Trip to Arnhem (WWII history report)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Tim, Jun 12, 2007.

  1. Tim

    Tim Long timer

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    Just back from a trip to Arnhem in the Netherlands, in order to visit the battlefields of Arnhem, part of Operation Market Garden, and in particular the sites where two Victoria Crosses were earned. The Victoria Cross is the highest award for bravery that can be awarded to British (and Commonwealth) servicemen.

    First a little background history.

    In September 1944, British, American and other allied forces were advancing East across France and had liberated most of France and Belgium. Field-Marshal Montgomery felt that a pencil-like thrust northward through Holland and then eastward into Germany, outflanking the Siegfried Line and then onwards to Berlin across the plains of Northern Germany, offered excellent prospects of bringing the war to an early end.

    The first step was to secure the crossings of the rivers Rhine, Waal and Maas in the general area Grave, Nijmegen and Arnhem. To achieve this he decided to lay a carpet of Allied airborne troops, who would seize and hold the crossings over these rivers (this formed Operation Market) and facilitate the advance of the Second British Army northwards (Operation Garden).

    The crossings at Nijmegen and Grave were to be taken by the 82nd American Airborne Division and those between Grave and Eindhoven by the 101st Airborne Division. The British First Airborne Division was allotted the task of capturing the bridges at Arnhem.

    The Bridge at Arnhem

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    Although the landing of the first wave of troops went well the operation failed and the 1st Airborne Division troops were forced in to two small areas. One at the North end of the bridge and the other in the closest village to the landing grounds, Oosterbeek, just outside Arnhem.

    The landing grounds today are much the same as they were in 1944.

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    Our first VC is Flt. Lieut. David Lord who was the pilot of a Dakota, dropping supplies to the troops in Oosterbeek.

    The following details are given in the London Gazette of 13th November 1945:-

    On September 19th, 1944, Flt. Lieut. Lord was pilot and captain of an aircraft detailed to drop supplies to our troops, who were closely surrounded at Arnhem. For accuracy this had to be done at 900 feet. While approaching the target at 1,500 feet the aircraft was severely damaged and set on fire. Flt. Lieut. Lord would have been justified in withdrawing or even in abandoning his aircraft but, knowing that supplies were desperately needed, he continued on his course. Twice going down to 900 feet under very intense fire, he successfully dropped his containers. His task completed he ordered his crew to abandon the aircraft, making no attempt himself to leave. A few seconds later the aircraft fell in flames, only one of the crew surviving. By continuing his mission in a damaged and burning plane, twice descending to 900 feet to ensure accuracy, and finally by remaining at the controls to give his crew a chance of escape, Flt. Lieut. Lord displayed supreme valour and self-sacrifice.

    This is the field where Lord and his crew were trying to drop their supplies.

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    As you can see the field slopes down, away from the camera. German forces held the high ground on which we are standing and the British Airborne troops were in the trees in the distance, Oosterbeek is to our left and their goal, Arnhem bridge is about seven miles behind us.

    The memorial to the 79 Air Dispatchers who were killed attempting to drop the much needed supplies to the troops. The Dispatchers were responsible for the packing of supplies, rigging their parachutes, loading them on to the aircraft and for dispatching them over the dropping zone.

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    Major-Gereral Urquhart, who saw Lords action sums it up thus;

    "One Dakota was fit by flack, and the starboard wing was set on fire. Yet it came on descending to 900 feet. It seemed that ever ant-aircraft gun in the vicinity was sighted on the crippled aircraft. With its starboard wing blazing, it came through to the dropping zone. At the end of its run the Dakota turned and made a second run to drop the remaining supplies. From foxholes and slit trenches and from the restricted spaces to which we were trying to attract the pilots; from blasted buildings and ditches and emplacements of rubble and earth, the eyes of hundreds and probably thousands of careworn soldiers gazed upwards through the battle haze. We were spellbound and speechless, and I dare say that there is not a survivor of Arnhem who will ever forget, or want to forget, the courage we were privileged to witness in those terrible eight minutes."

    The garve of Flight Lietenant David Lord is in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetary at Oosterbeek.

    [​IMG]

    The story of our second VC will follow.......
    #1
  2. Boozer

    Boozer Adventurer

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    Brilliant stuff, great memorial to the greatest generation.
    #2
  3. scumshine

    scumshine Hershey bar & a brick

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    Nice report Tim, keep it going....

    I'll have to break out my copy of A Bridge To Far.
    #3
  4. Skitch

    Skitch Riding the range

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    Good start. More please...
    #4
  5. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    As a history buff, your report is much appreciated! Keep it coming :thumb

    :lurk
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  6. Damir

    Damir AKA Pudla

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    Excellent report!

    :lurk
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  7. turbotiger

    turbotiger What's my credit limit?

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    Tears fill my eyes for the lives lost of very, very brave young men...
    #7
  8. Lobby

    Lobby Viel Spass, Vato!

