Operation Varsity, the Allied airborne assault over the Rhine River at Wesel, Germany was the largest single lift of airborne forces ever undertaken. A daring collaboration between British and American Airborne Divisions it played a vital role in the final assault on Germany. 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.

Marks Hall was the headquarters of the RAF’s 296 and 297 Squadrons, who were based at nearby Earls Colne Airfield and took part in the assault.  Early on March 24th 1945, Horsa gliders carrying troops were towed into action. 

The casualties were devastating 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.  The Glider Pilot Regiment had 98 pilots killed and 77 wounded during the operation.

In remembrance 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.  This provides a fitting focal point for the annual remembrance service, a poignant occasion for the survivors, their families and all who attend.

Following the profound impact of the Second World War, the fortunes of Marks Hall did not immediately improve.