|On Saturday afternoon 18 June 2011 we are going to
walk along the eastern edge of the perimeter such as that had arisen after the British airborne Division had to withdraw after the
advance in the direction of the Rhine bridge of Arnhem in the
september days of 1944. The British were squeezed and the only way
to escape the Germans was via the river Rhine near the Old Church in
Oosterbeek. This perimeter only arose after 19 september 1944, when
the breakthrough of the four battalions along Onderlangs and
Bovenover to the bridge over the Rhine near Arnhem which was
occupied by the men of John Frost, had failed. The various
battalions, the 1st, 3rd and the 11th battalion the South Stephens
withdrew towards Oosterbeek and dug in in the Benedendorp. There
were all units of the Light Regiment Royal Artillery who had set up
their guns already on first day.
After 19 september 1944, the remnants of those battalions came together near the Old Church and took defensive positions against German attacks. Then there was then a "Thomson Force" created. Thomson was the Commanding Officer of the Light Regiment Royal Artillery. Except the serving staff of the guns he had only the glider pilots, so no real combat troops. He also took the remnants of the four battalions under his command. Those took positions in the different houses and areas, within the defense area, the perimeter. Nowadays not much in the situation has changed. Althoug the houses have been renewed the buildings are the same.
From the Old Church in Oosterbeek we walk to the eastern border of the perimeter, where the short distance is remarkable. It was no great area that was defended. The distance from the Church to the western boundary of the perimeter is somewhat larger. The church stands at the Benedendorpsweg and we walk that short piece to the eastern border of the perimeter. Also via the Benedendorpsweg below at the River the Germans tried to infiltrate the perimeter. De Britten hadden in dit gebied zwaar verdedigde posities met 17 ponder anti-tankkanonnen. Eén van de 17 ponders staat thans bij het airborne museum in Oosterbeek. In this area the British had heavily defended positions with 17 Pounder anti-tank guns. One of the 17 pounders is now at the airborne museum in Oosterbeek. The British gave fire from the opposite side from the floodplains and on the boundary of the perimeter were 17 pounders. Waar we nu staan is niets meer over van de oorspronkelijke bebouwing, al is de indeling van het gebied niet echt veranderd. Vervolgens gaan we naar de Dam. Where we are standing now nothing left of the original buildings, although the layout of the area has not really changed. Then we go to the Dam.
The Dutch Reformed Church in Oosterbeek-Low
After the retreat from Arnhem on 19 and 20 September the remaining troops of the 1st 3rd and 11th Parachute battalion and the 2nd battalion The South Staffordshire Regiment took positions along the dike to the river. The survivors of the 11th Parachute battalion defended a group of houses east of the church. South, in the meadows, were a group of gliderspilots of the G Squadron, whose had the task to protect the guns of the 1st Light Regiment Royal Artillery. These units were commanded by Colonel W.F.K. Thompson and were called the "Thompson Force". But on 20 September when the expected German attack came the German self-propelled guns (Sturmgeschüze) can not be stopped. Although Sergeant Baskeyfield and the crew of the 6 pounders in Accacialaan delivered incredible performance the troops of Thompson Force had to retreat and took up new positions just before the positions of the Light Regiment at the church at Oosterbeek-Low at the Benedendorpsweg.
On the morning of September 21, during a visit by Brigadier JW Hackett to the headquarters of Colonel Thompson, Thompson got wounded by a mortar attack. Command of the Light Regiment R.A. and the monitoring unit formed by gliderpilots was transferred to the Major Gex, his deputy. The rest of the troops came under command of Major RTH Londsdale. This group became known as "Londsdale Force" (Major Lonsdale was Deputy comandant of the 11th Parachute battalion). The group got two 17 pounder anti-tank guns of P Troop as support, 1st Anti-tank Battery, commanded by Lieutenant J. Casey and had some 6 pounder anti-tank guns, most of which were occupied by Poland.
From the railway embankment and from the north the British lines in the floodplains came under heavy German fire. On Thursday, September 21 it was decided to retreat the remains of the 1st and 3rd Parachute battalion to the Old Church. This happened at daylight, which meant that many got dead and wounded. The strength of the 3rd battalion then was only 35 man.
