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Emotional return to that bridge too far

PUBLISHED: 11:06 09 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:34 06 July 2010

John Davidson, third from the right, with fellow members of the King's Own Scottish Borderers at the site of the battle in Oosterbeek, Arnhem.

John Davidson, third from the right, with fellow members of the King's Own Scottish Borderers at the site of the battle in Oosterbeek, Arnhem.

IT was an emotional journey for an Oulton Broad man as he returned to a notorious second world war battleground with his family.

John Davidson, 89, travelled to Arnhem, in the Netherlands, to reunite with former comrades and mark 65 years since Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation of all time.

IT was an emotional journey for an Oulton Broad man as he returned to a notorious second world war battleground with his family.

John Davidson, 89, travelled to Arnhem, in the Netherlands, to reunite with former comrades and mark 65 years since Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation of all time.

On September 17, 1944, thousands of paratroopers descended behind enemy lines with the goal of securing river crossings in Holland and allowing Allied forces to travel rapidly past the Nazi defence line.

The daring Operation Market Garden was not a success, and the crossing at Arnhem proved to be “a bridge too far”.

Among those involved in the fighting was Mr Davidson, a member of of the King's Own Scottish Borderers.

As part of the first air landing brigade, anti-tank platoon support company, he landed in Arnhem in a Horsa glider.

During the battle he was taken prisoner and would spent many months in a camp, before being liberated in June 1945.

“He didn't know until he got home that we had a son.

“He knew I was pregnant but didn't know we had a son,” recalled his wife, Joyce.

Mr Davidson was stationed in Lowestoft in the early 1940s and met his wife-to-be in 1941.

They were married in September 1942 but were forced apart by his military duties, and Joyce was left to wait anxiously for news of whether her husband would return.

To mark the 65th anniversary of the battle, Mr Davidson returned to Arnhem with four generations of his family.

He had previously returned with his wife a number of times, including trips to mark the 50th and 60th anniversaries, and this time they were joined by their son Graham, who was celebrating his 65th birthday, and his wife Janice, plus grandsons Christian and Jonathan and great-grandchildren Jack and Natalie.

At the site of the battle in Oosterbeek, Arnhem, Mr Davidson was reunited with six of his fellow Borderers for what was to be a most touching reunion.

“It was very sad and brought everything back to him. There are 2,000 graves there, which means over 2,000 were killed in just 10 days,” said his wife.

She added: “You can't believe what the Dutch people are like. They came up to him in the street, shook his hand, thanked him - it was amazing.”

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