Prince Charles joins a Second World War veteran in the cockpit of a replica glider before laying wreaths to commemorate the Battle of Arnhem's 75th anniversary

  • Operation Market Garden's 75th anniversary was commemorated today with the laying of wreaths
  • Prince Charles joined the former Dutch Queen, Princess Beatrix, at a ceremony in Arnhem, The Netherlands 
  • The WWII operation was unsuccessful after troops' advancement came to a halt at a bridge in the area

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The Prince of Wales joined a Second World War veteran in the cockpit of a replica glider plane as he toured the southern Netherlands to mark the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden.

Charles sat with 94-year-old Frank Ashleigh at the controls of the Horsa glider on display outside the Airborne Museum Hartenstein near Arnhem on Saturday.

Mr Ashleigh, from London, was a glider pilot during the largest airborne assault in history in September 1944 and survived being captured by the Germans.

During the operation, around 600 gliders landed in the area of Renkum, next to Arnhem, transporting soldiers, vehicles and supplies.   

Charles sat with 94-year-old glider pilot Frank Ashleigh at the controls of the Horsa glider on display outside the Airborne Museum Hartenstein near Arnhem on Saturday

Charles sat with 94-year-old glider pilot Frank Ashleigh at the controls of the Horsa glider on display outside the Airborne Museum Hartenstein near Arnhem on Saturday 

Mr Ashleigh (centre with Prince Charles), from London, was a glider pilot during the largest airborne assault in history in September 1944 and survived being captured by the Germans

Mr Ashleigh (centre with Prince Charles), from London, was a glider pilot during the largest airborne assault in history in September 1944 and survived being captured by the Germans 

Britain's Prince Charles takes a look at a replication glider and equipment during the commemorations which mark the beginning of the liberation of the Netherlands

Britain's Prince Charles takes a look at a replication glider and equipment during the commemorations which mark the beginning of the liberation of the Netherlands

Prince Charles and Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands walk back from the memorial. The Prince, dressed in his fatigues and a paratrooper's maroon beret, is Colonel-in-Chief of The Parachute Regiment and The Army Air Corps

Prince Charles and Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands walk back from the memorial. The Prince, dressed in his fatigues and a paratrooper's maroon beret, is Colonel-in-Chief of The Parachute Regiment and The Army Air Corps

Charles, the Prince of Wales, talks to a veteran during the commemoration for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, part of Operation Market Garden in World War Two, in the Netherlands

Charles, the Prince of Wales, talks to a veteran during the commemoration for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, part of Operation Market Garden in World War Two, in the Netherlands

Prince Charles talks to former Parachute Regiment veteran Sandy Cortmann, 97, from Aberdeen, who arrived at the Ginkel Heath commemorations by tandem jump with the Red Devils British Army Parachute display team
The prince attended the commemorative service and wreath-laying

Prince Charles talks to former Parachute Regiment veteran Sandy Cortmann, 97, from Aberdeen, who arrived at the Ginkel Heath commemorations by tandem jump with the Red Devils British Army Parachute display team

Prince Charles lays a wreath during the commemorations of the Operation Market Garden 75th anniversary

Prince Charles lays a wreath during the commemorations of the Operation Market Garden 75th anniversary 

Prince Charles talks to a Parachute Regiment veteran. A host of commemorative events are being held this week in and around the city of Arnhem

Prince Charles talks to a Parachute Regiment veteran. A host of commemorative events are being held this week in and around the city of Arnhem

The Prince talks to a veteran at the commemoration. During World War II, the Allies launched an airborne landing at the Dutch town Arnhem in September 1944. It was codenamed Operation Market Garden

The Prince talks to a veteran at the commemoration. During World War II, the Allies launched an airborne landing at the Dutch town Arnhem in September 1944. It was codenamed Operation Market Garden

The prince attended the commemorative service and wreath-laying at Ginkel Heath near Ede, with Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands (right)

The prince attended the commemorative service and wreath-laying at Ginkel Heath near Ede, with Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands (right)

Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands and Charles, Prince of Wales said goodbye as they left the commemoration at the Ginkelse Heide this afternoon

Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands and Charles, Prince of Wales said goodbye as they left the commemoration at the Ginkelse Heide this afternoon

Prince Charles strides alongside Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands during the commemoration ceremony in Arnhem. Some 15,000 paratroopers from Great Britain, US, The Netherlands and Poland parachuted onto the Heath today

