Operation Varsity


At 02:30 on the 24th March 1945 the men of the 2nd (Airborne) Battalion, Ox and Bucks Light Infantry were roused from their beds. They were given a breakfast of fried eggs, bacon and beans.

At 04:00 they were loaded into trucks and taken a short distance to Birch Airfield, Colchester. By 05:30 the Horsa gliders were boarded and everyone was strapped in. The towing aircraft fired up their engines and the first taxied onto the runway. The tow line was connected; it took up the slack then powered away. This happened again and again until all were airborne. It was now 06:30.

The major push across the Rhine had begun but it wouldn’t be easy as the attack was expected and the Germans were dug in. Operation Varsity was the airborne element to coincide with Operation Plunder, the Allied ground assault across the Rhine.

The airborne element was made up of the British 6th Airborne Division and the US 17th Airborne Division. The attack would involve over 16,000 troops in over 3,000 aircraft and gliders. It was to be the largest airborne assault ever to be carried out in one day.

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