ARNHEM HISTORICAL GUIDE
Zwarteweg, where General Urquhart hid in September 1944
By Julian Whippy
This guide looks at some of the key sites associated with the fighting in and around central Arnhem itself, from the area of the Drop Zones to the Road Bridge. It should be used in conjunction with the maps and books mentioned in the Arnhem Battlefield Tourism pages of the web site.
For convenience sake I have listed the sites in alphabetical order.
Email the Author: JULIAN.WHIPPY@NTLWORLD.COM
Some 7,000 men were lost from 1st Airborne Division during the
battle; either killed, wounded or missing. Just over 1,700 men are buried here,
at the main cemetery off Van Limburg
stirumweg on the north east side of Oosterbeek. After
the war the dead were gathered in from all their field burial sites on the
battlefield and re-interred
at this cemetery. On the approach to
the gate is the “flowers in the wind” memorial.
This marks the beautiful annual ceremony where Dutch local children lay flowers on
each grave. There are 1,314 UK Army casualties, plus 243 unknowns. There are also
78 RAF and 81 Non Commonwealth Foreign Nationals. Among them are 3 Victoria Cross
Captain Grayburn VC, 2 Para. (d.20/9/44)
Flt Lt D.Lord VC DFC, 271 Sq RAF (d. 19/9/44)
Captain L.Queripel VC, Royal Sussex att. 10 Para (d.19/9/44)
Opposite is Oosterbeek local cemetery, which contains further RAF casualties from 1944-45. It also has the grave of Lipmann Kessel; he was a Captain in 16 Para Field Ambulance at Arnhem. He died in the 1980’s, and his express wish was to be buried as near to his Airborne comrades as was possible.
Further up the road is a fitting memorial to “forgotten heroes.” - men of the RASC who trained as Air Despatchers, and manned the Dakotas and Stirlings which carried out daily drops during the battle, often gallantly flying through heavy anti-aircraft fire to drop supplies to the beleaguered ground troops.
Sadly nearly all of the area around the bridge was destroyed in the fighting and subsequent bombing. What was left saw heavy bombardment during the British occupation of The Island during the winter of 1944-45. Therefore just about every building is new, and as such much of the wartime perspectives are lost. The fighting here was fierce, bloody and very costly.
are a number of Plaques and memorials, however, and the rebuilt bridge itself must
of course be seen. At the end of the northern bridge ramp is “Airborne
.This is where the Arnhem based ceremonies take place each year. On the ramp is a Plaque to Frost and his men. Further along the bridge is a concrete shelter, on the site of the original pillbox attacked by PIAT fire and Flamethrowers on the first night of battle. Frost’s old HQ (in buildings on Eusebius Binnen Singel) overlooked the northern ramp area and is now a modern building but a wall plaque commemorates the fact.
Two minutes east of the Oosterbeek church, at the junction with Acacialaan, was the site of action for Lance Sergeant John Baskeyfield of the South Staffords, who won the Victoria Cross. Manning a 6 Pounder Anti Tank Gun on 20th September 1944, he fought on while those around him were killed. Injured, he crawled to another Gun and knocked out several Tanks and Self Propelled Guns. His body was never found after the battle and he is commemorated on the Grosebeek Memorial. In the front garden of the house on the corner, in the shade of a large tree, is a sign to commemorate him.
It is also worth noting that it was along this “lower road”, Benedendorpsweg, that Lieutenant Colonel Johnl Frost moved to the bridge during the first day along the route named Lion.
Known also as MDS crossroads (Main Dressing Station), this is the junction of Utrechtsweg and Stationsweg in Oosterbeek. A dressing station was established here at what is now the Café Schoonoord. During the battle the dressing station was over-run, and changed hands several times. On the opposite corner of the junction is the memorial to the 21st Independent Parachute Coy (IPC), at Quatre Bras. Ploughshare shaped and sunken into the lawn of the house, it was unveiled in 1981. It is on the same spot as a Bren Gun Position in September 1944.
The 21 IPC was originally tasked with Pathfinding; landing 30 minutes ahead of the main force to mark out Landing Zones. They then helped hold the defensive perimeter here until 25/26 September. There was a great deal of ferocious fighting around this point and 21st IPC lost 20 men.
