Arnhem and Operation Market-Garden – A Bridge too Far
ARNHEM AND OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN
A Bridge too Far
Day One: London to Joe’s Bridge and Eindhoven.
This tour covers the Market-Garden Operation in September 1944, which was an attempt to lay an airborne carpet of parachute and glider landings across the last major remaining waterways barring access to the Germany’s industrialized Ruhr. The paratroopers were to be relieved by ground forces, the aim being to dramatically shorten the war. Like the D-Day tour, this one concentrates on the human experience of what it was like to land by parachute or glider far behind enemy lines, and the perspective of the SS and Wehrmacht combat Kampfgruppen, who sought to destroy them.
The group leaves London and travels to Brussels by Eurostar, where we pick up a coach and continue on to the Meuse-Escaut Canal, to follow the “garden’ route of the XXX Armored Corps ground advance to link up with the paratroopers. We cover the German anti-tank ambushes on the Valkensvaard road, where the tanks broke through the German front line, before entering Eindhoven. This was the first city to be liberated by the advancing British armor and where we check into our hotel for one night.
Day Two: ‘Hell’s Highway’ through the American Airborne Sector.
On this day we follow the course of the US 101st and 82nd Airborne Division landings near Son and the bridge at Grave. We stop to walk through and talk the capture of the Grave Bridge in both this 1944 operation and in 1940.
Continuing on we explore the fighting that occurred for the massive road bridge spanning the Waal River at Nijmegen. This action is covered from the vantage point of its ancient citadel, which overlooks the rail and road bridges. Captain Euling’s SS battalion, belonging the 10th SS Frundsberg panzer division, defended the approaches to the road bridge, the citadel and far bank at Lent. We investigate both the German defense and Allied attacks of this desperately fought action. The dramatic assault river crossing by the US 504th Airborne Regiment in exposed canvas boats is visible from here as also the final ‘bouncing’ of the Waal bridge by Sergeant Robinson’s Grenadier Guards troop of four Sherman tanks. The dramatic last minute failed German demolition; vividly reshot on site in the film A Bridge Too Far enabled its capture.
We then continue to Arnhem, checking into a hotel within walking distance of the famous John Frost Bridge. Arnhem town center is also a delightfully atmospheric location for walking out and evening drinks.
Day Three: The British Parachute Brigade Assault on Arnhem.
The day starts with an exploration of the 1st British Airborne Division parachute and glider landing zones west of Arnhem, followed by re-tracing the route of attacks to relieve Frost’s 2 Para, under German siege at the Arnhem Bridge.
At the road bridge we cover its surprise capture by the 2nd Parachute Battalion and the subsequent overwhelming counter attacks and siege mounted by Harzer’s 9th SS Hohenstaufen Kampfgruppe. This is a fascinating day, covering a street fighting advance by British paratroopers into a ‘U’-shaped ‘killing box’ of surrounding SS infantry and armor, that blocks all attempts to reach the Arnhem bridge and in so doing, totally devastated the Arnhem town center.
Day Four: The Oosterbeek ‘Cauldron’ Perimeter Defense.
The day begins with a walk around the Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek, showing the perimeter outline and describing the course of the fighting around the besieged 1st Airborne Division headquarters.
We also investigate the course of fighting along the Lower Rhine River, the Westerbouwing Heights and the German advance on the leafy suburb of Oosterbeek. The Hartenstein has an excellent airborne museum, offering intelligent interpretations of the battle. Afterwards we move south to the riverbank again to cover the final forlorn attempt to reinforce the perimeter with a parachute insertion by the Independent Polish Parachute Brigade, across the river, which was badly mauled in the process and subsequent street fighting. Extensive research from both sides enables a meaningful investigation of the course of the fighting. After lunch we drive back to Brussels to board the Eurostar for an early evening return to London.
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Interviews with Dutch civilians and British and German veterans during the battle of Arnhem reveal that nearly all of them stood on the Utrechtseweg at some time during the battle. Closer examination of this one road has started to unveil aspects of the battle not considered before.
The participants had no idea about what was going on around them in big-picture terms. The street is the personal story of what it is like to fight a modern war in your own back-yard.
This is the story told from the human perspective how military men adapted Leonardo Da Vinci’s parachute ‘umbrella’ and glider concept as a means of going to battle. Different countries evolved their own personalized approaches to airborne warfare and these are examined through the individual experiences of those that pioneered them. Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany were at the forefront of translating this into military reality.