Somerby Memorial Hall is just that, the lobby area contains both the village War Memorial and a separate Memorial to commemorate the 10th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment.
During the long hot summer of 1944 few people new that the sleepy East Leicestershire village of Somerby harboured a real ‘Band of Brothers’, an elite parachute battalion being battle trained, hardened and honed for an attack behind enemy lines into the heart of Nazi controlled Europe. This group was The Tenth Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, 582 officers and men were billeted here and in the immediate area. Sister 156 Battalion, of a similar size, was housed in nearby Melton Mowbray.
On the 18th September 1944, the Battalions were dropped onto Ginkel Heath near Arnhem as part of the ill fated ‘Operation Market Garden’. The subsequent Battle of Arnhem was immortalised in the Hollywood film, ‘A Bridge too Far’.
Some weeks after their heroic defeat in Holland, a mere 28 survivors of the Battalion arrived, by bus, back to what was planned as a ‘heroes return reception’ in Somerby. The villagers, dismayed by the tiny number of survivors, never forgot this shocking and poignant return. For some seventy years a remembrance service has been held at All Saints Church in Somerby during September.
2014 was the 70th anniversary & the village held a weekend of events, culminating in the church service on Sunday 7th. During the service, children from Somerby School laid flowers at the Battalion’s stained glass remembrance window in the Church.
Leading up to the commemoration weekend Arnhem veteran, Lew Kemp, of Lutterworth, visited Somerby School to talk to the children about the events of 70 years ago. With Lew were, Alec Wilson, the author of a book about his dad, a member of The Tenth and John Gibbard, chairman of The Leicestershire Parachute Association. The children were thrilled to hear stories of the paratroopers’ time in Somerby and their part in the Battle of Arnhem. Lew presented the school with a limited edition painting depicting 10th Battalion’s drop onto Ginkel Heath.