In the old church they got the opportunity to wash and clean their weapons. Major "Dickie" Lonsdale held his famous pep talks to motivate the men to defend their part of the perimeter with everything they had and hold it until the arrival of the 30th Corps. For the film "Theirs is the Glory the pep talk is written on a door of the church. Later this door has been given to the former Airborne Museum at Castle Doorwerth. Currently it is exhibited at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein.
The door with the pep talk of Lonsdale as he was found in the Old Church in 1945
The heavily damaged Old Church of Oosterbeek. The remains of the remaining four battalions withdrew back to the church where Colonel Londsdale took over the command. Here comes the name "Londsdale Force" from.
Colonel Londsdale encouraging speach to the men of the just formed "Lonsdale Force" in the Old Church in Oosterbeek (excerpts from the film" Theirs is the Glory ".
The paratroopers of the 1st and 3rd battalion were then instructed to defend the houses east of the Old Church under the command of Major Alan Busi. The survivors of the 2nd battalion The South Staffordshire Regiment defended under command of Major RH Cain the land northeast of the church at Van Hofwegen laundry.
Further retreat was impossible, because right behind the infantry line were the positions of F and B Troop of the Light Regiment. On Saturday, September 23, the British were once again a heavy German attack to endure, the enemy had the task to cut off the British from the river. The attack was accompanied by artillery and mortar fire and tanks. Also this time the German attack was unsuccessful. Until the end of the battle the area around the Old Church remained in British hands. Hierdoor was het mogelijk om in de nacht van 25 op 26 september terug te trekken over de Rijn. This made it possible to withdraw across the Rhine in the night of 25 to 26 September.
Besides the twenty-two 75 mm Pack howitzers the British possessed a pair of 17 pounder anti-tank guns.
Disabled 17 pounder anti-tank gun at the Old Church.
At the Old Church stood a 17 pounder anti-tank gun. On September 17 this gun was brought by a Hamilcar glider which landed near Wolfheze at Landing Zone X and brough along the route along the Rhine to the to the Rijnhotel at Arnhem. There, German antiaircraft artillery fired on the southern bank of the Rhine. On Monday, the gun was moved to Oosterbeek and went into position near the intersection Benedendorpseweg-Veerweg.
Then it was moved into position at the gas plant to come to the Old Church finally. From here German tanks and positions at the railway embankment were taken under fire. After that the gun was moved again to the north side of Old Church. During a German mortar attack the gun was hit on Thursday, Sept. 21. Part of the crew were injured. Also the truck, a Morris 15 CW, with spare ammunition was hit. Lieutenant J. Casey (Troop T) ordered to leave the cannon. Later the gun came back into action. During the bombardment of a German armored vehicle in the bend of the Benedendorpsweg the gun was hit again. This time it was not possible to use it. The reverse mechanism was broken. therefore it could not shoot again. This gun is now at the Airborne Museum.
17 pounder anti-tank gun at the Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek
The 17 pounder anti-tank gun was found at the north side of the church after the war.
The second 17 pounder stood at the Ice Factory at Benedendorpseweg. This piece was known as "Pathfinder". It landed on September 17 at Wolfheze on Monday and was moved to Oosterbeek to protect the 75 mm howitzers at the Old Church. When the piece was turned off, the still intact howitzers fired on the appearing German tanks right in front of their noses.
To stop the British the German launched a massive attack by self-propelled guns.
Benedendorpsweg - Ploegseweg
The situation on the eastern side of the perimeter was now as follows:
Roughly the improvised setup as shown on the map below, the command was faulty. The group of soldiers who had found cover behind the summer dike in the meadow was led by Lieutenant Williams and supported by Captain Watkins and the group consisting men of the 1st, 3rd en 11th Parachute battalion who had themselves settled in the quarter limited by the Benedendorpsweg-Ploegseweg was commanded by Major Allan Bush,deputy commander of the 3rd Parachute battalion, supported by Captain Caird, the Forward Observation Officer of the 1st Parachute battalion.
