Over 70 veterans, families, staff and members of the local community gathered at the Memorial Site at Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum to commemorate the 73rd Anniversary of Operation Varsity on Saturday 24th March 2018.

Bill Conner, Trustee of Marks Hall Estate welcomed all visitors to the service, which was led by Reverend Chris Davey of Coggeshall Parish.  Many representatives from the Parachute Regiment Association and the Glider Pilot Regiment Society gathered to pay their respects and to lay tributes.  Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Richard Ball and Regimental Sergeant Major Nicholas Johnson attended from 4 Regiment Army Air Corps.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Ball noted “The Army Air Corps owes much of its history and ethos to the Glider Pilot Regiment and it is therefore of particular importance to its serving and past members we remember today the brave actions of those involved in Operation Varsity.”

Representatives from the Glider Pilot Regiment Society included Dr. David Pasley, GPRS Secretary and founder of the Society, who travelled from Ireland to attend the Service, alongside Chairperson, Jane Barkway-Harney and Lindsay Aspin, whose father was a serving member of the Glider Pilot Regiment in WW2.

Operation Varsity was the largest single lift of airborne forces ever undertaken. The Operation was a daring collaboration between British and American Airborne Divisions that played a vital role in the final assault on Germany. 

General Manager at Marks Hall, Rebecca Lee noted “It is very important to the staff and Trustees to mark this occasion.  The memorial site at Marks Hall is a special place and we know that many friends and family look forward to coming here to pay their respects and to remember.”

Marks Hall was the headquarters of the RAF’s 296 and 297 Squadrons, which were based at nearby Earls Colne Airfield.  In remembrance the Marks Hall Estate created a memorial site within the Arboretum, which includes an obelisk and 1/10 scale replica of the runway layout of the old airfield, which was laid out in 1989 and an obelisk erected in 1994. This provided a fitting focal point for the service, a poignant occasion for the survivors and their families and friends.

Learn more about Operation Varsity and the history of Marks Hall here.