Luis in the wheelchair he borrowed to attend a World War Two service in Holland

©MarcoFerrageau

Luis DiMarco manages perfectly well at home without a wheelchair. But when the World War Two veteran was invited to a special memorial service in Holland, not having a wheelchair became a bit of a problem.

The trip required a lot of walking – something the 93-year-old struggles with. But he did not want to miss commemorating the campaign he took part in more than 70 years ago.

Fortunately the British Red Cross offer short-term wheelchair loans to help people stay independent. We were delighted to be able to support Luis.

Borrowing a wheelchairLuis in the wheelchair he borrowed to attend a World War Two service in Holland

Luis’ daughter Angie contacted the Red Cross to borrow a wheelchair from our mobility aids service.

“At home dad hardly ever uses a wheelchair as he still drives and therefore he doesn’t have to walk very far ever,” Angie said.

“These commemorative trips incur a terrific amount of walking which is impossible for him now and using a wheelchair is the only way he is able to take part.”

While Luis does own a wheelchair, it isn’t robust enough to cope with the terrain at the Arnhem commemorations. They are held on historic heathland for the parachute drop displays, and there are grass-covered cemeteries.

“It is therefore very reassuring to know that we needn’t worry each time we go away as we are able to visit the Red Cross to borrow a suitable wheelchair,” Angie said.

Operation Market Garden

Luis was one of 30,000 British and American airborne troops involved in Operation Market Garden in World War Two.

This operation aimed to capture the eight bridges over the canals on the Dutch-German border so allied tanks and infantry could enter Germany and defeat Hitler.

“Aged 21 and in the 1st Battalion, Signalman to Lt Col David Dobie, I was one of the first wave of paras to be dropped on the afternoon of 17 September 1944,” Luis said.

British paratroops of the 1st (British) Airborne Division in their aircraft during the flight to Arnhem in 1944

© IWM

“It soon became obvious we were quickly up against strong German opposition and for the whole time I was there I can’t remember ever eating or drinking and suffered from exhaustion due to lack of sleep.

“I was there for nine days and by this time we were out of ammunition with no prospect of resupply. I was one of the lucky ones that managed to escape across the Rhine on 25 September 1944.”

Civilians dancing in the square of Eindhoven, the first major town in Holland to be liberated.

© IWM

The Dutch have held annual commemorations in Arnhem of Operation Market Garden ever since.

“These annual commemorations are very special and truly unique,” Luis said.

“The welcome we, the veterans and families of veterans, receive from the Dutch is overwhelming and at times very humbling as we didn’t achieve our objective to liberate them – far from it. After our withdrawal the Dutch sadly suffered greatly with tens of thousands of deaths from widespread starvation under continued German occupation.”

Angie accompanied her dad on the weekend of commemorations and described them as being ‘wonderful’.

“It was so sunny. There was a parade through the streets and the Dutch people were applauding dad and the other veterans,” she added.