The first weekend in September sees the annual service at Double Hills. This year the Airborne Forces Riders plan to have an arranged ride on Saturday and a short Service on Sunday, before setting off for home.
You may not know the tragic history of Double hILLS. It was the site of the very first casualties in Operation Market Garden.
Here is the history of Double Hills. While you read it, imagine your thoughts, sitting in the glider taking off for the operation…
“Double Hills is the Annual Memorial to remember the 23 brave lives lost when Glider RJ113, enroute to Arnhem, crashed into a meadow called Double Hills in the village of Paulton in Somerset (Near Bath). They all died on a beautiful Sunday Morning 17th Sept.1944.
The men who died were the first casualties of the Battle for the Arnhem “Bridge Too Far“ Operation Market Garden, the plan to land an Allied Airborne Army behind German lines and end the war in 1944, and bring the boys home.
With their towing Bomber, a Stirling, they had taken off from RAF Keevil airfield, Trowbridge, Wilts. 21 Airborne Sappers from the 9th Field Company Airborne Royal Engineers and 2 Pilots from the Glider Pilot Regiment all died in the Double Hills meadow when their Glider broke up in the skies over Paulton and crashed to earth. All the soldiers who died were buried with honour at Weston Super Mare.
The Memorial which was built by the Royal Monmouth Regt. Sappers and established in 1979. It was unveiled by the commander of the famous British 1st Airborne Division, General Roy Urquhart.
As the years go on the numbers change. Except those of 21 Sappers and 2 Glider Pilots, who will remain in memory.
The Double Hills event is attended by many of the families of the fallen, whose attendance is growing every year, as new generations remember.
9 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers and the Army Air Corps have been in attendance every year since inception.
The organiser and driving force behind this memorial is Mr Peter Yeates. Peter served in the Royal Navy and has been made an Honorary Member of the Airborne Engineers Association. Peter was also involved with 9 Para Sqn RE, when he was serving with the RAF Regiment Reserves in 1987, he did a BFT (Battle Fitness Test) at Rhine Barracks under SSM Baz Bassett in 11 mins, no mean feat aged 48. He also did a solo parachute descent at Thruxton airfield. In recognition of the work Peter has done over the years, particularly for getting a permanent memorial in place, in 1984 he was awarded the Institute of Royal Engineers Fowke Silver Medal by Arnhem Hero General “Shan” Hackett and General Shapland RE”