Heroes Orchard officially opened in Grantham with military honours
Grantham’s Heroes Commemorative Orchard was officially opened on Tuesday with due military honours to remember the area's World War Two heritage.
First Airborne Division trained around Grantham before parachuting into Holland for the Battle of Arnhem and Tuesday, September 21, marked the date in 1944 when the battle entered its fifth day.
Royal British Legion standard bearers were joined at the opening by Army representatives, descendants of men who fought at Arnhem, orchard project donors, sponsors, members of South Kesteven District Council and Wyndham Park Volunteers who tend the National Trust-owned site.
Pupils from Walton Academy, who helped to raise money, also attended.
Commemorating both the local American contribution to the war and troop build-up before Arnhem, the day was made extra special by a message from Judy Urquhart, daughter of Major General Robert Urquhart who commanded the First Airborne Division.
She said: “I send my best wishes for the official opening of the Heroes Orchard. The orchard is a commemoration for all the soldiers and airmen who were based in the Grantham area during the Second World War, but my especial interest is in those who fought at the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944.
“Their sacrifices were made to keep Britain safe from German invasion. Today’s event is the evidence. People are free to wander round an orchard planted with trees signifying renewal and growth and bearing fruit to feed and delight.”
SKDC has leased the site since early 2020 and the trees were planted just before lockdown.
Councillor Annie Mason, cabinet member for people and safer communities, thanked everyone who had pledged money and worked in partnership to make the orchard a reality.
She said: “I stood here 18 months ago on a chilly March day and watched these trees being planted. It’s fabulous to see how well they are looking today. I cannot think of a better example of partnership working for community benefit.
“I am proud that our own CrowdfundSK project was the vehicle that helped raise such a lot of money - in excess of £15,000 - to fund the orchard, and that we as a council made a significant contribution of £5,615
The Arnhem story was particularly poignant for one of the guests, Paddy Perry. Paddy planted a tree in memory of his father who served with 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment at Arnhem, under the command of Lt Colonel John Frost. Against all the odds they reached, and for four days defended, the strategic bridge over the Lower Rhine before being captured and becoming prisoners of war.
Rev Stuart Hadley, rector of St Vincent’s Church in Caythorpe, spoke of the special bond forged in 1944 between his church and 216 Signals Parachute Squadron, and how over the years it has become a shrine to airborne forces.
Ian Simmons, Chairman of the Wyndham Park Forum, said: “As witnessed by the attendance here today, this orchard demonstrates the pride we all share in this green space and the gratitude we owe to the men and women who are commemorated here.”
Wyndham Park Visitor Centre displays included war diaries and photos from 1944 from the Barkston Heath Research Group and will remain until the weekend. Donations of £70 will help with the orchard upkeep.