EUROPE’S top trailer maker has played a key supporting role in a mission to honour the heroes of World War Two’s famous A Bridge Too Far battle.
A military re-enactment group, The Machine Gun Corps and Servicemen Remembered 2010, used a car transporter from Ifor Williams Trailers to help make its poignant journey to Holland marking the recent 70th anniversary of the legendary Arnhem landings.
A dozen members of the group parachuted on to the original site of the desperate battle against German forces for control of a crossing point over the Rhine.
The Ifor Williams trailer met them on the ground to transport their genuine 1940s support jeep the few miles from their drop zone into the town of Arnhem for a ceremony remembering the thousands of British Paratroopers who fought and died there.
It was in September 1944 that a huge airborne army of British and US troops dropped into Nazi occupied Holland as part of an audacious Allied plan, codenamed Operation Market Garden, to wrest control of a number of vital bridges over the Rhine and leapfrog troops advancing on the ground into Germany itself, ending the war by Christmas.
But things went disastrously wrong from the start and after a week of bitter fighting the British 1st Airborne Division had to be rescued after sustaining 8,000 casualties.
The 1977 war film A Bridge Too far, starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Robert Redford and Laurence Olivier, commemorates the epic battle.
The Machine Gun Corps and Servicemen Remembered 2010 is a re-enactment group set up four years ago by serving British Army warrant officer Mike Garnett and his wife Jane, who live in Llanfair PG, on Anglesey close to where he is in charge of the stores operation at the Joint Services Mountain Training Centre.
Mike, 48, who is originally from Wrexham and has been in the army for 30 years, said: "We set up the group after doing research on my great-uncle, Private Thomas Samuel, of the Machine Gun Corps, and Jane’s great-grandfather, Driver Richard Leach of the Royal Horse Artillery, who were both killed in the First World War.
"In memory of my great-uncle, after whose unit we named our group, I walked 20 miles through Belgium dressed in period World War One uniform and we’ve since done other walks, including one to Pegasus Bridge which played a famous part in the D-Day battle for Normandy in the Second World War.
"We realised these ventures were a great opportunity to raise money for various armed forces charities and since supported causes such as the Not Forgotten Association and Combat Stress.
"We aim to hold at least one commemorative event a year in Europe and the 70th anniversary of the battle for Arnhem was the perfect opportunity to mark one of the most memorable battles of the Second World War."
Mike arranged with Ifor Williams’s Corwen sales centre to use a car transporter trailer on which he towed the group’s precious four-wheel-drive jeep, built in France just after the Second World War, from North Wales to Hull for the ferry crossing to Rotterdam from where he drove it the 70 miles to the Arnhem area.
He added: "After arriving there we travelled over to an airfield at Teuge, which is close to the place where they filmed A Bridge Too Far, for a few days of parachute training.
"A number of the group had done quite a few drops before and this was my sixth. I was hoping it was going to go better than the second one I did a few years ago when I broke my ankle! But on the day everything went according to plan and there were no injuries apart from a few bruises.
"We arranged to fly in aboard a Second World War vintage Dakota transport plane and we were dropped at what during the battle was known as the British DZ – or drop zone – X.
"After everyone had landed safely and formed up we held a short service of remembrance, laid a poppy wreath and one of our members read out a list of 100 names of the Paratroopers who had died at this spot.
"Accompanied by our jeep, which we’ve had fitted with authentic twin Vickers machine guns and painted with air recognition markings, we set off on the short walk into Arnhem town.
"Along the way we stopped at various strategic points for one of our members to give a talk on what happened there during the battle. Among the places we did this was at the Hartenstein Hotel, which had been British headquarters and is now an airborne museum.
"Once we arrived at the famous Rhine bridge, which the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment had a terrible fight for, we held another brief service and wreath laying ceremony.
"From the mission we managed to raise about £300 for the Invicta Foundation forces charity, which was our target figure.
"I’d like to say a big thank you to Ifor Williams for all the help they gave us with the car transporter trailer, which was outstanding and helped make our mission a great success."
Mike said the group was now planning its next venture – a Warhorse-style recreation around the First World War battlefield of Ypres in which members will be kitted out in the uniforms of British Tommies of the day.
Ifor Williams Trailers spokesman Iorwerth Roberts, the head of sales in North Wales, said: "We were pleased to be able to play our part in helping to commemorate this key moment in the Second World War and remember those who did not return from the field of battle."
For more information about Mike’s re-enactment group, go to www.mgcassociation.co.uk
News » Trailer firm plays key role in mission to honour heroes of Arnhem battle