Ladies and gentlemen, it is extraordinary to think that, exactly sixty years ago today, General Urquhart set up the Headquarters of the 1st British Airborne Division behind me at the Hartenstein Hotel. As we stand here this evening, it is almost impossible to imagine the ferocity of the fighting around this building and the surrounding area during the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. Of the 10,300 Allied troops who parachuted into battle or were landed by glider, three quarters were killed, injured or captured during the daring and incredibly bloody nine day operation.
As Colonel-in-Chief of both The Parachute Regiment and The Army Air Corps, it is a particular privilege for me to be in The Netherlands this weekend as we remember those who took part in Operation Market Garden. It is, as we all know, a story of astonishing self-sacrifice and heroism and I am so pleased that this magnificent museum keeps the story alive for the benefit of younger generations. We must never forget that intensely human story, with all the lessons, warnings and inspiration it holds for us today.
Although the Battle was fought by soldiers, airmen and sailors from the United Kingdom and other Allied countries, we also remember that the Dutch resistance and local civilian community showed such superhuman courage in supporting the Allied troops during and after the Battle.
Tragically, many paid a most dreadful price for their unstinting compassion and loyalty but, during a time of unimaginable hardship, great friendships were forged between the local community and the Allied troops, some lasting to the present day.
This occasion, therefore, presents us with an opportunity to recall the suffering of the Dutch people and the appalling horrors they endured through the deliberate looting and destruction of their homes in the Arnhem area.
Tomorrow, as I did so proudly 10 years ago, I will join many of you at The Memorial Service in Oosterbeek cemetery, less than a mile away. I look forward once again to meeting some of the surviving veterans, and it will be with immense pride, and indeed, heavy hearts, that we shall remember those who died during The Battle of Arnhem. We are forever indebted to them for their courageous actions and ultimate sacrifice sixty years ago.
My father's and my grandfather's generations gave so much service and suffered such unimaginable horrors in the course of two horrific World Wars. It is my generation in particular that has reaped the rewards of their heroic actions on our behalf and we must try to make sure our children understand those values and loyalties for which they died and for which our remaining veterans fought so hard and gave so much of their fleeting youth.