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The Battle of Arnhem

Spitfire Spares visit to Arnhem

This page links from item's we have listed throughout the site that came from Arnhem and the surrounding area in our trip there in October 2013.

We spent many months doing research, setting up visits and meetings with wartime residents , collectors, local historians and aviation archaeologist's. This enabled us to get a picture of the history and events of the Battle of Arnhem a Bridge to far.

We collected and purchased  pieces from the people who excavated the crash site's or owned the articles, none were purchased from dealers. We can therefore guarantee the provenance of the pieces listed.

The Battle

An airborne landing at Arnhem (the attack was code-named Operation Market Garden) was a plan to end WWII early. The idea for an airborne landing on Arnhem came from Field Marshall Montgomery. The heroics that occurred at Arnhem and the surrounding areas put it up with such events as Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, the Battle of the Atlantic and D-Day in terms of the courage displayed by the men on the ground. However, some also see the attack on Arnhem as an attack that went a 'bridge too far'.

Montgomery's plan was relatively simple. He believed that the most obvious crisis the Allies would face attacking into Germany was crossing the Rhine. Intelligence reports had already come in stating that the nearer the Allies got to the River Rhine, the more fierce the Germans defence was getting.

Montgomery reckoned on dropping a large airborne force into Holland which could then serve a number of purposes. It could mop up German resistance in Holland but more important, it could attack outflank the defences put up by the Germans along the Siegfried Line the and then attack German defences behind the River Rhine and assist an Allied crossing of that river. While the American general Patton continued to advance in the south towards Germany, the airborne attack would assist in an attack in the north of Europe. Both armies would then squeeze what was left of German resistance in the middle.

'Monty' planned for an airborne assault to capture five bridges in Holland to secure the roads that the Allies needed to convey their armoured divisions and supply vehicles. Two of these bridges were over canals (the Wilhelma and Zuid Willems Vaart canals) while the other three bridges were over rivers. These rivers were the Maas where the bridge crossed at Grave; the Waal where the bridge crossed at Nijmegen and the Neder Rijn at Arnhem. Here, at Arnhem, the capture of the bridge was vital as the Neder Rijn was over 100 metres wide at this point.

The plan had its critics most notably in the American camp who believed that the supplies needed for the attack would be taken away from their drive towards the Rhine. Initially, Eisenhower, supreme commander of Allied forces in the west, called the plan a "pencil-like thrust". General Bradley, commander of the US 12th Army Group called it a venture "up a side-alley". However, an event quickly gave Montgomery's plan more momentum.

V2 rockets had fallen in London. Quite clearly, these posed a far greater problem to the British government than the V1's which frequently went off target or were shot down. The V2's were in a different category. The Allied knew they were being fired from the coast of northern Europe so any successful attack into Holland and beyond would greatly ease this problem until all the launch sites were destroyed. The War Office gave 'Monty' its backing. Even so, Montgomery found that he could not get the promise of supplies that he needed for Market Garden. On September 11th, 1944, Montgomery told Eisenhower that, despite the support of the War Office, the attack would have to be postponed due to lack of vital supplies. 'Monty's' tactic worked and Eisenhower immediately flew his chief-of-staff to Montgomery's headquarters to see what supplies he needed.

The Allied Airborne Army comprised of four divisions; two British and two American. Linked to it was the Polish Independent Parachute Brigade lead by Major-General Sosabowski. The two most senior American commanders were Major-General Gavin of the 101st Division and Major-General Maxwell Taylor of the 82nd Division. Both men were knowledgeable in airborne warfare. The British First Airborne Division was lead by Major-General Urquhart. He was an unusual choice to lead the Airborne Division as he had never parachuted before, never participated in a glider landing and got air sick. He, himself, expressed his surprise when he was appointed commander of the division.

The First Airborne Division had not taken part in D-Day It had been kept in reserve and had remained inactive after June 1944. A number of planned operations had been cancelled at the last minute because they were not needed due to the success of the British armoured columns on the ground. By September 1944, the First Division was "restless, frustrated and ready for anything". Urquhart said that it was:

The First Division was given the task of capturing the bridge at Arnhem and holding it. The 101st Division was to capture the Zuid Willems Vaart  Canal at Veghel and the Wilhelmina Canal at Son. The 82nd Division was to capture the bridges at Grave and at Nijmegen.

