FIVE of the last survivors from a major Second World War battle joined staff and pupils at a Hampshire school for an emotional remembrance service.

The veterans, who boast a combined age of 480, visited Walhampton School, near Lymington, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem.

Vic Gregg, 99, Jim Hooper, 97, and John Bosley, 94, were joined by Jeffrey Noble and Arthur Bailey, who are both 95.

Mr Gregg, who lives in Swanmore, described the event as "absolutely fantastic", adding: "The children were brilliant."

Daily Echo:

The independent preparatory school has strong links with Arnhem, having taken pupils and parents to the Dutch city every autumn for the past ten years.

Operation Market Garden, which began on September 17, 1944, was the largest airborne operation in history.

More than 35,000 British, American and Polish airborne troops were dropped behind enemy lines in an effort to capture eight bridges that spanned the network of rivers and canals on the Dutch-German border.

A total of 1,485 troops were killed or died of their wounds and a further 6,525 became prisoners of war.

Had the operation succeeded, Allied tanks and troops might have reached Berlin weeks before the Russians, ending the war by Christmas 1944.

The battle was depicted in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far, starring Stean Connery, Robert Redford and Dirk Bogarde.

Daily Echo:

Walhampton's service, held in the school's chapel, was attended by about 400 people. They included John Grayburn, son of Victoria Cross winner Jack Grayburn, who fought at Arnhem and died from his injuries, aged 26.

A Walhampton spokesman said: "Over the last decade, The school has developed a unique relationship with the veterans of Arnhem.

"The headmaster, Titus Mills, has been taking parents and pupils to the battlefield every year for in-depth tours. We are the only UK school which regularly attends the commemorative service in the cemetery, during which Walhampton children join hundreds of Dutch children to lay flowers at the graves of fallen soldiers."

Mr Mills added: "I want our pupils to feel connected to this story.

"They need to know the price of freedom. That is why pupils presented the veterans at our service with stones on which were painted the words ‘The young are grateful'."

After the service, guests visited the school's Remembrance Garden, where a bronze statue made by the school's art department is permanently on display in honour of the veterans.