalion, part of British First Airborne, fought their last stand. Of the 582 men of the Battalion who had parachuted into Holland on the 18th September 1944, only around 30 were left fighting. The 10th Battalion was based in and around Somerby for nine months prior to being dropped 60 miles behind enemy lines into Nazi occupied Holland.

The tree was planted by James and Toby Jesson, both who served in the British Army. In 2009, the 65thAnniversary of Operation Market Garden, James, a member of 4PARA, parachuted into Arnhem and later collected acorns from the grounds of the Hartenstein. James gave the acorns to various Airborne comrades including Major Dave Swarbrick. Dave planted the acorn at home and grew the tree which now graces the 10thBattalion Memorial at Burrough on The Hill.

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