Mr John Joseph O’Reilly’s granddaughter, Charlotte O’Reilly, with the new book, Walking In Their Footsteps
Mr John Joseph O’Reilly’s granddaughter, Charlotte O’Reilly, with the new book, Walking In Their Footsteps

The son of a parachute battalion veteran has written a book documenting the first three days of action at a major second world war battle.

Mr John O’Reilly, of Thoroton, launched Walking In Their Footsteps near the scene of the Battle of Arnhem, in the Netherlands at a reunion of Servicemen who fought in the conflict.

Allied forces clashed with the Germans in September, 1944, during the infamous second world war battle.

It was aimed at securing river bridges as part of Operation Market Garden — the Allies’ unsuccessful bid to secure bridges and move troops across the River Rhine and into Germany.

Mr O’Reilly’s father, Mr John Joseph O’Reilly, was a member of 156 Parachute Battalion, then billeted in Melton Mowbray, which took part in the battle.

The book describes the exploits of the 4th Parachute Brigade — of which the 156 Parachute Battalion was a part — during the heaviest three days of fighting at Arnhem, from Monday, September 18 to Wednesday, September 20, 1944.

The battle was mostly fought in woods near Oosterbeek, and the book follows the brigade from when they were dropped on to a heath outside Arnhem to a bayonet charge through German lines.

It is a lesser-known part of the battle than that of the 1st Parachute Brigade, who fought in the same operation and seized the northern end of the bridge before being overrun — a story made famous in the film, A Bridge Too Far.

But Mr O’Reilly said the 156 Parachute Battalion’s role was just as dramatic and even more costly.

“The narrative, backed up by both new and known stories, gives readers the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those who fought and, in many cases, gave their lives for us,” he said.


Mr O’Reilly previously wrote From Delhi To Arnhem, which documented the history of the 156 Parachute Regiment.

The books were published by Thoroton Publishing Ltd, a not-for-profit publishing company based at Thoroton Hall, run by Mr O’Reilly.

Mr O’Reilly also organised a reunion of the 156 Parachute Battalion at Saltby Airfield, near Grantham, last month.

Among those attending was Major Jeffrey Noble, who lost half his men from a medium machine-gun platoon when their Dakota aircraft was shot down on their approach to Arnhem.

Also at the reunion was  Mr John Jeffries, who flew from Saltby and was seriously wounded in Arnhem.

He parachuted with the Red Devils display team, at the age of 95, on the day before the reunion.

Walking In Their Footsteps is available from Thoroton Publishing Ltd, Thoroton, priced £25.