THE funeral of one of the last surviving veterans of Arnhem took place in Richmond today in typical style for the thrill-seeking former parachuter.

The cortege for John Jeffries, 98, was flanked by motorcycles from the Bloodrun Emergency Voluntary Service, and a dozen motorcycles from the Arnhem Riders – a group of former Paras who ride motorcycles together to pay their respects to those who were fallen at, or involved in, Arnhem.

Mr Jeffries took part in Operation Market Garden, where the largest airborne force ever assembled was to land behind German lines in the Netherlands and capture bridges over the Rhine.

The Northern Echo:

35,000 parachutists and glider pilots were involved in the operation, but it was not a success.

Mr Jeffries landed on September 18, 1944, the second day, when all elements of surprise had gone, and he was shot in the buttock by a sniper.

The motorcycle procession, complete with Union Jacks and flags depicting 'Lest we Forget' following the hearse, made a lap around Richmond Market Place before making its way to the church.

Accompanying the funeral procession in St Mary's Church, Richmond, were standard bearers from regiments including Airborne, Signals, Airborne Signals and the Royal British Legion.

Mr Jeffries' daughter, Lynn Tomkinson, said it was a special day.

She said: "The Arnhem Riders had come from the very south of England to the very north of Scotland.

"Most of them are former Paras and just have a great respect for the Paras of '44, which Dad was part of, because they were the forefathers of all Paras now, and they are greatly revered.

"And the Bloodbikes joined us because Dad had completed a fundraising parachute jump for them when he was 95.

"He was always very adventurous. He loved motorbikes too – at the end of the war he was a despatch rider and finished his service in that role.

The Northern Echo:

"Dad loved the parachute jump with the Red Devils Display Team, and wanted to do another when he turned 100. He can't, so I'm going to do it for him.

"Something that was very special, and a complete surprise for me, was that a member of the Red Devils who Dad jumped with in 2017, came to be a pallbearer. I had no idea, so it was a wonderful surprise."

Mrs Tomkinson said she was grateful for all the regiments who attended: "There were so many that wanted to come and support us, and brought their standards from various regiments and organisations.

"It was just fantastic. When we got out of the car and saw them stood to attention and then salute as we came past was just wonderful."

"I'm delighted because it all went so well.

The Northern Echo:

"It was even live-streamed on St Mary's Church, Richmond's YouTube channel, so people who were unable to attend can watch the service."

She added: "It was a day of celebration, not sadness, and everyone at Blenkiron Funeral Directors were just wonderful. We want to thank them so much for going the extra mile to make sure everything with the motorcycles worked.

"They took all the worry away. Dad was certainly a force of nature.

"He was extra special to us, and it seems he was special to lots of other people too."