The strip north of the laundry of Hofwegen was defended by the South Staffords, who were led by Major Cain, commander of B Company, and had regrouped. Major Cain, as well as the commander of the 1st Battery Light Artillery, Major Norman Walker, led their troops from the buildings to the laundry.To the north there was a group of glider pilots, led by Lieutenant McDauncey.
The few heavy weapons were brought into position on strategically chosen locations. A 17 pounder AT gun "The Pathfinder" covered the Benedendorpsweg Arnhem and a 6 pounder AT gun Polish was put in such a position that it could take the Ploegseweg under fire.
The only 3 "mortar which the 1st Parachute battalion still possessed was put on a very special place. A place where the enemy could not determine where it was until the last moment.
The defense line along the summer dike.
On the British side on these fields, which were intersected by the Ploegseweg to the south turned into a narrow path, the Ploegsepad, many casualties has fallen. After the war in the region as many as 35 bodies were recovered from artillery, South Staffords, members of Londsdale, Polish en Glider Pilots. During the fighting, many wounded were carried by their comrades and neighbors admired directors to First Aid Post at the church. Many of those who received their last resting place in the garden of the Ter Horst family next to the Old Church came from this blood-soaked piece of land between the laundry of Van Hofwegen and Benedendorpsweg.
Here was the mass grave in the garden of the Ter Horst Family.
The photograph above was taken in 1945 of the many graves in the area between the laundry and the Benedendorpsweg. The chimney of the laundry van Hofwegen is vaguely visible in the background. By fixing an antenna on the chimney Sergeant Norman Patten succeeded in making the first contact with the 64th Division Medium Artillery near Berg en Dal near Nijmegen.
Remarkably, despite fanatical German assaults and fierce mortar shelling and shelling by Nebelwerfer behind the embankment, this fragile defensive line was maintained.
The foxholes along Ploegsepad and the Slenk in Kerkeland are are clearly identified. Also The German tank on Ploegseweg is reflected and the bitter battles are illustrated by the fact that almost all the houses in this part of Oosterbeek become a prey to the flames. The trenches are from after the battle.
A disabled Sturmgeschütz at the Ploegseweg.
Ruined houses on the Ploegseweg.
The laundry Van Hofwegen
One of the places where fierce fighting is incredible, is the area between the Fangmanweg and Weverstraat. Between these streets is the Zweiersdal and both are the direct access road to the Lower Village. Especially the bit along the Lower Fangmanweg and point it on the Lower Weverstraat in 1944, was the heart of the eastern perimeter defense.
The German attacks, backed by armored vehicles, mostly came from the Fangmanweg down with the aim of demolish the British artillery and to cut off the perimeter from the river along the Benedendorpsweg. The northern part of this sector was defended by Gliderpilots under the command of Lieutenant Mike Dauncey (G Squadron), the south part was defende by South Staffords under the command of Major Robert Cain (OC B-Coy), while in the middle a small group of the 11th Parachute battalion under the commandant of Regimenal Wuartermaster David Morris was actief. Although the Victoria Cross was only awarded to Major Cain, the operations of Lieutenant Dauncey, who received a DSO, were of the same level. Under both leadership some German tanks were demolished in these narrow streets in the period between 20 and 25 September 1944. In the southeast corner of the site was the laundry van Hofwegen located.
In the southeast corner of the area was the laundry Van Hofwegen. There was also the headquarters of Major Cain.
From the Dam, we have a beautiful view of the Zweiersdal that runs from the Utrechtseweg to the Old Church.
View on Zweiersdal from de Dam.
The eastern and western part of the village were barely connected. A connection was formed by a narrow path called "Rotteval". To get a good connection in the '30s a road was constructed, de Dam. The Zweiersdal was no front line, but was soon German. The front line of the perimeter was not an unbroken line of defense, but there were open areas interspersed with isolated positions. Under the Dam is a tube in which many civilians took shelter during the fighting. When the battle began to develop rapidly in favor of the Germans, they sent photographers, including even naval photographers. The German photographs show more action than those of the British.
German troops marched from de Dam to Weverstraat.
