Operation Varsity was the largest airborne operation in history. Between 0600 hours and 0750 hours on 24th March 1945, a force of 440 gliders of the Glider Pilot Regiment, towed by 440 tug aircraft of the Royal Air Force, took off from airfields across East Anglia, including Earls Colne.

Their load included troops of the 6th Airlanding Brigade; Jeeps; Locust tanks; bulldozers and anti-tank guns with ammunition. Their contribution towards the invasion of Germany was to capture and hold the town of Hamminkeln, along with 3 vital bridges over the River Issel.

Due to the concentrated anti-aircraft defences and the drift of smoke screen laid to cover the land offensive nearby, many of the gliders failed to reach their allocated landing zones. Of the 402 gliders that reached the battle area, 37 were destroyed by fire; only 88 remained undamaged. 102 glider pilots were killed and a further 102 were wounded. Many of the tug aircraft from 38 and 46 Group Royal Air Force were shot down, or damaged. 43 aircrew were killed and 153 were wounded.

The Operation was part of the boldest, most successful and also the last airborne operation of World War II, a vital part of what became known as “The Rhine Crossing”.

This is always a poignant event on the Marks Hall calendar and members of the public are welcome to join both Trustees and Staff should they wish to mark the occasion. The Glider Pilot Regiment Society will also be in attendance on the day and are more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.  Please meet at the Visitor Centre at approximately 10am to allow time to walk to the Memorial site. Complimentary tea and coffee will be on offer prior to the service.