News Archive 2011


September, the 17th 2011

Members of Keep Them Rolling are present at the Grave bridge ceremony

Operation Market Garden heroes march through Southport for one last time

Jun 21 2011 by Tom Bristow, Midweek Visiter

WAR heroes marched along Lord Street for one last time to remember the comrades they lost in a daring World War Two escapade. Operation Market Garden which saw British, American and Polish troops dropped over Holland in 1944, was an attempt to take control of several bridges in the German-occupied Netherlands. But the Allies underestimated the Nazis’ strength and thousands of Allied troops became encircled around the town of Arnhem and were locked in a bitter battle. The operation was made into the movie A Bridge too Far. The Market-Garden Veterans Association (MGVA) chose the Princes of Wales Hotel as the venue for their final meet with some of their Dutch comrades. Age has taken its toll on their numbers with the youngest veterans now in their 80s. Ken McKernan, 86, who served in the Royal Scottish Fusiliers said: “We’ve been meeting for 20 years and I will miss all that. There will be a few tears tonight.” Around 20 veterans marched up Lord Street to Christ Church at midday for a service. A band from the Royal Fusiliers accompanied them, as the street came to a standstill and passers-by clapped.
The MGVA formed in 1988 in Nijmegen, Holland. Each year they return to the Netherlands to visit the graves of their comrades.
The association was supported by Manchester United, who donated a signed Wayne Rooney shirt to auction, as well as Southport businesses. Elizabeth Connard of Stanley Street cake shop Lilibets of Paris baked the biggest cake of her life for the veterans’ meet. And Lord Street jewellers Connard & Son donated an antique knife to cut the cake, which will be given to a museum in Nijmegen.


Operation Market Garden veterans recall fight for Arnhem on meet in Southport’s Prince of Wales Hotel

Jun 23 2011 by Tom Bristow, Southport Visiter

IN the Prince of Wales Hotel the last remaining soldiers of one of World War II’s bloodiest battles were in reflective mood after completing their final march. As reported in the Midweek Visiter, the Market-Garden Veterans Association marched along Lord Street for one last time to remember their fallen colleagues. The parade was followed by a meeting at the Prince of Wales where the veterans shared their memories of a daring ploy to end the war early. Operation Market Garden saw British, American and Polish troops being dropped over German-occupied Holland in 1944 in a bid to take control of several bridges.
David Greig travelled from London to meet up with his comrades, before it is disbanded. He served as a dispatch rider, running wireless messages on his motorbike from the frontline to the command centre. The 88-year-old said the greatest danger were wires, hung across the road by enemy collaborators, designed to maim him or damage his bike. One such wire laid him low on the eve of the operation and he broke his wrist and hurt his leg. “The doctor said I would get arthritis when I was older,” he said. “I’m still waiting. Maybe I’m not old enough yet.” The retired medic recalled scenes when, working in a hospital, he found himself staring into the eyes of a dismembered man who was wrapped in bandages. The man, still breathing, had no arms or legs. David said: “It is just heartbreaking. I always think about him, but that is what we had to do.” Despite the horrors of the war, the men kept up a camaraderie which continues to this day. Looking back on Operation Market Garden, the south Londoner said the men rarely knew what was happening, but they “bumbled their way through”. He said: “I have lost some good mates, but I’ve been very lucky really.” David, whose best friends from school were killed in a Normandy tank battle, said he had also met some good Germans in the war.
“It is not the men,” he said. “It is the regime you are under.” And he also made friends with a Litherland soldier called Joe Johnson who he is still looking for after all these years. In the war’s aftermath, the now president of the Market-Garden Veterans Association, Charles Reeves, met a Dutch woman and stayed in Holland. Charles, who has been coming back to England every year for the meet, fought in the 43rd Wessex. He said they lost so many British officers in Nijmegen they had to be staffed by Canadians. “All our officers had been killed,” he said. “We drove up from Belgium and when the Germans counter-attacked it was heavy fighting. “We were outgunned, but we had got used to that in Normandy.” Charles landed on Juno beach aged 19. “I spent my 20th birthday under a German tank,” he recalled. In a night time raid his troop shot five Germans dead, but the gunfire betrayed their position to the tiger tanks which came at them from both sides. “The major said, ‘we’ve got to get out’; a lot got wounded,” recalled Charles. He survived the war with shrapnel from a grenade lodged in his left arm. And Ken McKernan, 86, who also landed on D-Day on Juno beach, was part of the Royal Scottish Fusiliers who were meant to push into Arnhem to join up with the trapped airborne troops. “We fought our way up to the canal, Escaut, but we had a hard time getting across.
“We tried to break through each day but you got shelled from both sides.” Ken now visits his comrades graves in Holland each year.
“It brings memories back of all the lads you knew,” he said. But at the time, he said, they rarely thought about the constant threat of death. And two old friends Joe Donaugh and Neville Foot, both 92, remember the fight for Arnhem clearly. Joe was also part of the force trying to relieve the Allied soldiers in the town. “It was a very difficult job. It was just frustrating,” said Joe.
And he described the road leading to Arnhem which they tried to take as “suicide” to go down.

Merseyside veteran will attend final reunion of World War II
operation in Southport

Mark Caldwell, Liverpool Echo, Apr 18 2011

WAR veterans from around the country will gather on Merseyside for a final reunion. Among them will be Ken McKernan, 86, who served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers during the World War II allied forces mission famously depicted in the film A Bridge Too Far.
His wife Ann has arranged the get together in Southport for 150 former British and Dutch servicemen who fought in operation Market Garden. The operation which began on September 17, 1944, was an attempt by the Allies to take control of several bridges in the German-occupied Netherlands. This would have allowed forces to enter the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial heartland, and could have won the war for the Allies almost a year earlier than it officially ended. Mr McKernan, of Huyton, said: “The reunions are a chance to get together and talk about the war. “I met someone I had not seen for 50 years who had been wounded during D-Day. He said he recognised me by my laugh. “This will be the last one because we are all getting too old now – I am 86 and am one of the youngest!” “It will be sad, but Ann is determined to make this the best one we have had in 22 years.” Mr McKernan lived in Coniston Street, Everton, when he was called for service in 1942. He was 19 when he helped to capture the Nijmegen bridge, in the Netherlands, but the allied operation failed when airborne troops were unable to defeat the Germans at the Battle of Arnhem. Mrs McKernan, 67, who has been on the Market Garden Veterans’ Association North West branch committee for 23 years, said: “We are trying to make this a really special reunion, and we hope to make it a free weekend for the veterans.” The four-day long event will bring together the seven regional branches of the Market Garden Veterans’ Association, and will be held in The Prince of Wales Hotel, Southport, from June 17.

Veterans meet for the last time


Programme 2011


News Archive 2009-10