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Housebuilder adds support to war heroes memorial project

A major memorial to a tragic World War Two battalion is to be unveiled in east Leicestershire in September, with support from a local housebuilder.

Charity group Friends of the Tenth has raised more than £100,000 in less than two years for a permanent memorial to the 10th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, who were stationed in Somerby, near Melton Mowbray, and surrounding villages in 1943-4.

Contributions to the project included five lorry loads of topsoil for the memorial garden from Bellway East Midlands, which is building new homes at nearby Frisby on the Wreake and Waltham on the Wolds.

The memorial will soon be unveiled on Saturday, September 7, on a half-acre site off Twyford Road, Burrough-on-the-Hill, donated by Dawn and Fred Wilson of the Burrough Court Estate.

The centrepiece of the garden will be three double-sided memorial plaques seven metres long and two metres high, depicting members of the battalion in Somerby in the 1940s on one side and a list of names of those who died in the Battle of Arnhem on the other.

Charity group chairman Alec Wilson, whose own father was a battalion member, said:

“We’re so grateful to everyone who has donated funds or goods to get us here. Bellway, for example, actually got us out of a bit of a hole, when we suddenly realised we needed tonnes of topsoil for the memorial garden.”

Carolyne Watkinson, Sales Director of Bellway East Midlands, said:

“We were more than happy to help when we discovered the group needed topsoil for their memorial garden. It’s a real honour for us to have a played part in this amazing tribute.”

The Memorial Garden opening ceremony will be attended by around 200 descendants of those 10th Battalion veterans, with the plaques – being made by Leicestershire sculptor Graeme Mitcheson – due to be unveiled by 99-year-old 10th Battalion survivor Victor Gregg.

A digital QR code will be embedded into the sculpture, providing access to information about the 10th Battalion, and a comprehensive history.

Alec said:

“At the heart of this is a tragic, courageous story that we want people to remember. But until now there has been nothing cast in stone; no actual place where children, grandchildren can go.

“Some 582 10th Battalion men stationed in Somerby, Burrough-on-the-Hill and Thorpe Satchville left Leicestershire in September 1944 to parachute some 64 miles behind enemy lines into the famous World War Two Battle of Arnhem, during Operation Market Garden.

“About two weeks later, local Land Army girls and ladies in the villages, plus girlfriends and wives, laid on a vast ‘welcome home’ banquet for the Battalion. It was devastating; nothing short of a tragedy. Only 36 of those men arrived back – the rest were killed, wounded or captured.”

Alec’s own father – Alex Wilson – was captured at Arnhem and spent the rest of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp.

“He came home in 1946 and shut that book for ever,” said Alec. “He died in 1989, never having told me anything about any of this.”

Reflecting on what his father would think of all the work he and his team have put into the tribute, Alec said:

“He’d probably tell me I’m an idiot! But I hope he’d be proud. I’m very proud of him.”

More information about Bellway’s new homes at Frisby on the Wreake and Waltham on the Wolds is available at bellway.co.uk.

Picture caption: (L-R) Chairman of the Friends of the Tenth charity, Alec Wilson with Bellway’s Michael Collins


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