Serving and retired members of the Croydon Parachute Regimental Association (PRA) gathered for a service of remembrance that carried with it even greater than usual poignancy.

The event simultaneously commemorated the 70th anniversary of the biggest airborne operation ever staged and the death of veteran Johnny Johnson, who both survived the Rhine Crossing on March 24, 1945, and was the architect of the now annual commemorations.

The operation saw one UK and two US airborne divisions dropped into the midst of two German parachute divisions as part of the final push into Germany.

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Croydon Parachute Regimental Association members gathered for the service

Private Johnson, from Sutton, served in the battle, and more than a decade ago began, what was at first a solitary act of remembrance at the memorial in Manor Park, Sutton.

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Wreaths were laid at the war memorial in Manor Park

His actions were brought to the attention of the Croydon Branch of the PRA, who has several Rhine Crossing veterans, and the event gathered momentum to become a major annual fixture.

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The service in Manor Park, Sutton, was an emotional one

Private Johnson died, aged 92, in August last year.

Colonel John Power, from Croydon PRA organised the event on March 21, inviting the mayors of Sutton, Croydon and Kingston, as well as veterans from World War II through to soldiers of today who had just returned from Afghanistan.