Seventy-five years ago British Airborne troops spent 10 days fighting a major battle of World War II.

This week, former troopers will gather in Rotorua to commemorate the battle and keep those memories alive.

The Battle of Arnhem was fought in and around the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze and Driel, and the surrounding countryside, from September 17 to 26 in 1944. About 2000 people were killed.

The British 1st Airborne Division was supported by the Glider Pilot Regiment and the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade in battle and lost nearly three-quarters of its strength.


Members of the British Airborne Forces living in New Zealand will descend on Rotorua to mark the battle.

The three-day-long commemorations include a ceremony at the cenotaph in the Government Gardens, a viewing of a C130 Hercules and a parade and service at St Faith's Church, among other things.

Planning committee chairman Reynold Macpherson expected about 50 people to attend the weekend's commemorations, including 20 to 30 former members of forces and their partners.

"Most are ex-paratroopers who have seen service in many parts of the world since the Second World War.

"Those that survived keep those memories alive.

"It's exemplary of extraordinary courage and determination in the face of overwhelming odds," Macpherson said.

He said the paratroopers were up against a "vastly better equipped" opposition including the SS Panzer division, which had tanks.

"After three days the Nazis outnumbered the paratroopers by three to one and the odds got worse and worse but they persisted.


"Most battalions suffered over 80 per cent casualties."

While there are multiple private events planned for the weekend, the public is able to attend a commemoration ceremony on Friday at the Cenotaph in the Government Gardens, as well as a parade and church service on Sunday from 9am at St Faith's Church.

The weekend is being planned with support from the Rotorua Returned Services Association and Te Arawa Māori Returned Services League.

Commemorations for the public
September 20:
2.45pm Assemble at the Cenotaph, Government Gardens, wet weather option is the Bowling Club.
3pm: Welcomes by Reynold Macpherson and Monty Morrison, speeches by Bryce Morrison, Rotorua RSA president, Air Commodore (Rtd) Stewart Boys, the Ambassador of the Netherlands to New Zealand Mira Woldberg, British Air Forces (NZ) president Edward Dennis, Reverend Tom Poata.
Wreath laying and the Last Post performance.

September 22:
8.45am Assemble at St Faith's Anglican church at Ohinemutu. Welcomed by Rev Tom Poata.
9am Church service, koha collection
10.30am Parade to lay a wreath to honour Te Arawa's war dead at the entrance to Muruika Urupa.

Other events include a luncheon and reunion dinner, and the RNZAF will deploy a C130 Hercules to the Rotorua Airport, but these are by invitation only.