OOSTERBEEK, THE QUIET ISLAND in the midst of the war, was now the very center of the fighting. In less than seventy-two hours—from Wednesday on—the village had been pounded to a shambles. Artillery and mortar fire had reduced it to one vast junk heap. The serene order of the town was gone. In its place was a ravaged raw landscape, pitted with shell craters, scarred by slit trenches, littered with splinters of wood and steel, and thick with red brick dust and ashes. From fire-blackened trees, fragments of cloth and curtains blew eerily in the wind. Spent brass cartridge cases glinted in the ankle-high dust along the streets. Roads were barricaded with burned-out jeeps and vehicles, trees, doors, sandbags, furniture—even bathtubs and pianos. Behind half-demolished houses and sheds, by the sides of streets and in ruined gardens lay the bodies of soldiers and civilians, side by side. Resort hotels, now turned into hospitals, stood among lawns littered with furniture, paintings and smashed lamps; and the gaily striped canopies, which had shaded the wide verandas, hung down in soiled, ragged strips. Nearly every house had been hit; some had burned down; and there were few windows left in the town. In this sea of devastation, which the Germans were now calling Der Hexenkessel (the witches’ cauldron), the Dutch—some eight to ten thousand men, women and children—struggled to survive. Crowded into cellars, without gas, water or electricity and, like the troops in many sectors, almost without food, the civilians nursed their wounded, the British defenders and, when the occasion arose, their German conquerors.
In the Schoonoord Hotel, now one of the main casualty stations sitting squarely on the front line, Hendrika van der Vlist, the daughter of the owner, noted in her diary:
We are no longer afraid; we are past all that. There are wounded lying all around us—some of them are dying. Why shouldn’t we do the same if this is asked of us? In this short time we have become detached from everything we have always clung to before. Our belongings are gone. Our hotel has been damaged on all sides. We don’t even give it a thought. We have no time for that. If this strife is to claim us as well as the British, we shall give ourselves.
Along lanes, in fields and on rooftops, behind barricaded windows in the ruins of houses, near the church in lower Oosterbeek, in the deer park about the wrecked Hartenstein, tense, hollow-eyed paratroopers manned positions. The noise of the bombardment was now almost continuous. Soldiers and civilians alike were deafened by it. In Oosterbeek the British and Dutch were shocked into a kind of numbness. Time had little meaning, and events had become blurred. Yet soldiers and civilians helped to comfort each other, hoping for rescue, but almost too exhausted to worry about survival. Lieutenant Colonel R. Payton-Reid, commander of the 7th KOSB’s, noted: “Lack of sleep is the most difficult of all hardships to combat. Men reached the stage when the only important thing in life seemed to be sleep.” As Captain Benjamin Clegg of the 10th Parachute Battalion put it, “I remember more than anything the tiredness—almost to the point that being killed would be worth it.” And Sergeant Lawrence Gold-thorpe, a glider pilot, was so worn out that “I sometimes wished I could get wounded in order to lie down and get some rest.” But there was no rest for anyone.
All about the perimeter—from the white Dreyeroord Hotel (known to the troops as the “White House”) in the northern extremity of the fingertip-shaped salient, down to the tenth-century church in lower Oosterbeek—men fought a fiercely confused kind of battle in which the equipment and forces of defender and attacker were crazily intermingled. British troopers often found themselves using captured German ammunition and weapons. German tanks were being destroyed by their own mines. The Germans were driving British jeeps and were bolstered by the captured supplies intended for the airborne. “It was the cheapest battle we ever fought,” Colonel Harzer, the Hohenstaufen commander, recalls. “We had free food, cigarettes and ammunition.” Both sides captured and recaptured each other’s positions so often that few men knew with certainty from hour to hour who occupied the site next to them. For the Dutch sheltering in cellars along the perimeter, the constant switching was terrifying.
Jan Voskuil, the chemical engineer, moved his entire family—his parents-in-law, his wife, Bertha, and their nine-year-old son, Henri—to the home of Dr. Onderwater, because the doctor’s reinforced sand-bagged cellar seemed safer. At the height of one period of incessant shooting, a British antitank team fought from the floor above them. Minutes later the cellar door burst open and an SS officer, accompanied by several of his men, demanded to know if the group was hiding any British. Young Henri was playing with a shell case from a British fighter’s wing gun. The German officer held up the casing. “This is from a British gun,” he shouted. “Everyone upstairs!” Voskuil was quite sure that the cellar’s occupants would all be shot. Quickly he intervened. “Look,” he told the officer, “this is a shell from an English plane. My son found it and has simply been playing with it.” Abruptly the German motioned to his men and the group moved to the upper floor, leaving the Dutch unharmed. Some time later, the cellar door burst open again. To everyone’s relief, British paratroopers entered, looking, Voskuil thought, “unearthly, with their camouflage jackets and helmets still sprouting twigs. Like St. Nicholas they handed around chocolates and cigarettes which they had just captured from a German supply truck.”
