Tributes have been paid to a Melton great-grandad – one of the very last veterans of the 10th Battalion The Parachute Regiment – who has died at the age of 97.
Tony Constable, of East Avenue, was among the 582 men of 10 Para who were billeted and trained in and around Somerby before being dropped at the Battle of Arnhem (Operation Market Garden) in Holland on September 18, 1944.
Only about 30 of the men made it back to Somerby two weeks later. The remainder were either killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
In Tony’s case he was taken prisoner at Arnhem, on September 26, 1944, after suffering a shrapnel wound to his leg. He was incarcerated as a prisoner of war at Stalag XIB until the camp was liberated on April 16, 1945.
Tony, a veteran of the Dunkirk evacuation, joined 10 Para in the Middle East and was a member of the Mortar Platoon, S Coy.
Having been one of only a handful of the 10 Para ‘band of brothers’ still alive, Tony died, after a short illness, at the Leicester Royal Infirmary on January 26.
He was among the veterans who attended an Arnhem parade in Holland in 1986.
His daughter, Julie Newman, said he was also proud to have attended the 70th anniversary Operation Market Garden parade and service held in Somerby in September 2014.
Every year, veterans, their families and villagers all come together for the parade and church service in Somerby to remember the heroism and sacrifice of 10 Para.
Julie said: “Dad was a private person I suppose. I once went to a reunion in Holland with him and my mum. There was some kind of museum building which the Dutch people took us to. Dad sobbed and said ‘I’ve seen too much’.”
After being released from the PoW camp, Tony arrived back in England on April 21, 1945. Nearly a year later to the day, he married his wife, Margaret, at St Andrew’s Church in Twyford. Julie was their only child. Margaret died in 2004.
After his military service, Tony worked as a gardener, initially for a convent in Sussex, and later at Lowesby Hall and for the Greenalls in Waltham and McDowells in Rearsby. He went on to work on the gardens at Pera in Melton before his retirement.
Julie added: “He loved gardening and looking after his own garden right up until he couldn’t manage it anymore. He had a greenhouse and he loved growing flowers and vegetables.
“He was also interested in wildlife and birds, with a love for owls in particular, and as he got older he used to love watching cricket.
“He was a very loving and caring person and he had a good sense of humour right until the end. He was quick-witted in his comments and he’d always see the funny side of things.”
Tony, whose funeral took place (Thursday, February 11) at Loughborough Crematorium, leaves behind daughter Julie, grandchildren Paul, Karen and Jo and great-grandchildren Charlotte, Rachel, Craig, Amy, Teagan and Taiya.
About 600 men of 10 Para were billeted in and around Somerby for nine months. Here they trained until they were dropped at the Battle of Arnhem on September 18, 1944.
The history of the battle is well known and relived in Richard Attenborough’s film ‘A Bridge Too Far’.
Of the 582 men of the battalion dropped at Arnhem, only around 30 made it back to Somerby some two weeks later.
The event is remembered every September in Somerby with a parade and service at All Saints’ Church. This year’s event is on Sunday, September 11.
Details of forthcoming events commemorating the wartime parachute regiments stationed in and around Melton and Rutland can be found on the website www.leicesterparas.co.uk