After the fighting, the soldiers J. Carr and H. Cook with Sergeant D. Morris, 11th Parachute battalion, were removed as a prisoner by the Germans over de dam.
De Dam now
On Sunday, September 17, 1944 landed the 1st Airlandingsbrigade followed by the medical unit, the 181st Air-landing Field Ambulance, a medical dressing company. At first they settled in Wolfheze. So the wounded on the first day were treated in Wolfheze. The intention was that the field ambulances would continue to Arnhem. After all, the Arnhem bridge was the target. The hospitals in Arnhem could then be used to treat the injured. On Monday at the end of the day the headquarters of Hartenstein arrived. A temporary shelter for the wounded was sought in anticipation of a further advance towards Arnhem. For this Schoonoord was chosen. The Medical Dressing Station (MDS) company who was established there had two surgical teams with the facilities to carry out operations. Right: Medical Dressing Station.
Currently Schoonoord café-restaurant on the Utrechtseweg. Always a meeting place for Arnhem veterans. Then a hotel, which was greater. The British used Schoonoord as dressing station.
21st Independend PIR memorial corner Utrechtseweg - Stationsweg Oosterbeek for the MDS
Former inhabitants of Oosterbeek, Johan Sardinia, points to the MDS-junction Utrechtseweg.
Also de Tafelberg, former HeadQuarters of the German general Walther Model, was in use of a MDS. Today de Tafelberg is an apartment complex.
That Monday evening the first casualties arrived from Wolfheze at Schoonoord and the transportation continued on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the influx of wounded grown so large that they looked for expansion opportunities. Initially was chosen Vreewijk, not far from Schoonoord. There a part of the Medical Dressing Station was placed that would later on going to Arnhem. But also Vreewijk did not offering enough facilities to care for the wounded. Therefore also de Paasbergschool was taken in use.
In 1944 Paasbergschool was close to the road.
Paasbergschool when our group was there on the battlefield tour on 18June 2011. The school is still there but has been built further back in front with a schoolyard.
As the front approached also Paasbergschool got full of the wounded. Also wounded were migrated to St Elisabeth Gasthuis, although in German hands. The aim of General Urquhart was to consolidate the perimeter awaiting the arrival of the 30th Army Corps. He decided to shorten the northside of the perimeter. One of the units were moved to do so, the 21st Independent Parachute Company. These were the Pathfinders on Sunday who had at the first jumped on Sunday to the landing areas and drop zones to highlight the main force. They have also highlighted the zones for Monday and Tuesday and tand then came up in the northwest corner of the perimeter. That company had three platoons of about 60 men. A platoon landed on Stationsweg. The other two platoons ended up on the Paasberg. One platoon in the school and a platoon in the nearby houses at the Petersbergseweg and the Paasbergweg. In the cause of Friday Hacked commanding the eastern part of the sector decided that the 10th battalion had to be relieved by the 21st battalion. Systematically houses at the Utrechtseweg were shot in ruins.
The men of the 21th battalion retreated to the Paasberg, where they participated in the fighting. Saturday was a relatively quiet day. They had to do patrols, because the Germans were constantly busy infiltrating and snipers were active.
Also the British had a sniper with a view on the Tafelberg, Tony Crane. Hij sat at zat Pietersberg no 34. On the wallpaper in the house where he sat he marked every victim he made. That piece of wallpaper is now available in the Airborne Museum. On Sunday afternoon the battalion doctor of the 11th battalion, doctor Mason, arrived at Schoonoord after he had been in Arnhem. He went to Paasbergschool to talk with Wilson, commander of 21st Battalion. He said to come on behalf of the commander of Schoonoord, already in German hands since Saterday. The threat was that the house next Schoonoord would be shot together. Wilson demanded in turn that Schoonoord would be evacuated. At that moment Sergeant Joe Smith sitting in Paasbergschool woke off his sleep and saw two German Mark IV tanks. Immediately he caught his Brengun, shouted to Dixon of 21st Battalion: "Take your Piat." Smith forced the tanks to take cover and Dixon destroyed on of the tanks with his Piat.
On Monday Wilson was informed by Urquhart that they would leave that evening. The men did not like that at all. They wish to defend themselves but afterall they left that evening anyway. When the 21st battalion was on the way to the river they encountered a German machinegun position. Lieutenant Jorsly (information officer) got badly wouded. He was taken to the Tafelberg where he died.
Utrechtseweg - Annastraat
On Wednesday afternoon 20 September 1944 the remain of the 10th battalion reached Oosterbeek.bereikte het restant van het 10e bataljon Oosterbeek. Then it consisted of about 70 men, among them 8 officers. In Hartenstein the battalion commander Lieutenant-Colonel Ken Smyth got the order from General-Major Roy Urquhart to take a defence position at Utrechtseweg so that the MDS Schoonoord and Vreewijk could be protected against further attacks over the Utrechtseweg from the direction of Arnhem.
Damaged houses on Utrechtseweg (Nos 188 and 186) which were held by Sergeant 'Paddy' Cockings' Section. The houses were abandoned on 23 September 1944 when they were shelled by German tanks. (Photograph from the book Leading the Way to Arnhem)
Utrechtseweg - Annastraat corner in 1945.
Earlier that day the hospitals were occupied by the Germans. The decision was taken to hold a position in the area of Annastraat. On about 1500 hours the unit was divided in a part going on feet and a part in a concoy of carriers and jeeps. At the movement from Hartenstein to the position the battalion suffered some losses. The area Utrechtseweg-Annastraat appeared to be occupied by pioniers of the 9th SS Hohenstaufen Division, supported by Sturmgeschütz III (StuG). Right before the arrival of the 10th battalion a StuG was hit by a 6 pounder anti-tankgun in position on the crossroad Utrechtseweg-Stationsweg. The crew of the StuG panicked and drove back into Lukassenpad in which they left the vehicle. The paratroopers took over the slightly damaged vehicle. Lieutenant 'Pat' Glover (HQ Coy) even managed to get the vehicle in motion. but unfortunately it could not be brought into action against the enemy because they had taken the final piece of the gun away.
The south side of Utrechtseweg near Annastraat now.
A group led by Captain Peter Clegg began to occupy the buildings and gardens on the south side of the Utrechtseweg. In the third building he occupied Clegg received a shot through his jaw when he was one of the bedrooms.
The corner Utrechtseweg-Lukassenpad.
Eventually, four buildings were occupied: Burgerlust restaurant on the corner of Utrechtseweg-Lukassenpad, the villa Utrechtseweg 186-188, the house Annastraat 2 and finally across Utrechtseweg the house of Berghege family (today the location ABN- AMRO bank).
De position then was than placed in state of defense, which includes mines were laid on the entire width of the road. During the night there were several fire contacts with the Germans. They tried to get closer to the houses to throw handgranates through the windows. In the morning of Thursday 21 September from 0800 hours on the Germans went on the offensive.
Restaurant Burgerlust before the war. Sergeant Bill Price's section held this part of No. 3 Platoon's sector.
