Introduction – Journal 39 Arnhem
We begin this issue of Everyone’s War , Journal 39 Arnhem with a contribution adapted from a talk given this year by Dr Peter Liddle, the Centre’s Life President, military historian and prolific author. Dr Liddle describes the development of the Liddle Collection (now part of the University of Leeds Special Collections), the establishment of the archives of the Second World War Experience Centre, and reconsiders the First World War in light of last years’ centenary.
Operation Market Garden
The cover theme for this issue is the airborne landing at Arnhem, the vanguard of Operation Market Garden. We begin our first-hand accounts of the battle with Edward ‘Ted’ Mordecai, one of a six-man Ordnance Field Park Reconnaissance Party attached to 2nd Parachute Battalion which dropped on Renkum Heath on the first lift. Diverted to assist Lieutenant-Colonel Frost’s beleaguered 2nd Battalion in the defence of Arnhem Bridge, Ted describes the fierce fighting that took place and his subsequent wounding and capture.
Trapped in the Oosterbeek Perimeter is sapper Arthur Ayers of 4th parachute Squadron. With limited ammunition and supplies, his squadron faced an epic battle to hold their position. The 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade at Arnhem is represented by engineer George Wieslaw Harvey in Eagle on the Rhine. George gives a vivid description of his part in the attempt to transfer the brigade across the River Rhine into Oosterbeek, an action for which he received the Cross of Valour.
Arnhem survivor Albert Wilson, 1st Battalion, dedicated his story to two influential women in his life, one of whom was Dutch girl Dina who tended to the wounded in the Regimental Aid Post of Dennenoord House, Oosterbeek. Sweetheart of Arnhem tells of Arthur’s experience of the fighting around Renkum, Westerbouwing and Oosterbeek, and gives thanks to Dina and all the Dutch ladies of Dennenoord whose kindness saved many lives.
We conclude our Arnhem theme with No. 190 Squadron of 38 Group. The squadron, equipped with Short Stirling heavy bombers, undertook forty sorties towing Horsa gliders and took part in fifty-three resupply lifts. Flight Engineer Malcolm Mitchell recounts his missions over Arnhem which he describes as the most difficult and dangerous of all his operations. The squadron suffered heavy losses due to intense anti-aircraft fire and fighter attack. The history of the Stirling and its shortcomings is outlined in an article contributed by John Larder, Research Officer at the Yorkshire Air Museum.
Remaining in the Netherlands we move to Nijmegen, the oldest city in the country. In February 1944, Nijmegen suffered the largest bombardment of any Dutch city during the war. Nine year old Nick Lambrechtsen, resident of Nijmegen, witnessed the bombing and narrowly escaped with his life. Escape from enemy-occupied Netherlands was foremost in the mind of another young Dutch boy, fourteen-year-old Marinus Verstraeten, who cycled alone for twenty-six days through France and Belgium in 1940. Dutch Odyssey recounts the extraordinary story of a journey which took him as far as South Africa until his return to the Netherlands as a soldier with the Prinses Irene Brigade.
Another Netherlands escape story is that of Dutchman Eddie Jonker. Eddie was one of only 150 ‘Engelandvaarders’ who successfully completed the perilous boat journey from The Hague to Britain across the North Sea. Eddy’s remarkable story tells of his voyage to freedom against the odds. Despite engine failure, hull damage, and being caught in a storm, Eddy successfully sailed to Britain and joined the RAF. He later became one of the principle founders of the Engelandvaarders Museum in the Netherlands.
Seventy-five years ago, from his hospital bed a wounded German officer cadet wrote a memoir of his service in Latvia with 21. Feld-Division. Baltic Battleground relives Wolfrum ‘Wolf’ Küstner’s experience of trench warfare on the front line in Latvia, and the German retreat to Riga under the relentless advance of Soviet Forces. Wolf describes his service in Latvia as ‘days of the most extreme psychological stress’. His relief upon being medically evacuated is poignantly expressed: ‘I am leaving hell behind.’
Lidice shall Live
Graham Bebbington is the author of Lidice Shall Live which tells the history of the Lidice Massacre and how one man from Stoke-on-Trent resolved to ensure that the tragedy would never be forgotten. In 1942, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, General der Polizei and orchestrator of the Holocaust, was assassinated in Operation Anthropoid. German reprisals focused on the destruction of Lidice village and the hamlet of Ležáky, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of residents. The Centre would like to thank The Lidice Memorial in the Czech Republic for their generosity in contributing images and notes to this article.
We conclude this issue with Dining Out in Wartime London by social historian Bernard Ineichen, a humorous look at wartime eating and the strange goings on at London’s top hotels; Guarding Kesselring by Talbot Bushall, OC of the guard responsible for Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring during his war crimes trial in Venice; and our regular article from the Centre’s extensive MAA Archives.