Monday 22 June 2009

Market Garden - A Trip to Arnhem - May 2003

It's best to start a tour of the Arnhem battlefield from the clearly defined landing zones in the Heelsum/Wolfheze area. One quickly realizes how far the glider and parachute borne troops were from their principal target - the Arnhem Road Bridge. Follow the 'Leopard Route' and one quickly comes to the point where Krafft's hastily imrovised battle group stopped 1st Para. The site of the second lift is even further out. Have a drink at the Zuid Ginkel cafe which was a German billet on the 19th September 1944 when the second lift arrived.

The 'Tiger Route' takes the visitor through the area of the final defensive parameter. Past the lovingly restored Hartenstein Hotel (now the excellent Airbourne Museum) and Oosterbeek old church (look out for the Airbourne Font [picture below])Then to the area of the Elizabeth Hospital where the allied forces tried unsuccessfully to get throught to the men of Frost's Company from 2nd Para who, having got through to the bridge, fought their famous heroic action. Take the 'Lion Route' to see how Frost outflanked the German blocking line.

The existing Arnhem Bridge is not the original one but  an exact copy. You can see a 75mm gun recently excavated from a field near the Bridge at Deelen airfield (just north of Arnhem). It's worth the trip because the huge German night fighter control bunker at Diogenes Schaarsbergen is accessible to anyone with a little imagination.

General Urquhart and Brigadier Lathbury took refuge in the loft of 14, Zwarteweg [above right] having run down an alley [middle picture] from 135, Alexanderstraat [left]. Whilst sheltering in the first house, the General shot a German infantryman through the ground floor window. The pair were trapped inside the last house for 24 hours because a German self propelled gun was parked up outside.

To travel the route of  XXX Corps and see the landing zones for the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airbourne one needs to find the old Nijmegen Road (Hells Highway). Not easy amongst the modern motorways and reconfigured road systems. The pill box at Grave [picture on left] is pitted with shell holes and the bridge at Nijmegen (which is original) is massive. The artillery piece shown in my picture on the right is decaying fast and will soon have to be removed because it is unstable. It's a German 5cm PAK 38 L60.

Don't forget to drop south of the river at Arnhem and visit Driel to pay homage to the Poles who, delayed by bad weather strove so hard to relieve 1st Airbourne. The picture above right is from Driel and shows Oosterbeek Old Church on the northern bank of the Rhine.