Prince Charles strides alongside Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands during the commemoration ceremony in Arnhem. Some 15,000 paratroopers from Great Britain, US, The Netherlands and Poland parachuted onto the Heath today

A wreath is laid by Prince Charles with the help of another soldier as crowds commemorate the deaths of soldiers who fought to liberate The Netherlands from Nazi-occupation

A wreath is laid by Prince Charles with the help of another soldier as crowds commemorate the deaths of soldiers who fought to liberate The Netherlands from Nazi-occupation 

Britain's Prince Charles and the former Dutch queen, Princess Beatrix, were among dignitaries who joined the ever-dwindling group of veterans who took part in the operation for the annual commemoration event

Britain's Prince Charles and the former Dutch queen, Princess Beatrix, were among dignitaries who joined the ever-dwindling group of veterans who took part in the operation for the annual commemoration event

Members of the Assault Glider Trust have spent more than a decade reconstructing the replica Horsa at the RAF Museum Cosford, Shropshire.

Partially built from original parts, it was transported to the Netherlands to join a host of commemorative events marking the anniversary.

Charles, colonel-in-chief of the Army Air Corps since 1992, met soldiers from 1 Regiment Army Air Corps, who fly the Wildcat helicopter, in a temporary hanger erected for the glider.

Inside the glider cockpit, he played with the plane's controls, before being joined by Mr Ashleigh who he spoke to for several minutes.

Richard Westmaas, 66, from the Netherlands, the driving force behind the plane's construction, also showed the prince around the glider. 

The royals, Prince Charles and Princess Beatrix, bow their heads as they remember the 17,000 soldiers who died during the week-long effort to liberate The Netherlands and advance in to Germany

The royals, Prince Charles and Princess Beatrix, bow their heads as they remember the 17,000 soldiers who died during the week-long effort to liberate The Netherlands and advance in to Germany

Prince Andrew lays a wreath
Princess Beatrix lays a wreath

Musicians played behind the royals as Prince Andrew (left) and Princess Beatrix (right) lay wreaths as a mark of remembrance for the soldiers who died during Operation Market Garden

As the crowds waited for the military exercise that would mark the anniversary they exchanged pleasantries and enjoyed the warm weather

As the crowds waited for the military exercise that would mark the anniversary they exchanged pleasantries and enjoyed the warm weather

Today military aircraft flew low over Ginkel Heath before 15,000 parachutists leapt out above thousands of applauding spectators. Pictured, Prince Charles walks alongside Princess Beatrix

Today military aircraft flew low over Ginkel Heath before 15,000 parachutists leapt out above thousands of applauding spectators. Pictured, Prince Charles walks alongside Princess Beatrix

Prince Charles greets people in traditional attire as he visits the Poland Monument and the plaque with the names of 80 paratroopers who went missing during Operation Market Garden in 1944, in Driel, Netherlands

Prince Charles greets people in traditional attire as he visits the Poland Monument and the plaque with the names of 80 paratroopers who went missing during Operation Market Garden in 1944, in Driel, Netherlands

Richard Westmaas, 66, from the Netherlands, the driving force behind the plane's construction, also showed the prince around the glider.

Afterwards, he said: 'The whole story getting up to the Netherlands was an amazing story and this is the cherry on the top.

'We just had a short conversation [about] just how exceptional the plane is. The veteran told him the whole of the flight plan he had.

'He took a lot of interest in how the plane was built and how you can fly with it.'

Mr Ashleigh said the replica glider was 'perfect', recalling that the plane had been 'beautiful' and 'very docile' to fly.

Commenting on Operation Market Garden, he said: 'We were told it was going to be a fairly easy operation, it was in fact very tough, we were outnumbered and gunned.' 

Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands waved to the crowds that had joined the commemorative ceremony

Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands waved to the crowds that had joined the commemorative ceremony 

He shook hands with the hundreds of people who had gathered at the inauguration of the St Eusebius Church tower that has been restored in Arnhem as part of commemorations

He shook hands with the hundreds of people who had gathered at the inauguration of the St Eusebius Church tower that has been restored in Arnhem as part of commemorations

Britain's Prince Charles gestured towards details of the restoration work during the inauguration

Britain's Prince Charles gestured towards details of the restoration work during the inauguration

During the ceremony the Prince was asked to unveil a new commemorative plaque

During the ceremony the Prince was asked to unveil a new commemorative plaque

He looked up with pride at the plaque that had been cemented into the restored tower of the Eusebius Church

He looked up with pride at the plaque that had been cemented into the restored tower of the Eusebius Church

Mr Ashleigh flew a jeep and two trailers into action, and after they were unloaded he volunteered to go on a scouting mission looking for Germans.

