Fundraiser Jon Bridel documents his commemorative jumps in Arnhem 2015

JUMP ONE – RENKUM – TO COMMEMORATE THE BRITISH PARACHUTE REGIMENT DROP AT ARNHEM ON 17 SEPTEMBER 1944

On the Friday, I was in the first jump of 20 in two vintage Antonov AN2’s, the World’s largest bi-plane. The flight was about 20 minutes from the base to the DZ. We lobbed out at 13:00 at 1,200 feet over a small Drop Zone (DZ) at Renkum and it was approximately a minute from exit to landing. As we came in the wind was gusting 20 mph. I saw a friend below me so took avoiding action. I then turned into wind and landed going backwards due to the wind but luckily had no injury and managed to avoid the trees and the nasty angled bank. I struggled to get up and flatten my parachute in the strong winds without Capewelling. I took off my authentic helmet (which was kindly lent to me by a friend whose father had served as an officer in the SAS many years ago) and put on the maroon beret. The two aircraft buzzed the DZ. I then took out my vintage brass and copper hunting horn and blew it out of respect for Lt Col Johnny Frost who commanded the Regiment at Arnhem Bridge. In the photo below one of our colleagues is in the tree to the left and the cornfield is behind. I landed in front of the tree behind me.

Jon Bridel

On Saturday Dr Henry G and I attended the official remembrance ceremony and parade at Ginkel Heath and briefly saw our fellow Pompey Para, Arthur Bailey. Henry and I then participated in the Race to Arnhem in over 100 WW2 vehicles wearing our uniforms. A Dutch friend who had served in their Special Forces had kindly invited Henry and I onto his jeep which was proudly flying the Union Jack and Pegasus Flag. The police stopped all the traffic so we could get from the Renkum DZ, which was now very quiet, to Arnhem Bridge. We ended up in an escort of 80 WW2 motor bikes with our jeep number two. As always the Dutch were out in their thousands to greet us and we threw sweets at the little ones – the puzzled looks on their little faces as we drove by was priceless. Union Jacks and Pegasus Flags were flying from houses, blocks of flats and offices. As we saw WW2 veterans we saluted them. We then drove to the Hartenstein Airborne Museum at Oosterbeek where we saluted and met several more WW2 veterans.

JUMP TWO – DRIEL – TO COMMEMORATE THE POLISH FIRST INDEPENDENT PARACHUTE BRIGADE DROP AT ARNHEM 21 SEPTEMBER 1944

Twenty of us signed up for the Driel DZ on the Sunday. This is a jump over the River Rhine onto a small DZ on the south of the river. Most of the original DZ is now built on. It was clear most of us had little sleep as our brains buzzed all night preparing for the jump. We met for the briefing early and it was confirmed the weather was much better this time. After all the usual checked and getting kitted out, off we went in the two Antonovs. Our Antonov had been used by the Polish military. At 12:00 I jumped number two at 1,200 feet with a Polish friend of course as number one. The chute opened well but my toggles decided to play hide and seek amongst the straps so I spent a couple of seconds grapping them. I saw the red smoke and headed towards the DZ floating past my colleagues, found a good spot, turned into wind and landed.  We put on our berets and had a celebration drink of Polish “Old Krupnik” which went down very well. We then headed off to the Polish War Memorial and the General Sosabowski Monument in the town to pay our respects before relaxing at a local cafe with a nice beer. In the photo below I am the second parachute on the left.

Jon Bridel (2)

A massive well done to all those who jumped and special thanks to Roy for organising everything, all the ground crew and Alan and Ian (both of whom have been doing the James Bond film parachute stunts since the 1980’s) for being such exceptional jump masters.

That night Henry drove me to Oosterbeek, Arnhem where we met at our Dutch friend’s house for dinner with his family and friends. He explained how his grandparents who were in the Dutch resistance had been captured blowing up a bridge. They were to be executed when the Parachute Regiment turned up and freed them. If they had not been saved, our friend would not have been born. Before dinner, we had a minute’s silence to remember those who fought at Arnhem. He showed us a German helmet with a 303 bullet hole that had been found in their garden: we were having dinner in the original battle zone.

It is a great feeling remembering and supporting our brave veterans and showing our appreciation to them by our actions. I hope to raise £6,000 this year to raise much needed funds to support veterans of all conflicts and their families. Please visit the link below if you would like to make a donation:

www.virginmoneygiving.com/Jon.Bridel.Military.Parachuting