Son of Mrs F. S. Champness. Gateway School 1932-36.
Corporal Bilney’s battalion was part of the 1st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden, the attempt to seize the bridges over the major rivers in the Netherlands. On the 17th September 1944, the battalion was transported to Arnhem over two days in Horsa gliders from RAF Manston and RAF Broadwell. Larger pieces of equipment were carried in a Hamilcar glider from RAF Tarrant Rushton. German resistance, bad weather and problems with supplies and reinforcements led to heavy losses, and the objectives were not taken. The 1st Airborne Division was forced to form a perimeter at Oosterbeek which they held stubbornly until the 25th September, when it was decided to withdraw the remnants of the division across the lower Rhine. Of the 767 men of the 2nd (Airborne) Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment who landed at Arnhem, 124 were evacuated and 558 were reported missing. Those missing were mainly men who became prisoners-of-war. The remaining 85 men of the battalion were killed during the fighting, including Corporal Bilney. He is buried in Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Netherlands, Grave 18. A. 7.
Following the Normandy landings of June 1944, the Allied advance through northern Europe was extraordinarily rapid and on
11 September 1944, the Second Army entered the Netherlands just south of Eindhoven, the first Allied troops to set foot in the country since its fall in May 1940. Their next aim was to cross the Rhine before the Germans had time to
reorganise after their recent setbacks, securing crossings over the rivers and canals that stood in their path at Grave, Nijmegen and Arnhem. ‘Operation Market Garden’ would involve the United States 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, the Commonwealth 1st Airborne Division and the Polish Parachute Brigade. On 17 September 1944, the 1st Airborne Division began landing west of Arnhem, but German resistance, bad weather and problems with supplies and reinforcements led to heavy losses, and their objectives were not taken. They were forced to form a perimeter at Oosterbeek which they held stubbornly until 25 September, when it was decided to withdraw the remnants of the division across the lower Rhine. Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery contains the graves of most of those killed during the September landings, and many of those killed in later fighting in the area. There are now 1,684 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 243 of the burials are unidentified and two casualties are commemorated by special memorials. There are also 79 Polish, three Dutch and four non-war (including three former Commission employees) graves in the cemetery. The cemetery was designed by P.D. Hepworth.