Private Alfred Jones, of Major Boy Wilson’s pathfinders, was also caught up in the confusion of battle. Holding positions in a house at the crossroads near the Schoonoord Hotel, Jones and other members of a platoon saw a German staff car approach. The bewildered troopers stared as the car pulled up at the house next to them. “We watched openmouthed,” Jones remembers, “as the driver opened the door for the officer and gave the Hitler salute and the officer made for the house.” Then, Jones recalls, “we all woke up, the platoon opened fire, and we got them both.”
Some brushes with the enemy were less impersonal. Leading a fighting patrol through dense undergrowth on the northern shoulder of the perimeter near the Dennenkamp crossroads, Lieutenant Michael Long of the Glider Pilot Regiment came face to face with a young German. He was carrying a Schmeisser submachine gun; Long had a revolver. Yelling to his men to scatter, the lieutenant opened fire, but the German was faster “by a split second.” Long was hit in the thigh and fell to the ground; the German was “only nicked in the right ear.” To Long’s horror the German tossed a grenade “which landed about eighteen inches from me.” Frantically Long kicked the “potato masher” away. It exploded harmlessly. “He searched me,” Long remembers, “took two grenades from my pockets and threw them into the woods after my men. Then he calmly sat on my chest and opened fire with the Schmeisser.” As the German sprayed the undergrowth, the hot shell cases dropped down into the open neck of Long’s battle dress. Irate, Long nudged the German and, pointing at the shell cases, yelled, “Sehr warm.” Still firing, the German said, “Oh, ja!” and shifted his position so that the spent ammunition fell on the ground. After a few moments the German ceased firing and again searched Long. He was about to throw away the lieutenant’s first-aid kit, when Long pointed to his thigh. The German pointed to his ear which Long’s bullet had grazed. In the undergrowth, with firing going on all around them, the two men bandaged each other’s wounds. Then Long was led away into captivity.
Slowly but surely the perimeter was being squeezed as men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Staff Sergeant George Baylis, the glider pilot who had brought his dancing pumps to Holland because he believed the Dutch loved to dance, was “winkled out” of a camouflaged slit trench in a garden by German soldiers. Lined up against a wall, Baylis was searched and interrogated. Ignoring his questioner, Baylis calmly took out a hand mirror and examining his grimy, unshaven face, asked the German, “You don’t happen to know if there’s a dance in town tonight, do you?” He was marched off.
Other paratroopers actually did hear dance music. From German loudspeakers came one of World War II’s popular songs, Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.” In trenches and fortified positions, haggard troopers listened silently. As the record ended, a voice speaking English told them, “Men of the First Airborne Division, you are surrounded. Surrender or die!” Sergeant Leonard Overton of the Glider Pilot Regiment “fully expected now not to leave Holland alive anyway.” Overton and everyone nearby answered with machine-gun fire. Sergeant Lawrence Goldthorpe heard the loudspeaker, too. A few hours earlier he had risked his life to retrieve a resupply pannier—only to discover that it contained, not food or ammunition, but red berets. Now, when he heard the call to “Give yourselves up, while you still have time,” he yelled: “Bugger off, you silly bastards!” As he lifted his rifle he heard other men in woods and trenches take up the cry. There was a blaze of machine-gun and rifle fire as enraged troopers trained their guns in the direction of the loudspeaker. Abruptly the voice stopped.
To the Germans, surrender seemed the only sensible course left to the British—as Major Richard Stewart of the 1st Airlanding Brigade discovered. Stewart, captured and found to speak German fluently, was taken to a large headquarters. He remembers the commanding officer vividly. General Bittrich “was a tall, slender man, probably in his early or middle forties, wearing a long black leather coat and cap,” Stewart recalls. Bittrich did not interrogate him. “He simply told me that he wanted me to go to my division commander and persuade him to surrender to save the division from annihilation.” Stewart politely refused. The General went into “a long dissertation. He told me it was in my power to save the ‘flowering manhood of the nation.’ ” Again, Stewart said, “I cannot do it.” Bittrich urged him once more. Stewart asked, “Sir, if our places were reversed, what would your answer be?” The German commander slowly shook his head. “My answer would be No.” Stewart said, “That’s mine too.”
