Sunday, October 15, 2023

A belated Market Garden Memorial Flight

It is now 78 years ago, October 1944, that I sat safely in the belly of my mam. Today October 15, 2023, I sat safely in the belly of a Dakota DC3, the Princess Amalia, of the Dutch Dakota Association for a belated Market Garden Memorial Flight to Nijmegen and Arnhem.

Recently a grandson found out that the Dutch Dakota Association was organising Memorial Market Garden Flights in September. We registered not for the flight of September 16, 2023, which was going to mingle between the gliders and paratroopers on the Ginkelse Heide near Arnhem, but on September 17th as this was a special moment in the our family history. On that day my mom went to the small Eusebius church in Arnhem and got caught in between two bombardments. It was a traumatic experience for her as she saw people dying and wounded people, while she was pregnant with me and shielding with her body her one year old boy, my brother William.

My parents were living on the Southside of Arnhem, across the river Lower-Rhine since 1943, less than 500 metres from the bridge, late known from the movie the Bridge Too Far. The house was close to the brick factory were my father worked. But with operation Market Garden they were caught in the middle of the battle.

Photograph 1: To the left is the north side of the city; to the right you can see the Stadsblokkenweg, where my parents lived. (Fotograph Royal Airforce)

On September 6, 1944 an reconnaisance plane of the Royal Airforce took a picture of the area around the bridge of Arnhem. On the picture the house of my parents can be seen.

Photograph 2: Stadsblokken weg # 5, as my parents found it, when they returned in 1945 (Gelders Archive). 

Within two weeks after the registration of the area around the bridge, their house was firebombed with phosphor bombs on September 19th and they had to flee. It took them 69 days to arrive in Varsseveld, close to the German border, where they eventually found a loving family to host them for more than half a year.

The September 17, 2023 Memorial Market Garden flight was a disaster due to the weather. Because of a heavy clouded sky we could not reach Arnhem and the pilots turned the flight into a tourist roundtrip of the Markermeer.

Photograph 3: the first bridge is the bridge from the battle of Arnhem; it was restored in 1948 and named after a British officer John Frost.Up the river you se the New bridge or Nelson Mandela bridge. To the left between the two bridges is the Stadsblokkenweg. The yellow area is now a festval area, but in the war it was a shipyeard, where my parents took shelter on September 19th 1944. (Photograph Daan van Barneveld)

But today the weather looked better, despite early rain showers. And just by waiting more than half an hour of the scheduled departure the flight went eastwards. First to Groesbeek, than to Nijmegen, where we saw the Nijmegen bridge which was not a heavy battled object and on to Arnhem. So we came up from the river Rhine from the split between the Waal and Nijmegen to the Lower-Rhine and Arnhem. And the pilots gave us a fabulous sight of the bridge and of the area where my parents had lived.  It was great to see the area, where they had lived, but also the area where they fled to for shelter.

Within an hour the tour was over and we had landed at Schiphol Airport. The Dakota DC3 had completed another flight. The airplane was built in 1943 and commissioned into service in 1944. It was four times in service during operation Market Garden. After the war it was bought by Prince Bernhard, the spouse of the Queen-to-be, Juliana, and later it became a government airplane. For more than 25 years it is now the icon of the Dutch Dakota Association (DDA) Classic Airlines.    

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