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WWII veteran sent hundreds of fan mail after skydive

Sandy Cortmann, 97, recently went viral on social media after doing a parachute jump.

Hero: War veteran Sandy Cortmann. STV

By Ben Philip

A Scottish Second World War veteran has received hundreds of fan mail letters from people in the Netherlands.

Sandy Cortmann, 97, recently went viral on social media after doing a parachute jump as part of the 75th Battle of Arnhem commemorations in a poignant tribute to his fallen comrades.

He was just 22 years old when he first parachuted onto the same drop zone at Ginkel Heath in September 1944 as part of Operation Market Garden – the largest airborne assault in history and one of the war’s most significant and ill-fated operations.

A crowd of thousands, which included Prince Charles, applauded the former paratrooper from Aberdeen as he made his first return to the country he was captured in 75 years ago.

Dutch residents were so moved by his story, a campaign was launched to send well wishes and thank you messages to Mr Cortmann at his care home in Aberdeen.

Mr Cortmann told STV News he was feeling “overwhelmed” by all the letters of support.

He said: “There’s a lot of guys that aren’t here that should have been here for this – always in my mind.

“I’ll try and live up to the adulation, if you like.”

Mr Cortmann also felt emotional due to the warm welcome he received during his trip to the Netherlands in September.

Describing himself, he said: “An ordinary guy from Aberdeen, a plumber… gee whiz.”

Joking about his skydive, Mr Cortmann said: “I felt scared when the flap opened and I saw the ground far, far below.

“Then I said to a fine, big guy behind me ‘don’t let me drop’.”

He added: “Daft as a brush. But I’m glad I did it and I’m glad all these people saw it being done.

“It was a tribute to the guys that didn’t come back.”

Mr Cortmann was also awarded with the 50th anniversary medal which he missed out on because Dutch authorities were not aware of his participation in the conflict.

It’s thought the recent commemorations could be one of the last witnessed by the dwindling number of surviving veterans.

Operation Market Garden, portrayed in the 1977 Hollywood film A Bridge Too Far, saw 35,000 British, American and Polish troops parachute or glide behind German lines in a bid to open up an attack route for allied forces.

The Allied troops, who dropped into Nazi-occupied Holland, were met by the full-force of the German army.

The subsequent fighting around Arnhem saw more than 1500 Commonwealth soldiers killed, nearly 6500 captured and five Victoria Crosses awarded.


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