The attack had to be planned in just six days. Urquhart's First Division faced two major problems; the shortage of aircraft and the belief that the bridge at Arnhem was surrounded by anti-aircraft guns that would make a landing by the bridge itself too difficult.

The Americans were given the priority with regards to aircraft. The capture of the bridge at Arnhem would be pointless if the Americans failed to captured their targets. Therefore, the Americans would be carried to their targets in one lift whereas the attack on Arnhem would be done in three separate lifts during the day. Any night time landings were considered too dangerous.

This posed a major problem for Urquhart. His first force would have the element of surprise and, if the German resistance was minimal, would hold the bridge and secure any landing zones for the gliders. However, any subsequent landings would be after the Germans would have had the time to get themselves organised.

Intelligence reports also showed that the flak around the bridge itself was heavy. This was confirmed by RAF Bomber crews who encountered the flak on their regular flights into Germany. Urquhart decided to make his landings to the west away from the bridge even though he knew that this was a risk. If the German resistance was stronger than anticipated, there was the chance of the first landing not even getting to Arnhem Bridge and taking out the flak. British Intelligence reports indicated that the German presence in Arnhem was minimal. It was believed that the Germans only had six infantry divisions in the area with 25 artillery guns and only 20 tanks. German troops, in an Intelligence report of September 11th, were said to be "disorderly and dispirited". A similar report was made on September 17th.

However, reports from the Dutch Resistance indicated otherwise. On September 15th, the Dutch had informed the British that SS units had been seen in the Arnhem area. The First Airborne Division was given this information on September 20th - three days after the attack on the bridge at Arnhem had begun.

Operation Market Garden began on Sunday morning, September 17th, 1944. Luftwaffe fighters bases had been attacked as had German barracks based near the drop zones. 1,000 American and British fighter planes gave cover as the gliders and their 'tugs' crossed the North Sea and headed over mainland Europe. The greatest fear was from flak and Intelligence estimated that the loss of gliders and transport craft could be up to 40%. As it was, very few of the 1,545 aircraft and 478 gliders were lost. 

The 82nd Division landed without major problems around Grave and Nijmegan. The 101st Division was equally successful and by nightfall, the Americans and British armoured corps had met up in Eindhoven.

However, by the 18th September, fog had played its part. The glider and tug flights that were due to cross on the second day could not do so. This affected the 82nd Division in that Gavin had fewer men to attack the bridges at Waal - especially the road bridge that had held out for three days during the German attack on Holland in 1940. This bridge only fell in the evening of Wednesday 20th after a combined American/British attack. With this bridge captured, the 30th Corps armour could race to Arnhem to relieve Urquhart's First Airborne Division there.

At Arnhem, the British met much stiffer opposition than they had been lead to believe. The IX and X SS Panzer Divisions had re-grouped at Arnhem - as Dutch resistance had warned. Both groups comprised of 8,500 men lead by General Willi Bittich. These were not the poorly equipped German troops low in morale that British Intelligence had claimed were stationed at Arnhem. Bittich - a highly regarded general in the Waffen SS - sent the IX SS Devision to the British landing zones immediately. The X Division was ordered to Nijmegen to stop the 2nd Army group advancing on Arnhem. Bittich was confident of success:

The men from the IX Division quickly created a formidable defensive line to stop the British advancing to Arnhem. The British faced a number of serious problems in the landing zone. Nearly all the vehicles used by the Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron were lost when the gliderscarrying them failed to land. Therefore the advance into Arnhem itself was delayed but also had to be done almost entirely on foot. The job of the Reconnaissance Squadron was to move off in jeeps etc. in advance and secure bridges and roads. This they could not do after the loss of their vehicles. The maps issued to officers also proved to be less than accurate.

