Wheelchair donation allows Kenilworth war veteran to visit battle site

A Kenilworth war veteran was able to travel to the Netherlands to commemorate a battle he fought in 72 years ago thanks to a donated wheelchair.

Friday, 30th September 2016, 9:32 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:58 pm
Luis DiMarco (seated), was able to visit the commemoration of Operation Market Garden in Arnhem, the Netherlands, thanks to a donated wheelchair from British Red Cross

Luis DiMarco, 93, was given the wheelchair by British Red Cross after his daughter, Angie, borrowed one from the charity’s mobility aids service in Coventry.

As a 21-year-old Luis fought during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden in Arnhem, which aimed to capture eight bridges over the canals on the Dutch-German border.

Luis can manage without a wheelchair at his house, but he would not have been able to attend the commemoration if not for the wheelchair because of the amount of walking involved.

He said: “I was one of the first wave of paras to be dropped on the afternoon of September 17 1944.

“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 September 25.

“The Dutch, not ever wishing to forget the British attempt to liberate them, have held annual commemorations in Arnhem of Operation Market Garden ever since.

“These annual commemorations are very special and truly unique, the welcome we veterans and our families receive from the Dutch is overwhelming.”

Angie was very thankful to the Red Cross for giving a wheelchair to her father.

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

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

“The wheelchair we own isn’t very robust and isn’t able to cope with the terrain when visiting the Arnhem commemorations.

“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.”

Nadia Jambawai, volunteer coordinator of the mobility aids service for the Red Cross in Warwickshire, said: “We are delighted that we were able to loan Mr DiMarco and Angie a wheelchair so they could travel to Holland. Mr DiMarco has an absolutely fascinating story.”