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    I was just watching the History Channel documentary on the battle for the Arnhem bridge.

    They were a bit critical of Monty, but the winners write the history books, right?

    :lurk
    #8
  9. Garand

    Garand Keeper of Useful Sarcasms

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    Eagerly anticipating the followups!
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  10. ClearwaterBMW

    ClearwaterBMW The Examiner

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    i greatly appreciate the history less
    what a wonderful thread
    thanks for enlightening us

    i appreicate the words and pictures
    #10
  11. Muddpuppy

    Muddpuppy Been here awhile

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    Plus 1
    #11
  12. Tim

    Tim Long timer

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    Thanks for the kind comments.

    Our second VC is Lance Sergeant John Baskyfield (aged 22). On 20th September the troops were trying to defend their positions in Oosterbeek, still hoping that the armoured column of XXX Corps would break through to their positions. They were repeatedly assaulted by German armour, including the feared Tiger tank, the presence of which in the Arnhem area was either unknown or ignored by Allied planners, depending on which version of history you prefer.

    Lance Sergeant Baskyfield was in command of a battery of two six pounder (57mm) anti-tank guns, forming part of the Oosterbeek defences.

    A six pounder forms part of this memorial to the heros of Arnhem.

    [​IMG]

    The white tubes are air dispatch containers which were dropped from the Dakotas as mentioned above.

    The six pounder, of which 52 were dispatched in gliders to Arnhem, fired a 57mm shell with a range of 500 meters and with an armour piercing shot could go through 146mm of armour.

    The citation in the London Gazette of 23rd November, 1944, relating to the actions of Lance Sergeant Baskyfield gives the following details:-

    On 20th September, 1944, during the Battle of Arnhem, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was the N.C.O. in charge of a 6-pounder anti-tank gun at Oosterbeek. During the early stages of a heavy enemy attack, the crew commanded by this N.C.O. were responsible for the destruction of two Tiger tanks and at least one self-propelled gun, thanks to his coolness in allowing each tank to come well within 100 yards of his gun before opening fire. Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was badly wounded and the remainder of his crew were either killed or severely wounded, he refused to be carried away from his post, and when the attack was renewed he manned his gun alone and fired round after round until his gun was put out of action. His activity was the main factor in keeping the German tanks at bay, and his example and his courage were responsible for keeping together and in action the surviving men in his vicinity. When his gun was knocked out, he crawled to another nearby which was left without a crew, and succeeded in putting out of action another self-propelled gun before being killed. Lance-Serjeant Baskeyfield's supreme gallantry is beyond praise. During the remaining days at Arnhem stories of his valour were a constant inspiration to all ranks.

    This is the junction on which the battery were situated.

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    We are facing the Arnhem direction, German armour was coming from this direction.

    Lance Sergeant Baskyfield's gun is thought to have been positioned in the area of this tree, which in now known as the Baskyfield tree.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A self propelled gun against which Baskyfield was fighting.

    [​IMG]

    and the fearsom Tiger

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    The body of Lance Sergeant Baskyfield was never found, no uniidentified field-graves were found in the area of his battle and, the whereabouts of his remains is a mystery.

    I have detailed the stories of just two of the hundreds of heros, most of them unacknowledged of Arnhem.

    Written in the guide book that I used was this final phrase which, I think summed them up:-

    "In the mid nineties a young soldier of todays airborne forces summed these heros up when he wrote these words in the Book of Remembrance at Oosterbeek

    'Rest in peace lads, you set the standard'"

    My next trip is next month to Utah beach so watch this space.
    #12
  13. FatChance

    FatChance Road Captain

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    My father lost a leg in that battle and got two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for heroic efforts while saving soldiers under his command.

    [​IMG]
    #13
  14. Tim

    Tim Long timer

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    Fat Chance, I (and I'm sure others) would be very interested to hear his story if you are able to share.
    #14
  15. PackMule

    PackMule love what you do Super Moderator

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    Thank you, Tim, for this report. Puts the daily grind into perspective.
    #15
  16. bavarian

    bavarian bavarian

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    Hey Tim, very interesting stories, glad I found them. And glad to discover that side of you - besides being a tourguide for tours that can be done on a streetbike. Keep them coming.
    #16
  17. duckrider

    duckrider Been here awhile

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    Great report, please continue.
    #17
  18. riderbob

    riderbob Been here awhile

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    Great report Tim.

    Got more time off heh?
    #18
  19. tengai

    tengai *

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    :lurk

    I try to refrain from commenting in ride reports, as I think it breaks up the rhythm, but this is good stuff. :deal
    #19
  20. DRglidarn

    DRglidarn Panzer pilot

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    Thank You Tim, for your effort to post this great report!
    I always feel the highest respect for those heroes and this is
    just a great way to spread the knowledge about them.
    I will keep an eye on your thread, I like to read about this
    kind of history.

    Thank´s/ Mattias
    #20