The British paratroopers came under German fire. Only the 2nd Battalion lead by Lt. Col. Frost moved forward with relative ease but even they were occasionally halted by German fire. Frost's men were the most southerly of the British units and the Germans had covered their route to Arnhem less well than the other routes the British were to use. When Frost got to the bridge at Arnhem, he only had about 500 men. He secured the northern end of the bridge and the buildings around it but he remained heavily exposed to a German attack across the bridge as the British had failed to secure the southern end of the bridge. Around Arnhem, British troops, engaged in combat with the SS, took heavy casualties. By now, the Germans were being reinforced with Tiger tanks.

Despite being short of ammunition and with no food or water, Frost's men continued fighting. A German who fought in the final battle for the bridge wrote:

The 2nd Army failed to reach Arnhem. In the final drive - just 10 miles - from where the 2nd Army was to Arnhem, the SS fought with great skill seriously delaying the forward momentum that the 2nd Army had previously developed. Those British troops who remained in the Arnhem area were caught in land that the SS called 'The Cauldron'. A decision was made to withdraw. Those soldiers that could be evacuated were but many wounded were left behind. In all, over 1,200 British soldiers had been killed and nearly 3,000 had been taken prisoner. 3,400 German troops had been killed or wounded in the battle.

Why did the plan fail?

The speed with which Bittich organised his men and his tactical awareness were major reasons for the Germans victory. However, British Intelligence had ignored Dutch Resistance reports that the SS were in the region. When the men landed they found that their maps were inaccurate regarding the layout of the roads in the Arnhem area. Another major problem was that the radios issued to the men only had a range of 3 miles and they proved to be useless when the various segments of the British army in the area were spread over 8 miles. Such a lack of communication proved a major handicap to the commanders on the ground who rarely knew what other commanders were doing or planning. The landing was also planned to be spread over three days so the Airborne Division was never up to full strength.

The fierce battle on the ground was matched by the battle in the air and a huge number of aircraft were destroyed on both sides in a relatively small area and time frame. The main combat aircraft taking part in the is Battle on the Allied side were Typhoons, Spitfires, Stirling's which were tasked with dropping supplies, C 47 Dakota and gliders. From eye witness reports it seems that Spitfire's some carrying bombs and Typhoons were the most numerous in the Arnhem bridge area

On the German side the FW 190, BF 109, Me 110 appear to be the main aircraft used and these account for most of the Luftwaffe crash sites in the area.

During our visit we came across this memorial close to Arnhem. Dutch resistance to the German occupation was very well organised and effective, how ever retribution was brutal and swift. This memorial marks the spot where over 100 random innocent civilians were executed as a reprisal after a German general was machined gunned and killed by resistance fighters. There are many sights like this in Holland and many more people were murdered by the SS in retribution for this and many other acts of resistance.


This is the site of a Lancaster crash near Arnhem the light coloured sand in the middle of the picture has remained clear as oil and fuel from the crash prevent growth. The aircraft on its way back from a raid on Berlin was shot down with all the crew killed. The aircraft was totally destroyed and all that remains are tiny fragments.

Link to details of this lancaster



This is a memorial placed in the area of one of the landing sites used by the British to drop their troops in the Battle of Arnhem there was a fierce battle here with many troops being machined gunned by a German defensive line before reaching the ground. From here the troops attempted to reach Arnhem through heavily defended territory which included Tiger tanks and fanatical SS units.

Click on the picture under to enlarge it.

This is the cemetery for British, Canadian and Polish troops killed in the Battle of Arnhem. These casualties were suffered in a relatively short period of time. Its a very sobering place to visit and will bring a lump to the throat These brave soldiers all gave their lives for the freedom we all enjoy today. Many of the graves are of unknown soldiers and many still lie undiscovered in the surrounding countryside.

This picture was taken opposite the British command centre, to the left were the British and to the right were the Germans and a deadly and fierce fight took place in this area. The monument is of a British paratrooper with a young Dutch girl. 

The Dutch people especially those who live in the Arnhem area have a great respect for the troops that attempted to free them and movingly remember their sacrifice.

Every year on the anniversary of the Battle Dutch school children carry a flower and place it on every grave in the cemetery.

