ArnhemLife is paying attention to the commemoration of the battle by posting a serie of blogs in the upcoming weeks about the Battle of Arnhem. Guest blogger Joey van Meesen, World War 2 investigator/expert, blogger/vlogger and tour guide writes about the route and struggles of the troops in a four part serie.
Joey also is the tour guide of the ‘Liberation Route Tour’ that ArnhemLife offers. When you are interested in this tour, please feel free to contact us at ArnhemLife@gmail.com. (Groups of 6 or more).
Photo credit: joedemadio.com
Continuing The Story Of The Battle Of Arnhem…Stalled at Arnhem
Our final post about The Battle of Arnhem is about Lt. Col. John Frost at the Arnhem bridge. In the previous posts we explained how the 1st and 3rd battalion were stopped by the German troops while the 2nd battalion under Frost was able to reach the bridge in the evening of September 17th. Soon after they arrived at the bridge, the Germans closed their lines to the river blocking the way for the rest of the division.
Frost’s Headquarters in Arnhem
Frost set up his HQ at the western side of the ramp of the bridge, nowadays located at Prinsenhof 10. There’s a little plaque on the side of the wall saying that Frost had his HQ located there. The rest of his forces spread around the streets of the current Eusebiusbinnensingel and Eusebiusbuitensingel. Now for those visiting the bridge, just stand there and imagine what you’ve read and heard about the fight at the bridge. All the modern buildings replaced the destruction that was casued the battle back in September 1944. To show you the Battle of Arnhem area that was covered by we created this simple map for you (link).
Arriving At The Bridge In Arnhem
When the 2nd Battalion arrived, they wanted to move to the southern end of the bridge. However, as soon as they got on the bridge they received fire from one of the pillboxes on top of it. A group of engineers set the pillbox on fire by using flamethrowers and a PIAT. The fire caused all the ammunition in the bunker to explode which also set the bridge on fire. It burned the whole night.
The next morning at about 8:30am a force of halftracks and armored cars from the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion came down the road from Nijmegen and raced towards the north end of the bridge. The men in the school waited for the lead vehicles to pass and opened up on the column. It caused one of the halftracks to crash in to the school. The whole fight ended two hours later with 12 German vehicles destroyed and about 70 death Germans, their commander was amongst them. It caused the morale of the airborne troops to raise.
St. Elisabethgasthuis Arnhem @ArnhemLife
Van Limburg Stirum School In Arnhem
Another important location was the Van Limburg Stirum School, also located on the map above (link). Parts of C company of the 3rd Battalion that was blocked in Oosterbeek made it through to Arnhem. They used the railroad line and managed to sneak into the city. They reached the school and took up positions next to the 1st Parachute Squadron of the Royal Engineers inside the building. Together they’d make a stand for it.
Inside the HQ of Frost, Majory Hibbert tried to get vital information through to the rest of the division that was fighting at the west of Arnhem and Oosterbeek. Frost asked for the 1st and 3rd Battalion to make it for the bridge on the night of the 18th. That episode you could read last week in Stalled at Arnhem. With that attempt failed, the Germans could start putting more pressure on Frost’s men at the Bridge on September 19th. Here he would wait for the XXX Corps to arrive, but they were stuck in Nijmegen. The 82nd Airborne had failed to capture the bridge there and made it impossible for the British Armor to move up to Arnhem.
Also the 1st Independent Polish Brigade was to land at a drop zone one mile south of the bridge. However, without any wireless contact Frost never knew that that drop had been postponed and that the 82nd Airborne hadn’t take the bridge yet. He would continue to make a stand.
German Strenght Kept Groing
Throughout the next days Frost’ men kept on fighting. They fought on in small groups, many in isolated houses, short of ammunition, food, water and above all sleep. The German strength kept growing. Lieutenant Grayburn earned the Victoria Cross for keeping the Germans from destroying the ramp of the bridge. That afternoon Frost was wounded by a mortar bomb. He and his men decided to keep a hold on the bridge for as long as possible.
That evening two doctors came to Frost to tell him that the 200 wounded men were in danger. They wanted to contact the Germans for a truce which Frost accepted. The Germans agreed to this as well and they even helped getting the wounded out who were brought to a hospital in Arnhem. Frost was among them which meant he was officially a prisoner of war. He left command to Crawley. After the truce the Germans reloaded their weapons and closed in on the remaining force of 250 men. They hold out for the night and were taken prisoner next morning. The ultimate goal of Operation Market Garden had failed, but these British prisoners marched proudly through the streets of Arnhem.
Hard To Imagina War In Arnhem
It’s difficult to imagine nowadays what the area must’ve looked like back then. Almost all of the original houses and buildings are gone. Over years Arnhem has rebuilt itself and there’sa lot of modern buildings. To know why they are there we must educate people on the history of it. History is part of our identity and the British attempt to hold the bridge is a part of Arnhem.
Sources: -Joey van Meesen’s Website: Joedemadio’s WW2 History and Battlefield Blog
All The Places You Should Visit
Blog 4/4: In September Arnhem remembers the British Airborne troops who landed around the city for Operation Market Garden.
WW2 expert Joey van Meesen will tell the story…