War hero Geoff Roberts, now at the age of 94, visits the battlefield at the Netherlands to commemorate the loss of his comrades thanks to the support of Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2.
He was just 19 when he was dispatched at Arnhem to take part in Operation Market Garden on September 17, 1944. The risky operation involved taking over the bridges and river crossings in the Netherlands.
As he returned to the battlefield, Geoff recounts how he managed to survive the gruesome war. “Our role was to capture and hold the strip for the first wave of landings,” says Geoff. “A few days later we were sent to capture and hold another landing strip for the Poles near Oosterbeek. Before the landings we had been waiting a long time so we were glad to be finally going. It was my first action and I didn’t have any idea of what we were going into.”
As the operation ensued, the Allied troops were headed at a hotel Arnhem, nicknamed the White House. Their commanding officer was a First World War veteran who ordered to have a bayonet charge in the White House. “It was dreadful. It was one of the scariest moments of my life,” says Geoff.
“The Germans were in amongst us and it was very close quarter fighting. We lost 14 or 15 men, and the Germans lost a lot too.”
The battle left too many casualties and wounded. Geoff was treating the wounded when he was captured by the Germans at an allied Regimental Aid Post near Oosterbeek.
“We were loaded on to a cattle train and sent to Stalag 12A to be deloused and from there to Mühlberg in Brandenburg, Stalag IV-B prison camp.”
“We were moved to Stalag IV-C in Wistritz, Czechoslovakia, and were sent to work down the coalmines. It was the safest place to be as they were being constantly bombed by the RAF at night and the Americans during the day.”
“It was better to be working rather than sitting around doing nothing, waiting. There were a lot of bad times but we had some good times too. The British soldiers were very good at skiving.”
After the war, Geoff married and now has two children and four grandchildren. But he has been back to Arnhem around 60 times since the battle, and this year has been helped by the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2.
After the war, Geoff has been back to Arnhem around 60 times. He now resides at Stanground, Peterborough. He has two children and four grandchildren.
“There will be a parachute drop to start the service, and then a service in the cemetery. They have children holding flowers at each grave, and they are placed down at the same time. It is quite a sight. It is important to remember what happened, and the colleagues who didn’t make it.”
Source and read more: Peterborough Telegraph