Friday 19 September 2014

Arnhem 19 September 1944/2014

Last night, I finally watched 'A Bridge Too Far'.  Less than three weeks ago, I stood on the John Frost Bridge over the Rhein, watching as the Band of The Southern Highlanders piped the standards of No 1 Para and some very elderly paratroopers across.   What started out as a discussion 6 months ago regarding visiting the battlefields of WW1 became a visit to Arnhem and the commemorations to remember Operation Market Garden, the Battle for Arnhem, 17-21 September, 1944.

There were hundreds of active and retired British servicemen here, mainly paratroopers but also RAF.  We were there to honour the bravery of No 1 Para who were dropped behind enemy lines and, unsupported, fought for the best part of a week to firstly secure the bridge and, later, just to survive long enough for reinforcements to arrive.  Their story is told in A Bridge To Far. That any survived to tell it amazes me.

Of course, the Battle for Arnhem isn't just the story of No 1 Para.  A Polish airborne regiment were dropped on the opposite bank of the Rhein and were thwarted in their attempts to break through.  (Sadly, the commemorative parachute drop was also thwarted by the weather.). 

Ultimately, though, the story belongs to the people of Arnhem, since after the battle, the Germans raised the city in retaliation.