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A BRIDGE TOO FAR


of the inside of a bomber and we experienced going on a bombing raid. In fact we needed much more time than we had to do justice to this museum.


Hells Highway


We returned Nijmegen, along a part of “Hells Highway” and crossed the bridge at Grave, the only original campaign bridge left. The next morning we crossed the Nijmegen bridge and made our way to Arnhem where we stopped at an information centre beside the bridge itself. There group photographs were taken with the bridge as a background and many took the opportu- nity to walk across the bridge.


We next moved through Arn- hem and arrived at Major


ducking and weaving!! Dressing station


The Hartenstein Hotel


Urquhart’s Oosterbeek head- quarters “The Hartenstein Hotel”, set in parkland and at its rear tennis courts which held German prisoners dur- ing the campaign. The hotel, now a magnificent museum with many of Lt Col Frost’s effects (he led the 2nd Paras to the Arnhem bridge), mov- ing filmed testimonies of survivors, British, Dutch, American and German. The visit ended in the cellars, con- verted into an Arnhem street during the fighting. This is most realistic and one leaves


Fourteen


After lunch, at which many took the opportunity to eat at the Café Restaurant Schoonoord which was a dressing station that changed hands a number of times during the fighting. A visit was made to the Arn- hem-Oosterbeek Airborne Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. Here lie 1,700 troops who took part in the Arnhem attack and each year, in September, the cemetery becomes the cen- tre of the commemorative events. At each of the three Victoria Cross winner’s graves their courageous and heroic actions were recalled. From there it was Frost’s route through Oosterbeek to Arnhem (code named Lion) that we followed with the first stop at the old (Lonsdale) church where Major Lons- dale gathered and re-organ- ised the survivors of the 19th September fighting in Arn- hem. Included in his stirring words from the church nave were “We’ve fought the Ger- mans before – They weren’t good enough then, and they’re bloody well not good enough for us now”. Luckily the church was open and we were able to soak up the at- mosphere of this small, sim- ple but emotive building.


Posthumous VC


Continuing on the Lion route we stopped at Acacialaan, the spot where Lance Ser- geant Baskeyfield won a posthumous Victoria Cross for engaging German tanks when the rest of the gun crew were killed and he was seriously wounded. We car- ried on to the railway bridge where the Gronert twins were killed (both in B Com- pany of 2nd Parachute Bat- talion.


On the last evening there


Doreen and Chris Grant at the Oosterbeek Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery


was a group dinner in a restaurant some 300 yards from the hotel. The owner, Alexander, laid on a splendid menu with some well priced supportive wines.


The journey home the next day was again long, but the enthusiasm of the group was undiminished. I think it would be fair to say that after all we had seen, learnt and experi- enced we had to agree that Arnhem was indeed a bridge too far.


NB. In 2013 it is hoped there will be a September Masonic visit to the Ypres Salient enti- tled “Farewell Flanders” (it will be the last group I shall take there) and it will major on recent developments and changes including:- the new visitors’ interpretive centre at “Plug Street Wood”, the refur- bished, revamped and ex- tended “Cloth Hall Museum” an afternoon with charismatic guide Jacques Ryckebosch (former warden iof Talbot House) who will take us to Polygon Wood and the Pilkem Ridge – and then there will be free time to ex- plore Ypres and its Saturday market. The visit will, of course, centre on the Ariane Hotel


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