This is a post for Sepia Saturday 147.
Twelve years ago I moved to Arnhem, the city of “A bridge too far”. Since then I’m surrounded by memorials and monuments about Operation Market Garden.
I have to show some pictures of the battlefield, bought in musea. And I have some photos that I made myself visiting Oosterbeek war cemetery and church.
And I added some information from Wikipedia.
Photo 1. Day 1: Sunday, 17 September 1944.
Postcard: “Jump of All American Airbornes (505 PIR, HQ.3BN) uit een C-47 van 313/48 Troop Carrier Sqdn.”
Operation Market Garden opened with Allied success all round. In the first landing, almost all troops arrived on top of their drop zones without incident. In the 82nd Airborne Division, 89% of troops landed on or within 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) of their drop zones and 84% of gliders landed on or within 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) of their landing zones. This contrasted with previous operations where night drops had resulted in units being scattered by up to 19 kilometres (12 mi). Losses to enemy aircraft and flak were light; German flak was described in reports as "heavy but inaccurate".
Photo 2. Day 1: Sunday, 17 September 1944.
Postcard. “Entry liberators: Gavin’s Airbornes, by glider and parachute landed right around Wylerbaan, Drop/Landingzone ‘T.”
To their north, the 82nd arrived and the small group dropped near Grave took the bridge in a rush. They also succeeded in capturing one of the vitally important bridges over the Maas-Waal canal, the lock-bridge at Heumen. The main effort of the 82nd was to seize the Groesbeek Heights and set up a blocking position there to prevent a German attack out of the nearby Reichswald and to deny the heights to German artillery observers. Gavin and Browning, who established his HQ at Nijmegen, felt this must be the Division's priority.
Photo 3 Day 1: Sunday, 17 September 1944.
Postcard. “D-company, 505th Parachute Infantry arrives in Groesbeek, this was shortly after their jump above the Wylerbaan. Sgt. Milton E. Schlesener, 82nd A/B D.v.”
The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment was tasked with taking the 600-metre (2,000 ft) long Nijmegen highway bridge if possible but because of miscommunication they did not start until late in the day. Had they attacked earlier they would have faced only a dozen Germans. By the time the 508th attacked, troops of the 9th SS Reconnaissance Battalion were arriving. The attack failed, leaving the Nijmegen bridge in German hands.
Photo 4. Day 4: Wednesday, 20 September.
Postcard. “Street scene in Oosterbeek.”
Further west the remnants of the 1st Airborne Division were gathering at Oosterbeek for their last stand; those already there were not seriously challenged by the enemy throughout the day. To the east of the village the 1st, 3rd and 11th Parachute Battalions and 2nd South Staffordshires were organised into a defensive position and in desperate fighting later in the day they bloodily repulsed an enemy attack which threatened to cut the division off from the Rhine and so seal the fate of the bridgehead.
Photo 5. Day 5: Thursday, 21 September.
Postcard. “Irish Guards of Gen. Adair’s “Guards Armoured” driving their Sherman-tanks right after they conquered the Waalbridge Nijmegen.”
Despite the capture of Nijmegen bridge and the clearing of the town on the previous evening, the five tanks of Guards Armoured Division which were across the river did not advance. The Division resumed its advance about 18 hours later, at noon. Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks claimed he needed this delay to sort out the confusion among his troops that had resulted from the battle in Nijmegen. This was a controversial decision that has been examined often in the years since. The Coldstream Guards Group were repulsing an attack on the Groesbeek position, the Irish Guards Group had gone back to Eindhoven to meet another attack, the Grenadiers had just captured the approaches to the bridge with the US paratroops and got five tanks over it to support the Airborne bridgehead and the Welsh Guards were in 82nd Airborne reserve. The Guards Armoured Division was scattered over twenty-five square miles of the south bank of the Waal. Thus the attack failed, leaving the Nijmegen bridge in German hands.
Photo 6. 24th June 2010.
Oosterbeek War Cemetery. Memorial for all Airborns.
XXX Corps suffered fewer than 1,500 casualties, which stands in stark contrast to the 8,000 casualties suffered by the 1st Airborne Division. On several occasions, units of the flanking British Corps made contact with paratroopers before units of XXX Corps, and fought on to support them until the end of the operation. The higher toll by the 101st Airborne Division reflects the reality that aside from contending with the local German defenders, they also had to combat German troops retreating from XXX Corps advance.
Photo 7. 24th June 2010.
Oosterbeek Old Church, baptismal font.
The font is made of Portland stone with copper lid, suggesting a parachute. Together with the communion table donated by the 1st Airborne Division in 1950.
Photo 8. 24th June 2010.
Oosterbeek Old Church; The Airborne Prayer.
Donated by the veteran Bob Dixon on 15 June 1986. He made this plaque together with his daughter. The text is applied in English and Dutch in stylish lettering.
“May the defence of the most High be above and beneath, around and within us, on our going out and coming in, in our rising up and in our going down, through all our days and all our nights, until the dawn when the Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings for peoples of the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
Photo 9.24th June 2010.
Oosterbeek Old Church, north side.
During the battle of Arnhem, in September 1944, this thousand years old church was one of the last strongholds of the Airborne troops. In the former vicarage next to the church a large number of wounded were tended in difficult conditions. Each and every year many veterans come to this area with their relatives. The completely restored church has become a pilgrimage for veterans, survivors and other interested parties regarding the Battle of Arnhem.
Photo 10. 24th June 2010.
Oosterbeek, Memorial stone near the Old Church.
This has been unveiled in September 1990.
“In September 1944 British Airborne soldiers and their Polish comrades, with the support of brave Dutch men and women, fought a grim battle around this ancient Church in the struggle to liberate the Netherlands from Nazi tyranny. This stone dommemorates all who took part in this action, and above all, those who died. Not one shall be forgotten.“
Sources: Wikipedia, Airborne Museum Hartenstein in Oosterbeek, National Liberation Museum 1944-1945 in Groesbeek.
More military uniforms at Sepia Saturday 147.