This picture is of the British headquarters and command centre today it houses a museum its to the right of the picture above. The surrounding trees are full of battle scars.

The following pictures are of the church and adjacent house used by the British wounded. The church is battle scared with thousands of bullet, cannon and mortar shell  hits.

The tree outside the church is deformed from the hits it received during the battle.

Battle damage to the church is still clearly seen today.

The Angel of Arnhem

Dutch civilian Kate ter Horst agreed that her home, the ‘Old Vicarage,’ shown above next to the Oosterbeek Church could be used as a Regimental Aid Post during the height of the fighting. She had five young children sheltering in the cellar yet insisted on tending to the wounded. ‘The Angel of Arnhem’ as she was known to the wounded airborne soldiers negotiated their evacuation with the Germans when the Aid Post came under constant fire. After the battle the Germans turned her out with her children alongside the rest of the inhabitants.

Kate ter Horst

About 450 Dutch civilians were killed and many more injured as a consequence of the MARKET-GARDEN Operation.

When fighting ceased there were still about 400 airborne soldiers and airmen hiding in the woods and houses around Arnhem, Ede and Apeldoorn. They were housed and sheltered by Dutch civilians and assisted later to escape over the river by the Resistance. This was a spontaneous rather than ordered effort and they risked certain death and retribution for their families if discovered.

The civilian inhabitants of Arnhem and Oosterbeek were forcibly evacuated, both as a reprisal and to clear the new front line. Empty houses were systematically looted by the Germans and the cleared furniture and household effects sent to bombed-out civilians in the Ruhr. It is assessed 30,000 Dutch civilians perished in the subsequent ‘Hunger Winter’ from starvation, disease, the cold and military action.

A close affinity has since remained between Airborne Forces and the Dutch people of Arnhem, Oosterbeek and the Gelderland and endures to this day, a consequence of the shattered expectation of an early end to the war and the tragedy that ensued. One surviving Dutch Resistance member, a doctor, felt despite the carnage and destruction the airborne soldiers felt they inflicted on the area: ‘Don’t ever say that it was a wasted effort; you gave us hope; you showed that someone cared, and that we were not forgotten’.

This is the view from the rear of the Church and to the left is the house pictured above. In the centre you can just make out the railway bridge at Arnhem.

No. 5057916 Lance-Sergeant John Daniel Baskeyfield, The South Staffordshire- Regiment (1st Airborne Division) (Stoke-on-Trent). VC

The following pictures were taken at Acacialaan  Arhem, it is the site of  an event which won John Daniel Baskeyfield the Victoria cross.

Acacialaan  Arnhem as it is today

Under an artists impression of the fight in Acacialaan  Arnhem

In the early hours of the morning of 19 September, an attack was launched on a narrow front between the river and the railway line, in order to force a passage through to the bridge. Most of the support weapons were left in the rear, as they were unable to suitably deploy in the dark and in the narrow confines of the urban surroundings. However, in the face of strong enemy positions and armour, the attack faltered and the British routed.

The remnants of the four battalions fell back in disarray to the main divisional positions at Oosterbeek. Here they were gathered into defensive units by Lieutenant Colonel Sherriff Thompson, CC/O  of the 1st Airlanding Light Artillery Regiment, who forcibly stopped many of the panicked troops and had Major Robert Cairn form them into a defensive screen half a mile in front of his own 75mm howitzers positions. The sector was designated "Thompson Force", but Thompson actually sent Major Richard Longsdale forward to take command of these outlying troops later in the day.

The German forces made determined attacks against Lonsdale's force on 20 September, starting soon after dawn. Baskeyfield was in charge of two 6 pounder anti tank gun defending a T junction on the Benedendorpsweg, the southernmost road between Arnhem and Oosterbeek.[ Baskeyfield's guns faced up the Acacialaan, which joined the Benedendorpsweg from the north, and covered the likely enemy approach along this road and from open ground to the north east. His right flank – to the east – was covered by another anti tank gun commanded by Lance Sergeant Mansell.