His small group of glider pilots soon found themselves surrounded by the enemy and took shelter in the belfry of a church, where for four days they went without food as they fired upon the German positions.

Mr Ashleigh said that as their ammunition ran low and their numbers dwindled due to injury, the Germans entered the church and called out to them 'in perfect English' to surrender.

Remembering the moment he said they called out: 'Gentlemen we know you are there, we've got men positioned on the stairs above you and below you, there's no way out, you have five minutes to come down with your hands up or we start throwing grenades.'

Mr Ashleigh said he and his fellow soldiers were taken prisoner and later force-marched for 87 miles to prisoner of war camps in Germany in temperatures that fell as low as minus 20C.

Charles received a warm welcome from Dutch citizens as he earlier toured the region around Arnhem, meeting veterans and attending memorial services.  

In Arnhem city centre, he visited Eusebius Church, greeting the crowd of several hundred people outside before unveiling a plaque commemorating the church's renovation.

Charles received a warm welcome from Dutch citizens as he earlier toured the region around Arnhem, meeting veterans and attending memorial services

Charles received a warm welcome from Dutch citizens as he earlier toured the region around Arnhem, meeting veterans and attending memorial services

In Arnhem city centre, he visited Eusebius Church, greeting the crowd of several hundred people outside before unveiling a plaque commemorating the church's renovation

In Arnhem city centre, he visited Eusebius Church, greeting the crowd of several hundred people outside before unveiling a plaque commemorating the church's renovation

Prince Charles attends the opening of the restored tower of the Eusebius Church within the commemorations of the Operation Market Garden's 75th anniversary in Arnhem

Prince Charles attends the opening of the restored tower of the Eusebius Church within the commemorations of the Operation Market Garden's 75th anniversary in Arnhem

Prince Charles lays a wreath during the Polish Airborne Commemorative Service in Driel, Netherlands

Prince Charles lays a wreath during the Polish Airborne Commemorative Service in Driel, Netherlands

In 1994, the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, Charles helped raise funds for the re-casting and re-hanging of the bells in the church tower. Pictured is Charles speaking with Parachute Regiment veteran Sandy Cortmann, 97

In 1994, the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, Charles helped raise funds for the re-casting and re-hanging of the bells in the church tower. Pictured is Charles speaking with Parachute Regiment veteran Sandy Cortmann, 97

Inside the church an organist played Handel, one of the prince's favourite composers, as he met with town dignitaries.

Charles spoke with 24-year-old Bob van der Linde, the youngest employed carillonist in the Netherlands, who rang the bells of the church as the prince arrived.

In 1994, the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, Charles helped raise funds for the re-casting and re-hanging of the bells in the church tower.

Mr van der Linde said: 'He was asking if they were still working as they should.

'I told him they were still ringing every Saturday across the city. He was happy to hear they were still ringing. I used them to welcome him here.'

One local girl, 11-year-old Jorinde Van Regeteren, handed the prince a small gift - postcards of artwork created by local schoolchildren which are on display in the church.

Teacher Bernadette Ten Have, 56, said: 'We pass on the stories from the elderly people to the new generation, and that's important.

'And when people like Prince Charles come, especially to our exhibition, it gives it importance.'

Afterwards, Charles travelled to the nearby town of Driel to attend a memorial service dedicated to the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade who also fought in the operation.

The prince also sat down with three Polish veterans aged in their 90s - Henryk Kybinski, Tad Cisek and Konstanty Staszkiewicz.  

Operation Market Garden paratrooper veteran, 97, leaps from a plane once again to mark the 75th anniversary of the ill-fated advance

A wheelchair had to take WWII veteran Sandy Cortmann from the field to a tent to watch proceedings.

But that didn't stop the 97-year-old strapping himself to a British paratrooper and leaping out of a plane today - 75 years after he first landed in The Netherlands during Operation Market Garden.

