In the remembrance of one of the greatest military operations, a veteran of the WWII parachuted over a Dutch city to mark the 75th anniversary of the event.
Sandy Courtman was just 22 when he became a part of Operation Market Garden.
In this military operation, carried out in September 1944, around 35,000 soldiers were transported near the city of Arnhem with parachutes to open the route for allied forces to attack.
Unluckily, Sandy was taken as a prisoner of war by the Nazi forces.
Decades after that historical day, Sandy came back to the same city to be a part of a mass parachuting event held in the city park to commemorate the attack.
Sandy jumped, accompanying a parachutist from Army’s Red Devil team and passed over the area of Ginkel Health nature reserve before landing.
Remembering the original day, the 97-year-old veteran said: “When the fighting started we were just in among it.
“You can describe it as brave, you thought you were brave, but once you got down there, Jesus Christ, terrified, absolutely terrified. You just heard bangs and machine guns.
“I didn’t understand what that was all about.”
A movie with the name A Bridge Too Far was made in the memory of Operation Market Garden.
As a part of the operation, allied troops landed on the Dutch-German border to take control of the bridges connecting both countries. A backup team was to be sent to them in two days.
But help could not arrive and they had to fight on their own for over a week. In the operation, around 1,500 British soldiers were killed and another 6,500 were taken as prisoners of war.
Sandy recalled the painful memories of the operation, including how the area was filled with corpses and how one soldier was innocently calling out for his mother to help.
Sandy said: “I crawled out, I just touched his hand, grabbed it and he died. I thought, ‘what a thing to happen.’ I was choking, but I was alive.”
During the visit to the city after 75 years, Sandy went to a local cemetery to see the commemoration of his friend, Gordon Mathew. Mathew was fatally injured by a bombshell and died of the wound.
Sandy added: “I wanted to come back. I wanted to see Gordon’s stone so I could look at him and speak to him and just say ‘hi pal’ and think about him for a wee while.”
Sandy also said that he tried to escape the fight along with his friends because the chances of their survival were negligible, but he couldn’t make it because it involved crossing a river and Sandy didn’t know how to swim.
Rather than leaving Sandy behind and fleeing the field, Sandy’s loyal and brave friends stayed with him. As the operation proceeded, Sandy was finally taken by the Germans as a POW.
Being humble on the event arranged to remember the day and the protocol he was getting, Sandy said: “The attention I’m getting, I don’t think I deserve it.”
Alana Davidson, a nurse from the old age facility in Aberdeen, where Sandy lives, said the event had a very positive effect on the old man.
She said: “I’ve never seen him this happy before. In the care home you don’t have much time to sit for ages, but you hear the stories. I never realized how much of a hero he was.
“It’s just unbelievable what they went to do at such a young age. It’s just crazy.”