Battle for Arnhem – bridge too far
75 years ago! That is now one of the largest airborne landings taking place at Arnhem to put a swift end to the war in Europe. Unfortunately it all went differently and the sacrifice that the soldiers then made is an ultimate act of courage and justifies the attention it should receive every year.
It has been on my list for a long time to find out more about the battle of Arnhem where my family comes from. It will be exciting and beautiful to visit the places that played an important in battle for Arnhem. On 15 September 2 days before the actual landing in 1944 we are ready in the morning to do a battlefield tour at Arnhem. What strikes me is the broad interest and involvement of people from the immediate surroundings of Arnhem and Oosterbeek, but also the people who come along from different areas of the country with the tour of today.
Early in the morning we go to the drop zones at Heelsum and Ginkelse Heide. Not much has changed other than the farms that are no longer there. It is good to imagine what it must have been like. What a bold plan it was. The preparations that it must have had and the hope and fear that everyone must have felt must be enormous. Knowing what the outcome has been it makes it all so sad to hear about the amount of men who came down from the skies at these places.
Preparations have already been made on the Ginkelse Heide for the official commemoration of the battle with Princess Beatrix and Prince Charles to visit the following weekend. The road to it makes once again painful clear how far these drop zones are from the bridge. And that 3 army barracks ar so near these fields!
In this beautiful day it is all peaceful and at the crossing of Oosterbeek and Arnhem we stop at the Lombok district where General-Major Urquhart got stuck with a German patrol on his heels. We are in front of the house where he spent the night directly opposite the Elisabeth guesthouse where both German and English doctors try to save lives from the wounded on both sides. The various units are unable to push through to the bridge to relieve Major Frost. Ultimately, these units have to fall back at the Hartenstein perimeter.
Under the bridge it is also clear that it is a huge bump that cannot be easily taken with light infantry. What is striking is that in addition to the bridge, there is still no definitive development and that a factory is half demolished directly besides the bridge. It looks like one permanent wound in the heart of Arnhem. There is also no direct building on the other side … which also gives a good feeling of what it would have been like then.
Perimeter Hartenstein – Oosterbeek
We drive the edge of the perimeter by bus. It becomes clear how small it actually was and hopeless it must have been. We drive along a pit at the Valkenburglaan in Oosterbeek where Brigadier General John Hackett is enclosed with all kinds of German units around them. There is now a memorial to remember this fact.
A place where everything becomes clear and where the struggle that has been and the impact it has had can still be felt. The church has become a place of pilgrimage for various British units and the only church where the banner of the … is kept. Here stood various artillery guns and the destroyed rail bridge was visible as well as the escape route to the Rhine and Driel. Several times the Germans tried to break through the lines but failed. The Kate ter Horst house, which stands next to the church, served as an emergency hospital. Very special to see it all.
In no other way you can end with the cemetery where so many lie that have had to give the ultimate sacrifice. It is heart-warming to see how the inhabitants of Oosterbeek have held this cemetery in their arms and that school children contribute to this every year. Also special and sad to see that on the date September 23, 1944 o, the birth of my mother in Arnhem, a few hundred meters away young boys died so unnecessarily and lie on the cemetery in Oosterbeek with the same date.
Due to the 75th anniversary of the commemoration it was special that a Hors glider could be seen outside Hartenstein. This will be definitively exhibited in the Museum in Overloon but now visible as a stopover in Oosterbeek for the commemoration. The museum is now closing for a renovation, but will be open again for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.
If you want to see it with your own eyes and also enjoy the surroundings of Arnhem and Arnhem itself, we spent the night in the neighborhood of the hotel Molenbeek. Located right next to the Sonsbeek park is really enjoying. Highly recommended I say!