Although Bittrich “had never seen men fight as hard as the British at Oosterbeek and Arnhem,” he continued to underestimate the determination of Urquhart’s troopers, and he wrongly interpreted the Polish drop at Driel. While he considered the arrival of the Poles “a morale booster” for the embattled 1st British Airborne, Bittrich believed Sosabowski’s principal task was to attack the German rear and prevent Harmel’s Frundsberg Division, now using the Arnhem bridge, from reaching the Nijmegen area. He considered the Polish threat so serious that he “intervened in the operations against Oosterbeek” and ordered Major Hans Peter Knaust to rush his armored battalion south. The powerful Knaust Kampfgruppe, now reinforced with twenty-five 60-ton Tiger tanks and twenty Panthers, was to defend Elst and prevent the Poles from reaching the southern end of the Arnhem bridge and Horrocks’ tanks from linking up with them. Harmel’s Frundsberg Division, after it reformed, was ordered “to throw the Anglo-Americans in the Nijmegen area back across the Waal.” To Bittrich, the British drive from Nijmegen was of utmost importance. Urquhart’s division, Bittrich believed, was contained and finished. He had never considered that the Poles’ objective was to reinforce Urquhart’s bridgehead. Nevertheless, Bittrich’s strategy—developed for the wrong reasons—would seal the fate of the 1st Airborne Division.
Early in the morning of Friday, September 22, as the last of Knaust’s tanks arrived at Elst, General Urquhart heard from Horrocks, the XXX Corps commander. In two Phantom messages sent during the night Urquhart had informed British Second Army headquarters that the ferry was no longer held. Horrocks apparently had not been informed. The Corps commander’s message read: “43rd Division ordered to take all risks to effect relief today and are directed on ferry. If situation warrants you should withdraw to or cross ferry.” Urquhart replied, “We shall be glad to see you.”
In the wine cellar of the wrecked Hartenstein Hotel—“the only place remaining that was relatively safe,” Urquhart recalls—the General conferred with his chief of staff, Colonel Charles Mackenzie. “The last thing we wanted to be was alarmist,” Urquhart remembers, “but I felt I had to do something to effect relief—and effect it immediately.”
Outside, the “morning hate,” as the troopers called the usual dawn mortaring, had begun. The shattered Hartenstein shook and reverberated from the concussion of near hits, and the harried Urquhart wondered how long they could hold. Of the 10,005 airborne troops—8,905 from the division and 1,100 glider pilots and copilots—that had landed on the Arnhem drop zones, Urquhart now estimated that he had fewer than 3,000 men. In slightly less than five days he had lost more than two thirds of his division. Although he now had communication with Horrocks and Browning, Urquhart did not believe they understood what was happening. “I was convinced,” Urquhart says, “that Horrocks was not fully aware of our predicament, and I had to do something to acquaint them with the urgency and desperateness of the situation.” He decided to send Colonel Mackenzie and Lieutenant Colonel Eddie Myers, the chief engineer, “who would handle the special arrangements for ferrying across men and supplies,” to Nijmegen to see Browning and Horrocks. “I was told,” Mackenzie says, “that it was absolutely vital to impress Horrocks and Browning with the fact that the division as such had ceased to exist-that we were merely a collection of individuals hanging on.” The limit of endurance had been reached, Urquhart believed, and Mackenzie was to impress on them “that if we don’t get men and supplies over by tonight, it may be too late.”
Urquhart stood by as Mackenzie and Myers prepared to leave. He knew that the trip would be dangerous, perhaps impossible, yet it seemed reasonable to assume—if Horrocks’ messages were to be believed and the 43rd Wessex attack was launched on schedule—that some kind of route would be open to Nijmegen by the time Mackenzie and Myers crossed the river. As the men left Urquhart had “one final word for Charles. I told him to try and make them realize what a fix we were in. Charles said he would do his best, and I knew he would.” Taking a rubber boat, Myers and Mackenzie set out by jeep for lower Oosterbeek and the Rhine.
Ten miles away, in the Nijmegen area north of the Waal, twenty-six-year-old Captain Lord Richard Wrottesley, commanding a troop of the 2nd Household Cavalry, sat in an armored car ready to give the command to move out. During the night his reconnaissance unit had been ordered to lead the squadron ahead of the attacking 43rd Wessex Division and make contact with the airborne forces. Since the day before, when the Irish Guards had been stopped, Wrottesley had been “fully aware of the German strength north of Nijmegen.” No news had been received from either the Poles at Driel or the 1st Airborne, “so somebody had to find out what was happening.” The squadron’s role, young Wrottesley remembers, was to “find a way past the enemy defenses by bashing through.” By avoiding the main Nijmegen-Arnhem highway and traveling the gridiron of secondary roads to the west, Wrottesley believed, there was a good chance of sprinting through the enemy defenses under cover of an early morning mist “which could contribute to our luck.” At first light Wrottesley gave the order to move out. Quickly his two armored cars and two scout cars disappeared into the fog. Following behind him came a second troop under Lieutenant Arthur Young. Traveling fast, the force swung west of the village of Oosterhout, following the Waal riverbank for about six miles. Then, looping back, they headed due north for Driel. “At one point we saw several Germans,” Wrottesley remembers, “but they seemed to be more startled than we were.” Two and a half hours later, at 8A.M., Friday, September 22, the first link between the Market-Garden ground forces and the 1st British Airborne was made. The forty-eight hours that Montgomery had envisioned before the link-up had been stretched out to four days and eighteen hours. Wrottesley and Lieutenant Young, surpassing the attempt of the Guards Armored tanks on Thursday, had reached Driel and the Rhine without firing a shot.