Especially Burger Lust restaurant was heavily shelled by a StuG where the floor of the first floor collapsed. The group of paratroopers led by Lieutenant Glover then left the building. Lieutenant Peter Saunders (D-COY) was killed by a shot from a sniper. Later that day the building was heavily shelled by two Annastraat a StuG. Lieutenant Colonel Smyth and Major P.E. Wair (OC-B.Coy) were injured and were taken to the cellar. raakten gewond en werden naar de kelder gebracht. There the Germans threw handgranates inside and the present civilians and soldiers were wounded. Private Willingham was killed. Approximately one month later Lieutenant-Colonel Smyth died of his injuries. At one moment also the home of Berghege family was left. The position in the house Utrechtseweg 186-188 became therefore the latest of the four occupied houses. At that time all officers of the 10th battalion were wounded or killed and Lieutenant Ken White of the Royal Artillery was the only remaining officer. Than Brigadier Hacket gave the order to the 21st Independent Parachute Company to relieve the 10th battalion. The remains of the battalion withdraw to the area of the Head Quarters of Hacket near Hartenstein. In the cause of Thursday on Friday a part of the 21ste Independent Parachute Company took over the position, but that was given up on Friday. (article taken over from Martin Peters)
Stationweg No 8 had fifteen civilians occupants during the battle. The cellar was so crowded that it was hardly possible to lie down. Before the arrival of the Independent Company the Kremer family provided shelter for Glider Pilots of D Squadron. On the photograph appear: standing (L-R): Mrs E.M. Hardeman, Sergeant David Shipp, Sander Kramer, Mrs A.L.A. Kremer-Kingma, Sergeant Norman Williams with Max Hardeman on his arm, Mr. A. van Schelven Kneeling: Job Jardeman, Jan Dupré, Ans Kremer and Christien van Grondelle (photograph Mrs A.L.A. Kremer-Kingma) (Photograph from the book Leading the Way to Arnhem)
Scene of damaged houses in No. 1 Platoon's sector. On the left Statonsweg No. 6 and on the right No. 8. Note the inpact of a shell on the first floor of Stationsweg No. 8. (Photograph from the book Leading the Way to Arnhem)
In the beginning of the battle, some houses along the stationsweg were occupied by a small group zweefvliegtuigpiloten. After the 3rd parachutistenbrigade had withdrawn to the south of the railway line Ede-Arnhem all the houses on the west side of the stationsweg were occupied. This was a combination of several units: the 21st Indipendent Parachute Company,The 10th Parachute Battalion, the 156th Parachute Battalion and units of the Reconnaissance Squadron. These last two groups withdrew to the vicinity of the Paul Krugerstraat in the night of 21 to 22 September 1944.
View of the building that served as MDS which the memorial 21st Independend PIR as seen from the Stationsweg.
On Sunday morning 24 September 1944 around 11 o'clock Polish paratroopers took over the positions of the 21st Independent Parachute Company, that had occupied the Stationsweg since Friday night. The Poles belonged to the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade that landed at Driel on Thursday, 21 September 1944. In the night from Saturday to Sunday parts of this battalion finally crossed the Rhine.
The Poles occupied the houses from Utrechtseweg to the Paul Krugerstaat. In the houses after the meanwhile destroyed house no 14 still glider pilots were also present. Across the street was the mostly forested estate "Dennenkamp". There were swarms of SS soldiers.
The German pressure of Kampfgruppe Spindler was very strong at this point of the perimeter. Kampfgruppe Spindler was advancing through the woods of "Dennenkamp". BWhen crossing the Stationsweg they were located immediately between the houses of the British and later the Poles. This made it impossible to keep this northern part of the Stationsweg in hands. At the intersection Utrechtseweg both hotels Vreewijk and Schoonoord were in use as MDS. As well as wounded British and German were cared for here. Both buildings were occupied by the Germans. The poles were almost the Germans lap.
On Sunday afternoon a short 'cease fire' was agreed with the Germans, aimed to transer the British casualties to the Germans since the division could no longer care them. But this appeared hard to keep by the Poles Then the Germans put an ultimatum that the Poles had to vacate the villa Quatre Bras because from there they would have fired on the hospitals. This was refused. Dit werd geweigerd. Then the Germans let march up a tank with later withdrew. But on the next morning when the Poles burried killed in a glider pilot the Germans stopped the shelling until the sad job was done. Throughout Monday, the Poles were under attack by the Germans supported by a Sturmgeschütz who bombarded the houses.
By the evening of 25 September 1944 came the order to prepare for the journey back across the Rhine. The 1st Airborne Division gave up the perimeter north of the river. When the Poles gathered at the villa Quatre Bras they were a fierce German attack to endure. This was repulsed.
Through the pouring rain the men went to the Rhine at 2200 hours. The wounded were left behind. Except the wounded between 120 and 160 Poles came into German captivity.
There are no photographs available of the Polis at the Stationsweg zijn geen foto's beschikbaar. However, Mrs Kremer who lived in the house No 5 Stationsweg has taken some pictures of glider pilots at her home. On this picture glider pilots went through the gat of No 5 Stationsweg crossing the road to "Dennenkamp" to attack the Germans there.