In an initial German assault, Baskeyfield and his gun crews destroyed two tanks and a self-propelled gun as they advanced down the Acacialaan. Baskeyfield allowed the armour to come within 100 yards of his positions before ordering his crews to fire, while paratroopers of the 11th Battalion in nearby houses dealt with attacking infantry. In the course of this action, Baskeyfield's crew was killed or wounded and Baskeyfield himself was badly injured. However he refused to be evacuated and in a later German attack he worked his gun alone, loading, laying and firing it himself. He fired round after round until enemy fire put his gun out of action, and crawled to the second gun, whose crew had similarly been disabled. From here he engaged another self-propelled gun, dispatching it with two rounds, but was killed shortly afterwards by fire from another German tank.

Lonsdale's men fell back to new positions later that day and "Thompson Force" was eventually renamed "Lonsdale Force" when Thompson was wounded on 21 September. The force continued to hold the Oosterbeek perimeter until the Allies withdrew in Operation Berlin on the night of 25 September.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to: –

No. 5057916 Lance-Sergeant John Daniel Baskeyfield, The South Staffordshire- Regiment (1st Airborne Division) (Stoke-on-Trent).

What follows is the citation for Lance-Sergeant John Daniel Baskeyfield Victoria cross.

On 20th September, 1944, during the battle of Arnhem, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was the N.C.O. in charge of a 6-pounder anti-tank gun at Oosterbeek. The enemy developed a major attack on this sector with infantry, tanks and self-propelled guns with the obvious intent to break into and overrun the Battalion position. During the early stage of the action the crew commanded by this N.C.O. was responsible for the destruction of two Tiger tanks and at least one self propelled gun, thanks to the coolness and daring of this N.C.O., who, with complete disregard for his own safety, allowed each tank to come well within 100 yards of his gun before opening fire.

In the course of this preliminary engagement Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was badly wounded in the leg and the remainder of his crew were either killed or badly wounded. During the brief respite after this engagement Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield refused to be carried to the Regimental Aid Post and spent his time attending to his gun and shouting encouragement to his comrades in neighbouring trenches.

After a short interval the enemy renewed the attack with even greater ferocity than before, under cover of intense mortar and shell fire. Manning his gun quite alone Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield continued to fire round after round at the enemy until his gun was put out of action. By this time his activity was the main factor in keeping the enemy tanks at bay. The fact that the surviving men in his vicinity were held together and kept in action was undoubtedly due to his magnificent example and outstanding courage. Time after time enemy attacks were launched and driven off. Finally, when his gun was knocked out, Lance Sergeant Baskeyfield crawled under intense enemy fire to another 6-pounder gun nearby, the crew of which had been killed, and proceeded to man it single-handed. With this gun he engaged an enemy self propelled gun which was approaching to attack. Another soldier crawled across the open ground to assist him but was killed almost at once. Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield succeeded in firing two rounds at the self propelled gun, scoring one direct hit which rendered it ineffective. Whilst preparing to fire a third shot, however, he was killed by a shell from a supporting enemy tank.

The superb gallantry of this N.C.O. is beyond praise. During the remaining days at Arnhem stories of his valour were a constant inspiration to all ranks. He spurned danger, ignored pain and, by his supreme fighting spirit, infected all who witnessed his conduct with the same aggressiveness and dogged devotion to duty which characterised his actions throughout.

The Chair from Acacialaan

As stated previously the entire civilian population of Arnhem was forcibly evacuated and all their belongings looted. One resident who returned to their house after the liberation in Acacialaan discovered the only remaining thing in the house a wooden chair stamped with the German eagle. They had this chair in their possession from that day until it was purchased by Spitfire Spares.

Link to chair

This picture shows Arhem bridge in the distance, this and the surrounding area is the site were many artefacts we have purchased were recovered by aviation archaeologists.

The bridge as it looks to day it still bears the scars of the battle and has many bullet and shell holes.

An impresion of the bridge to far during the Battle of Arnhem.

Stairs leading up to the bridge on the Arnhem side of the river British troops had to haul all their weapons and equipment to the top of these stairs including the only heavy weapon they had the 6 pounder gun. Again there are many repairs where battle damage was inflicted.











































































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