The veteran joined thousands of current military parachutists in jumping out of aircraft as part of the anniversary commemoration - which Prince Charles and Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands attended.  

Veteran Sandy Cortmann (left), 97, tandem jumped with The Red Devils British Army Parachute display team as part of the Operation Market Garden 75th anniversary commemorations

Veteran Sandy Cortmann (left), 97, tandem jumped with The Red Devils British Army Parachute display team as part of the Operation Market Garden 75th anniversary commemorations

Sandy Cortmann joined thousands of current military parachutists in jumping out of aircraft as part of the anniversary commemoration - which Prince Charles and Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands attended

Sandy Cortmann joined thousands of current military parachutists in jumping out of aircraft as part of the anniversary commemoration - which Prince Charles and Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands attended

British veteran Les Fuller was 23-years-old when he leapt behind enemy lines close to Arnhem with orders to capture the city's bridge over the Rhine. Now 98, he still remembers it clearly.

'It was a day like today. Weather was just like this; lovely sunny day,' he said, adding there was no opposition on the Sunday afternoon when he landed close to two German soldiers lying in the heathland with their girlfriends.

'They were quite surprised to see me,' he added with a cheeky smile.

The 97-year-old had to be taken from the field to his seat in a wheelchair after strapping himself to a British paratrooper and leaping out of a plane today - 75 years after he first landed in The Netherlands during Operation Market Garden

The 97-year-old had to be taken from the field to his seat in a wheelchair after strapping himself to a British paratrooper and leaping out of a plane today - 75 years after he first landed in The Netherlands during Operation Market Garden

British veteran Les Fuller, 98, (pictured) was 23-years-old when he leapt behind enemy lines close to Arnhem with orders to capture the city's bridge over the Rhine

British veteran Les Fuller, 98, (pictured) was 23-years-old when he leapt behind enemy lines close to Arnhem with orders to capture the city's bridge over the Rhine

But as he and other paratroopers got to Arnhem there was plenty of opposition from German troops. He was hit by a German shell and his right arm was amputated shortly afterward.

The Allied troops met stubborn German resistance in and around Arnhem. More Allied troops - about 11,500 - died in the nine days of Operation Market Garden than during the D-Day landings in France two months earlier. 

Charles, wearing camouflage fatigues and the parachute regiment's maroon beret, mingled with the veterans after the service as more paratroopers drifted to the ground behind him.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he attended to pay tribute to the World War II heroes and said that Operation Market Garden showed 'the importance of forces from different countries being able to operate together and that is exactly what NATO is about.'

Lt. Col. Andrew Wareing, Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, said Market Garden defined airborne operations and the 'bloody mindedness' of paratroopers.

'For that reason and on subsequent battlefields from the Falkland Islands to Afghanistan, when facing adversity and danger, British paratroopers' have spoken the same words,' he said. '"Remember Arnhem, lads." "Keep going, we won't let them down ... show them the Arnhem spirit."' 

Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrix support each other as they head back to their seats during the event earlier this afternoon. The princess abdicated the Dutch throne in 2013 to allow her eldest son to become king

Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrix support each other as they head back to their seats during the event earlier this afternoon. The princess abdicated the Dutch throne in 2013 to allow her eldest son to become king

The royal pair process in to the ceremony as soldiers stand to attention to mark their arrival. Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrix were accompanied by veterans who took part in the operation for the annual commemoration event

The royal pair process in to the ceremony as soldiers stand to attention to mark their arrival. Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrix were accompanied by veterans who took part in the operation for the annual commemoration event

A veteran of the operation has a stern word to say to Prince Charles as his comrades laugh while looking on

A veteran of the operation has a stern word to say to Prince Charles as his comrades laugh while looking on

Britain's Charles, Prince of Wales talks with British veteran Sandy Cortmann
Prince Charles speaks to a veteran

During the ceremony Prince Charles spoke to British veteran Sandy Cortmann (left) after the paradropping on the Ginkel Heath. Right: Prince Charles spoke to a number of veterans who attended the event

Britain's Prince Charles, fifth from left, and Dutch Princess Beatrix, fourth from left, watch a historic WWII jeep pass at Ginkel Heath, eastern Netherlands

Britain's Prince Charles, fifth from left, and Dutch Princess Beatrix, fourth from left, watch a historic WWII jeep pass at Ginkel Heath, eastern Netherlands

Dutch Princess Beatrix and Charles, the Prince of Wales, watch proceedings during the commemoration for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem

Dutch Princess Beatrix and Charles, the Prince of Wales, watch proceedings during the commemoration for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem

What was Operation Market Garden and how did it all go so badly wrong?

