The rise of Arnhem from ruins … by author Antony Beevor, who made it the subject of his latest book


British infantry in Arnhem

The Dutch and the British have a long tradition of both rivalry and friendship, but still it is striking how little we know of their country outside of Amsterdam.

The Netherlands, located right in & # 39; the cockpit of Europe & # 39;, is rich in history for visitors in search of more than just a gentle break under the peaceful countryside where it's also known.

When the Dutch did not fight us for mastery of the seas, England sometimes supported their bitter struggle in & # 39; religious wars against the Spanish Empire of the & # 39; e Hapsburgs.

In 1586, the poet-warrior and Elizabethan hero Sir Philip Sidney at Zutphen fought alongside the Dutch against the furia española of the Castilian infantry.

When he was severely wounded and offered water, he sent another victim who was near, and uttered the immortal line: & # 39; His need is greater than mine. & # 39; Sidney died of his wounds in Arnhem on September 22.

Just 358 years later, many more British soldiers died there in one of & # 39; s wildest battles to liberate Northwestern Europe from & # 39; a Nazi & # 39; s.

This year is an important one for the city of Arnhem and its surroundings, especially the village of Oosterbeek.

It marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of 1944, when Field Marshal Montgomery launched Operation Market Garden, his tireless attempt to shorten the war by jumping the lower Rhine at Arnhem.

The Market Garden heritage draws thousands of veterans and interested visitors to this eastern city and surrounding region.

But you don't have to be a history buff to enjoy Arnhem and its surroundings. It offers much more than just gripping memories of World War II.

Quiet: But in 1944, Castle Henkenshage was the headquarters of the US 101st US Air Force

Quiet: But in 1944, Castle Henkenshage was the headquarters of the US 101st US Air Force

The city, with its many hotels and friendly restaurants, is the ideal base for exploring the surrounding area.

On the northern edge of Arnhem lies the Royal Burgers & # 39; Zoo, founded in 1913, and located in & # 39; beautiful forests of & # 39; e The High Veluwe.

It is probably the best and most imaginative of all zoos in Europe, with animals in their natural habitat.

They have a walk through the ocean aquarium, with the largest coral reef outside Australia; a desert; a tropical rainforest; and the largest indoor mangrove fungus in the world, with Caribbean mandates.

The national parks of De Hoge Veluwe and Veluwezoom, with their forests and heathland and miles of cycle routes, can be explored on free use of white bicycles as on foot.

There is also the Dutch Open Air Museum, with farms, old cottages and windmills; craftsmen, blacksmiths and others restore rural life there in the centuries, giving visitors a hand.

North of Arnhem near Apeldoorn is the royal palace of Het Loo, built by William III, our 'King Billy'.

Among the exciting tested castles of the region are Castle Slangenburg, which was where SS-Gruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich, the commander of the II SS Panzer Corps, had set up his headquarters just before the battle.

Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model raged there on September 17 when British paramedics began to fall at his headquarters in Oosterbeek. Model was convinced that they were coming to catch him, instead of the great Arnhem bridge over the Rhine.

Today, the castle is used as a guest house by a nearby monastery, and its grounds and beautifully restored buildings are open to the public and worth visiting.

Further south, the mansion of Castle Henkenshage on & # 39; the western edge of St Oedenrode was the headquarters of Major-General Maxwell Taylor, the commander of & # 39; e American 101st Air Division.

His 'Screaming Eagles' desperately held off German counter-attacks on 'Hell's Highway' – the route north of Arnhem, where the British Guards Armored Division had advanced in vain.

Castle Henkenshage is now a wedding and function center and may not always be open, but its gothic style architecture and should, however, make it a charming visit for many tourists.

Later this year, over the weekend of September 21-22, political leaders, royalty, generals, British, American and Polish paramedics, local dignitaries and, above all, the remaining veterans of this, the largest aerial processing event of all time, will meet to commemorate the dead, both military and civilian.

Every September, at the time of the anniversary, houses in Arnhem and Oosterbeek are decorated with flags bearing the Pegasus symbol of the British Air Force.

It's an incredibly moving face, and it's well worth the trip to see it.

Triumphal arches will be erected to welcome the veterans. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 21 of this year, a parachute drop will take place again at Ginkel Heath, along with all other remembrance ceremonies.

On & # 39; Sunday at 11 a.m., at the memorial service in the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at & # 39; On the outskirts of Oosterbeek, local schoolchildren will be laying flowers on the graves of those buried there. It is hard to imagine that this quiet and peaceful village was nearly destroyed for years in the bitter fighting 75 years ago.

Oosterbeek is located along the northern edge of the Lower Rhine, on rising ground, with trees and beautiful views of the river and beyond to the polderland flood of Betuwe.

Anyone interested in the events of 1944 should visit the Airborne Museum at the Hartenstein Hotel, Oosterbeek, which became the British headquarters during the battle, making the actual museum as remarkable as its contents.

For British troops, the failure of Operation Market Garden led to prison camps or produced a sense of anti-climax was lessened by the compassionate autumn drills.

Antony realizes how little we know about the Netherlands outside of Amsterdam

Antony realizes how little we know about the Netherlands outside of Amsterdam

The consequences for the Dutch were comparatively minor. More than 3,600 civilians were killed in the fighting and its aftermath, with tens of thousands severely injured.

About 20 miles south of Arnhem in Nijmegen, which suffered so much from German gunfire and arson, an estimated 2,200 civilians died, 5,500 were killed and 10,000 injured. Some 22,000 houses were destroyed (only 4,000 remained unmanned). Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands, is still worth a visit. Although some old buildings remain, fragments of the original Roman city wall and the hill of Valkhof have an 8th and 9th-century Carolingian chapel and the remains of an imperial castle demolished in 1798.

At the end of September 1944, following the failure of Operation Market Garden, German revenge for Dutch aid to the Allies was brutal. Some 200,000 people, including the entire population of Arnhem, were forced out of their homes, which was plundered and destroyed.

In the summer of 1945, the joint efforts to erase debris and restore essential services were not enough to wake Arnhem and the ruined cities around it. An appeal was launched to the rest of the country to help.

Amsterdam almost invaded the city, and artisans arrived to build Arnhem.

The story spread – thanks to the public relations skills of Mayor Chris Matser, the working-class son of a mason, appointed mayor in 1945 – and assistance came from all directions.

The reconstruction of Arnhem, with its beautiful buildings and churches, was finally completed in 1969.

For me, the most poignant moment of last year was when the mayor of Arnhem, Ahmed Marcouch, launched the Dutch edition of my book on the Battle of Arnhem in his equivalent of a cathedral, the beautifully renovated church of St Eusebius, known as the Great Church.

Big pictures of their destruction in 1944 were displayed on the walls around us. The & # 39; reconstruction of the city in & # 39; today's quiet haven should be a bit of a miracle – and the boldness of its inhabitants is unquestionable.

Although the Dutch had much to forgive for the disastrous failure of Operation Market Garden, their friendliness towards allied troops at one time and since time after the air veterans was one, for the British one of ; a most moving legacy of World War II.

Antony Beevor & # 39; s Arnhem: The Battle For The Bridges, 1944 is out in Penguin paperback, priced £ 8.99.


Double rooms at Hotel Bilderberg in Oosterbeek from £ 100 per night ( BA flights from Gatwick to Amsterdam Schiphol from £ 84 return. Trains from Amsterdam Schiphol to Arnhem take 75 minutes and cost from £ 15.50.

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