Seventy-five years ago today thousands of troops began to be dropped behind enemy lines during the Second World War in one of its largest airborne assaults. Operation Market Garden aimed to bring eight bridges under the control of the Allied Forces. The plan failed, leaving its mastermind General Montgomery to rebrand it as a 'glorious defeat'.
Ninety-seven-year-old Harry Richards flew with one of 12 squadrons from Bomber Command which towed gliders to drop zones over Arnhem, Holland, in the first wave of the mission.
Harry, a navigator in an Armstrong Albemarle, described the operation: “We used to spend a lot of time with the glider troops because we used to take them out on a number of occasions, practising what we had to do for the drop raids.
"Our job was to take them to a certain point and drop them there. On this raid we got to the drop and our glider had gone - we had lost him! I don’t know what happened to him so we turned back. It happened sometimes when you were towing a glider."
Operation Market Garden involved 35,000 troops, almost half of which were killed. For the RAF’s part, from 17 September to the operation end on 26 September 1,340 sorties were flown, and 698 gliders were towed to the drop zones. In total 55 aircraft were lost, including 149 RAF air crew and 75 Army Service Corps.
Harry completed 10 operations during the war flying with 297 Squadron. The Squadron was known for its skilled air crews which took part in several Special Operations Executive missions, dropping weapons and supplies to resistance groups in France and Norway. This was a high-risk role, involving incredible low flying over enemy-held territory.
Harry went on to fly as part of Operation Overlord, during the D-Day landings, towing gliders in support of the mission.