Former POW Jack’s emotional return to Arnhem
- Credit: Submitted
A Norfolk flying veteran and former prisoner-of-war had an emotional return to his former battleground when he joined paratroopers past and present for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem.
Jack Griffiths, 92, who still flies gliders at Norfolk Gliding Club's Tibenham airfield, joined other veterans as they watched paratroopers from Europe and the US descend on the Netherlands at the weekend to remember the anniversary of the ill-fated battle as part of Operation Market Garden.
In September 1944, Mr Griffiths, who comes from Mattishall, piloted a Horsa glider for a night landing in an attempt to force an allied crossing of the lower Rhine by capturing bridges around Arnhem.
His Horsa was among less than 500 gliders carrying men and machinery which were used in the assault, but met with fierce resistance from German forces and he was eventually taken prisoner and sent to Stalag Luft IVB at Muhlberg near Leipzig.
'The commemoration was very good. They put on a very good show there, it was a well organised event. I have been there for commemorations many times.
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'There was one chap I used to see there that I used to box with, but he died last month, which put a bit of a dampener on it,' Mr Griffiths added.
The then Sgt Griffiths' experience at Arnhem and as a subsequent prisoner of war was his second serious brush with German forces.
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As an army despatch rider he was part of the army evacuated from Dunkirk earlier in the war.
Orphaned at nine, he started work aged 14 as a telegraph boy with the post office, but he had always wanted to fly after a flight at 13 with Cobham's Flying Circus.
After a struggle, he passed exams to get into the RAF and was eventually chosen from the 500 specially-selected volunteers to join the elite Glider Pilot Regiment.
The POWs eventually escaped from Muhlberg and met up with Russian and American troops at Torgau, before heading off to Heidelberg with brandy 'liberated' from a warehouse.
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