On the north side of the railway in Wolfheze lies the Johannoeveweg, an unmade road, leading west toward Arnhem. It was along here that Major Freddie Gough’s ill fated “coup de main” recce troop set off for the bridge. Mounted in their Jeeps, they were ambushed near the A50 over-bridge and suffered heavily. The German SS “Krafft Battalion” attacked with machine guns and flamethrowers.
On 18th September 1944 in the trees north of the culvert Captain Lionel Queripel earned the VC. He fought a rearguard action with pistol and grenades; the award was given posthumously.
The culvert tunnel under the railway embankment was built for drainage and not traffic. However, during the battle elements of 4 Para Brigade retreated through the tunnel even with their Jeeps, having to let air out the tyres and lower the windscreens.
Beside the Amsterdamsweg at Ginkel Heath are two memorials to the Landings.
Ginkel Heath was Drop Zone Y. Furthest from Arnhem and the Bridge, 4th Para Brigade (10, 11 and 156 Bn’s plus supporting arms) landed around here on 18th September: the area having been secured and fought on by 7th KOSB.
There is a low
stone inscribed “Luchtlanding 17-18 September 1944” and a much larger
wonderful pillar style memorial rising up. Badges of the Airborne, Pegasus and
Kings Own Scottish Borderers are mounted on it. Near the base is the plaque
inscribed “...they shall mount up with wings”
It is here that every year in September a commemorative
Parachute drop is held, with Veterans still returning.
Just off Bennekomseweg at Heelsum is another seat and memorial to the battle. Made of military equipment built around an old 6-pounder anti-tank gun; it is an unusual sight. Some of the original pieces like helmets have sadly been stolen. It was originally erected in 1945 by locals. The seat was donated by UK Rotary clubs in 1991.
This church, on Benedendorpsweg, was rebuilt to a smaller design in 1947 as it had suffered badly due to German shelling. It was one of the oldest Churches in Holland. It was here that the troops gathered after the 19th September, and were rallied by Major Lonsdale, second in command of 2 Para. Remnants of 1, 3 and 11 Para, plus South Staffs, Borderers and Glider Pilots here formed “Lonsdale Force”. Major Lonsdale addressed the weary troops from the pulpit, giving a rousing speech.
The Church and Lonsdale force formed the eastern base of the Perimeter at Oosterbeek.
There were also 3 Guns of the 1 Light Regiment RA, dug in firing at the rear of the church. Across the polder is the River, where the famous evacuation took place.
This is one of the most evocative places around the Oosterbeek “Cauldron”. The gallant defence here sums up much of the Arnhem Battle. As it says on the Airborne memorial on the lawn “NOT ONE SHALL BE FORGOTTEN” .
Inside the church (not open very regularly) are various Airborne linked artifacts.
A few meters west of the church is the Kate Ter Horst House. This is the house Captain Martin asked if he could set up his Regimental aid post in, on 18th September. The house was featured in the 1945 film about Arnhem, “Theirs is the glory”.
During the rest of the battle numerous soldiers were brought here, to be attended to by the medics and also by Kate Ter Horst herself, who was seen by many as an angel. Over fifty men died here and most were buried hastily in the surrounding gardens until later being moved to the CWGC Oosterbeek Cemetery.
This is now an apartment complex, but was originally a Hospital. There is an Airborne commemorative marker post at the front.
By nightfall of the first day of the Battle, 16 Para Field Ambulance had set up in the Hospital, working alongside local Dutch doctors. Fierce street fighting took place all around the Hospital and many of the houses were badly damaged. German Tanks took up positions in Utrechtsweg, and other nearaby streets, and infantry occupied upper levels of the tall buildings.
This is as far as many of the Airborne troops got in trying to reach the bridge.
Alongside the Hospital is Zwarteweg. Number 14 is the actual house where General Urquhart, commander of 1st Airborne, was cornered and had to hideaway in the loft. (a memorable scene in the film “A Bridge Too Far”)
Around the corner is No 135 Alexanderstraat, where Brigadier Lathbury was initially taken having been wounded nearby.
This small village with the railway running across the North side was the scene of frantic activity on the day of the landings and for some time after. Landing Zone S was on the North-West side over the railway (Flight Lt David Lord VC, and his Dakota Crashed there 19 September). To the West and South-West of the village was Drop Zone X and Landing Zone X, where 1st Para Brigade and 1st Air Landing Brigade landed on 17th September. In the centre of the village is the “Airborne Seat and memorial”; a semicircular brick built bench.
Close by are the Psychiatric Hospitals built around 1900, which suffered casualties from bombing during the battle.