In memory of Arnhem 1944

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Among other deaths deserving our care and attention are those caused to soldiers and civilians by the debacle that was the Market Garden operation in 1944. The costly attempt to end the Second World War by seizing bridges in the Netherlands is being commemorated now.

In my Arnhem 65 years on article I retold the events of September 1944 through the eyes of two soldiers who foresaw the flaws in Montgomery’s Market Garden plan: Major Brian Urquhart, the chief intelligence officer of British Airborne, and General Stanisław Sosabowski, the leader of the Ist Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. Both paid a heavy price for their perception and resistance to deadly, top-level groupthink.

Of the many developments that have occurred since its publication in 2009 I will point to just two.

One is the death of Sir Brian Urquhart in 2021. His Guardian obituary rightly described his important role in developing the peace-keeping work of the United Nations. But it did not mention his Arnhem role, a deficiency I tried to correct.

The other is to record that much more has come to light about General Sosabowski who was unjustly scapegoated by Montgomery, among others, for the failure of Market Garden.

General Sosabowski with his Polish comrades in Fife where they trained to liberate Poland but were ordered instead to Arnhem

The memorial in Leven Festival Gardens, Fife to those who served at Arnhem

In particular I recommend the excellent illustrated lecture by his great grandson, Professor Hal Sosabowski. In it he also describes the courageous wartime activity of his grandfather, the son of General Sosabowski.

It has often been said of the leader of the forces originally assembled to liberate Poland that he was the soldiers’ soldier, never asking of those he commanded anything he hadn’t done or wouldn’t do himself.

Of the many Arnhem images I have taken, two I find particularly moving.

One is of the monument in Driel, the landing ground for Sosabowski’s men, erected by British Arnhem veterans angered by the scapegoating smears.

The other is of the grave in the Airborne Cemetery at Oosterbeek of Corporal James Arthur Jones of the 21st Independent Parachute Company. He was killed on the first day of Operation Market Garden, aged 24.

Nothing needs to be added to their words.

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