Operation Market Garden, a World War II advancement designed to allow ground troops access to key bridges and roads through Nazi-occupied Netherlands and in to Germany, was the brainchild of British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

In an effort to bring the war to an early end key bridges in The Netherlands were seized by the 101st and 82nd US Airborne Divisions, and the 1st British Airborne Division in mid-September 1944.

Soldiers gathering in Belgium were forced to wait on the airborne divisions' advancement through The Netherlands before they could continue through to the Ruhr, Germany's industrial heartland, to collapse Adolf Hitler's military machine.

Arnhem bridge (pictured) was 'a bridge too far' during Operation Market Garden. Troops were overrun by German tanks in 1944

Arnhem bridge (pictured) was 'a bridge too far' during Operation Market Garden. Troops were overrun by German tanks in 1944

And as each airborne division landed, using parachutes and gliders, the five bridges were slowly liberated, allowing British 30 corps to advance across the Rhine. Market was the airborne operation and Garden was the 30 Corps' advance. 

Bridges that needed to be successfully captured were in Eindhoven, 13 miles from 30 Corps' start point, two smaller crossings in Veghel and Grave, Nijmegen, 53 miles from the start, and Arnhem, 62 miles from the start.

By liberating the bridges The Netherlands would be freed from the German army and an armoured drive into the Ruhr to cripple the country's armament factories could begin.

By liberating the bridges The Netherlands would be freed from the German army and an armoured drive into the Ruhr to cripple the country's armament factories could begin

By liberating the bridges The Netherlands would be freed from the German army and an armoured drive into the Ruhr to cripple the country's armament factories could begin

Allied parachute jumper landing almost headfirst during a daylight drop in Holland during Operation Market Garden

Allied parachute jumper landing almost headfirst during a daylight drop in Holland during Operation Market Garden

But Allied intelligence failed to detect the presence of German tanks, including elements of two SS Panzer divisions, and 30 Corps was overwhelmed before they could reach the final bridge at Arnhem.

Lieutenant General Frederick Browning, a top field commander of the Allied Airborne forces, originally described the plan as possibly 'a bridge too far' - which turned out to be true. 

The 10,000 men from Major-General Roy Urquhart's 1st British Airborne Division and 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade landed seven miles away from the bridge at Arnhem.

British Paratroops on their way to land In Holland on 17 September 1944 in a C-47 transport plane

British Paratroops on their way to land In Holland on 17 September 1944 in a C-47 transport plane

And only one battalion actually reached the bridge, as the rest were squeezed in to a pocket by German forces at Oosetbeeck to the West.

But why did it go wrong? 

A shortage of transport aircraft, the wooded landscape and weather conditions all played a part in the plan's downfall.

Airborne troops had to be flown into The Netherlands in three lifts rather than all at once and later thick flog in England and low clouds over the battlezone meant reinforcements and supplies could not be quickly flown in.

And trees surrounding the troops meant wireless radios stopped working. Despite phones still being available, Allied forces rarely used them in case communication was intercepted - so there was a communication breakdown. 

Three German soldiers surrender to British forces near the Wessem Canal during the invasion of the Netherlands on September 17, 1944

Three German soldiers surrender to British forces near the Wessem Canal during the invasion of the Netherlands on September 17, 1944

How many died and how were the surviving soldiers evacuated?

A week after landing, on September 24 and 25, some 2,100 troops from 1st Airborne Division were ferried back across the Rhine. Another 7,500 were either dead or made prisoners of war.

Despite its ultimate failure Operation Market Garden is remembered for the courage shown by the troops, and the liberation of large parts of The Netherlands.

Canadians of the British second army during the battle of Arnhem. A week after landing, on September 24 and 25, some 2,100 troops from 1st Airborne Division were ferried back across the Rhine. Another 7,500 were either dead or made prisoners of war

Canadians of the British second army during the battle of Arnhem. A week after landing, on September 24 and 25, some 2,100 troops from 1st Airborne Division were ferried back across the Rhine. Another 7,500 were either dead or made prisoners of war

Prince Charles joins a Second World War veteran in the cockpit of a replica glider

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