Battle of Arnhem - 70th anniversary
Published on 2 June 2014 by Hilary Staples
This week commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day are taking place in Britain and along the Normandy coast. It’s but one of the many WWII commemmorations to come. Later this year Holland will be remembering the Battle of Arnhem of 17-25 September 1944, the largest airborne operation ever at the time - which went horribly wrong. Find out more about this bit of WWII history on our Arnhem Airborne Cycle Route.
Bridge over River Rhine September 1944. Photo © public domain
Battle of Arnhem: 17-25 September 1944
The idea behind Operation Market Garden was simple: the Allies were to force an entry across the River Rhine into Germany, ending WWII before the winter set in. To do so, gaining control over the bridges of Nijmegen and Arnhem was crucial. The plans included the largest airborne operation carried out ever at the time. British and Polish paratroops were dropped north of the river Rhine, far behind enemy lines, to seize the bridge before the Germans could destroy it.
Unfortunately the location of the airborne landings proved to be too far from the Arnhem road bridge. The Allies had also underestimated the opposition from the Germans they would encounter on their way to Arnhem. Only John Frost and his group of 745 lightly armed men made it to the bridge. They managed to hold the northern side of the bridge for three days and four nights. As reinforcements were not able to reach them, the Germans regained control over the bridge on 20 September.
The cycle route
The Arnhem Airborne Cycle Route takes you to the major landmarks of the Battle of Arnhem. From the heath near Wolfheze and Heelsum, where the paratroopers and gliders with military equipment landed at the beginning of the battle (as you’ll notice, this is the furthest point in the route!) to Oosterbeek, where the paratroops made their headquarters, the famous John Frost bridge and the ferry at Driel, where the surviving troops were evacuated in the night of 26 September.
In Oosterbeek you can visit the Airborne Cemetery and Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’. From here you follow more of less the same route John Frost and his men took into Arnhem. Next to the bridge is the Battle of Arnhem Information Centre. Along the route, you find monuments in memory of the soldiers who lost their lives during the heavy fighting. Information boards at the sites tell you the story behind the Battle of Arnhem.
For the official programme of the commemorations, go to the Operation Market Garden website. Many veterans and/or their families are expected to come to Arnhem for the event, so if you want to stay in the area, make sure you book your hotel or campsite in time.
Other WWII related cycle routes:
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