Remembering the Battle of Arnhem

The Battle of Arnhem began September 17th 1944, meaning that this year will mark seventy years since the conflict that influenced popular culture with movies like A Bridge Too Far and novels like Watership Down. Turnout for the commemoration ceremonies of the day is expected to be high, although many of the actual veterans who took part in the Battle of Arnhem are no longer around to remember it.

The key bridge featured in the fighting was taken by paratroopers on the day of the offensive, in the mission called to as Operation Market Garden. The idea was to try and bypass the defenses of the German troops so as to attack drive straight on to Berlin. The Battle of Arnhem was thought to be something of a madman’s dream, an ambition which would be too much for the Allied forces to carry out. The very nature of the operation called for the single bridge to be absolutely congested with soldiers in the midst of dangerous gunfire, hardly an ideal condition.

Now the bridge will instead be congested with those honoring their choice to risk sacrifice at the hands of the Germans so as to mount the offensive against Berlin. There were not many survivors in the Battle of Arnhem, and even the town itself was all but obliterated in the bombardment suffered during the attack that would claim almost entire regiments of British paratroopers, killed, wounded or captured.

The Dutch helped the operation as the British came in as close to full force as they could muster. They also paid a similar price for the moral support they offered, and the Germans made sure that many of the residences which still stood following the bombardment saw destruction at their own hands. The Battle of Arnhem was harsh on the townspeople, but its end was even harsher. That is not to say that the operation was an utter failure, however, as many people were freed from the occupied region, The Telegraph reports.

The Battle of Arnhem has been memorialized previously, but the upcoming anniversary is to be a grand affair for civilians of the area. Not many may survive from the actual time period, but that is not to say that those who live there now are unaware of the importance that Operation Market Garden had on the liberation of their people. Many know from relatives just how significant the Battle of Arnhem was, but they will luckily never have to know from experience.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE