By Maj. Loren merSeptember 24, 2012
QUORN, England -- It's been more than 68 years since the Paratroopers of 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment were camped at Quorn, England. The 505th PIR used this area to prepare for their third combat jump into the Normandy invasion. They also used it prior to Operation Market Garden, their fourth combat jump and the largest airborne operation of World War II.
During their time in England, these Paratroopers became an integral part of the Quorn community. Many married several local women. This was not specific to the 505th PIR, but across the 82nd Airborne Division.
For nearly seven decades the regiment and the 82nd Airborne Division's presence can still be felt throughout the bustling communities in England. Paratroopers who are, or have been assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, are always treated as welcomed guests here.
The Quorn Parish Council, in conjunction with the Quorn Chapter of the British Legion, held a ceremony Sept. 17, the 68th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. This rededicated a 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment Memorial in Stafford Orchard Park that had been given a million dollar royal make-over.
Stafford Orchard Park was originally dedicated in the memory of the 505th PIR on May 3, 1952. The memorial itself was a grove of trees which lined a walk way through the park and bronze plaque mounted on a stone from a ruined church in Nijmegen at the head of the trail. This stone is from where the 505th and 504th PIR had secured the bridge over the Waal River in fierce fighting to allow reinforcements assist the British 1st Airborne Division, who was surrounded at Arnhem.
Maj. Gen. James Gavin, referring to the 82nd Airborne Division's fighting in Holland, described the battle to cross the Waal River as "the most brilliant and spectacular battle of all."
The words of Bill Downs, who was a CBS war correspondent at the time, were read during the ceremony to express the significance of this battle. "A single isolated battle that ranks with Guam, Tarawa, and Omaha Beach. A story that should be told to the blowing of bugles and the beating of drums for the men whose bravery made the capture of this crossing over the Waal possible."
Throughout the years however, the park had begun to be neglected and the people of Quorn saw a need to refurbish the park in a manner fit for the 505th PIR and the 82nd Airborne Division. A consensus was among the council that this piece of history could not, and would not perish. They needed not only the grand and great-grandchildren of the World War II veterans to remember, but those grandchildren of the local area to know it as well.
When the Park and People Program was established in 2006 through the English Lottery system to grant money for improving older parks, the town's people and the parish council saw an opportunity. After three years of relentless work to acquire the money, the Quorn Parish Council was awarded £645,000 (approximately one million dollars) to give the Stafford Orchard Park a legitimate make-over. After additional fundraisers and other budget expansions, the Quorn Parish had spent £800,000 on the entire project.
"We have replaced missing trees in the avenue, re-sited the Nijmegen stone to a more prominent location, installed an interpretation board to explain the significance of the memorial, and named this entrance to the park in memory of the U.S. 82nd Airborne," said Quorn Parish councilman, Ivan Bexon. "We wanted to tell a new generation about the significance of this memorial and the sacrifice of the U.S. forces to who it is dedicated."
As the bagpiper played, the members of the ceremony passed under the 82nd Airborne Division Gate into Stafford Orchard Park and were greeted by the Quorn Branch of the Royal British Legion with their colors. The townspeople, Members of the Quorn Parish Council and others were among those present.
As the sun set and the cool wind made the American flag ripple over the ceremony attendants, prayers and blessings were administered by the Reverend Howard Ketton and Rector David Bowler for the redeveloped 505th PIR memorial. Standing around of a variety of bushes imported from the United States in the Garden of Remembrance, the people of Quorn were very appreciative and expressed their thanks for the 82nd Airborne's Division's contributions during World War II.
Many shared stories with one another about the Paratroopers drinking down at the White Horse Pub while others reminisced of the 505th baseball games that were frequently played in the field just beyond the memorial.
"It was an honor to be invited by the Quorn Parish Council and the Friends of the 82nd Airborne Division-UK Chapter to attend today's events," said Lt. Col. Kevin Cotman, the battalion commander of 82nd Brigade Support Battalion.
"We appreciate the recognition of the Paratroopers who sacrificed so much for our two countries; it is a piece of history the people of England and 82nd Airborne Division share with each other," said Cotman.
Upon completion of the ceremony, the attendants were all invited down to the White Horse Pub to enjoy the ambiance, food and refreshments that once entertained so many Paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.