Lieutenant H. S. Hopkinson’s third troop, coming up behind them, ran into trouble. The morning mist suddenly lifted and as the unit was sighted, enemy armor opened up. “Driver Read in the first car was immediately killed,” Hopkinson says. “I went forward to help, but the scout car was blazing and enemy tanks continued to fire on us. We were forced to retire.” For the moment, the Germans once more had closed off a relief route to Urquhart’s 1st Airborne Division.
The strange, crippling paralysis that had steadily invaded the Market-Garden plan from its very beginning was intensifying. At dawn on Friday, September 22, General Thomas’ long-awaited 43rd Wessex Division was to break out from Nijmegen to aid the Guards Armored column still stalled at Elst. The plan called for one brigade—the 129th—to advance along each side of the elevated highway, through Elst and on to Arnhem; simultaneously, a second brigade, the 214th, was to attack farther west through the town of Oosterhout and strike for Driel and the ferry site. Incredibly, it had taken the Wessexes almost three days to travel from the Escaut Canal—a distance of a little more than sixty miles. In part this was due to the constant enemy attacks against the corridor; but some would later charge that it was also due to the excessive cautiousness of the methodical Thomas. His division might have covered the distance more quickly on foot.*
Now, mishap overtook the 43rd Wessex again. To the bitter disappointment of General Essame, commander of the 214th Brigade, one of his lead battalions, the 7th Somersets, had lost its way and had failed to cross the Waal during the night of the twenty-first. “Where the hell have you been?” Essame heatedly demanded of its commander when the force finally arrived. The Somersets had been held up by crowds and roadblocks in Nijme-gen; several companies were separated in the confusion and directed over the wrong bridge. Essame’s plan to take advantage of the dawn mist and drive toward Driel was lost. The two-pronged attack did not jump off until 8:30 A.M. In full light the enemy, alerted by the Household Cavalry’s reconnaissance unit, was prepared. By 9:30 a resourceful German commander at Oosterhout, skillfully using tanks and artillery, had successfully pinned down the 214th Brigade; and the 129th, heading toward Elst and trying to support Colonel Vandeleur’s Irish Guards, came under fire from Major Knaust’s massed tanks, which General Bittrich had ordered south to crush the Anglo-American drive. On this critical Friday, when, in Urquhart’s opinion, the fate of the British 1st Airborne was dependent on immediate relief, it would be late afternoon before the 43rd Wessex would capture Oosterhout—too late to move troops in mass to help the surrounded men in Oosterbeek.
Like Essame, others were angered by the sluggish progress of the attack. Lieutenant Colonel George Taylor, commanding the 5th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry,* could not understand “what was holding everything up.” He knew the Garden forces were already three days behind schedule in reaching the 1st Airborne. He was uncomfortably aware that higher command headquarters was worried, too. On Thursday he had met General Horrocks, the Corps commander, who had asked him, “George, what would you do?” Without hesitation, Taylor had suggested rushing a special task force to the Rhine on Thursday night carrying 2½-ton amphibious vehicles (DUKWs) filled with supplies. “My idea was a shot in the dark,” Taylor recalls. “Horrocks looked slightly startled and, as people do sometimes when they consider a suggestion impractical, he quickly changed the conversation.”
Taylor now waited impatiently for orders to move his battalion across the Waal river. It was not until midday Friday that a major, a staff officer from XXX Corps, arrived to tell him that his battalion would be given two DUKWs loaded with supplies and ammunition to take up to Driel. Additionally, Taylor would have a squadron of tanks of the Dragoon Guards. “The situation at Arnhem is desperate,” the major said. “The DUKWs must be moved across the river tonight.” Looking at the heavily laden DUKWs that arrived in the assembly area at 3:00 P.M. on Friday afternoon, Taylor wondered if they carried enough supplies. “Surely,” he remarked to his intelligence officer, Lieutenant David Wilcox, “we’ve got to get more than this across to them.”
Even as the infantry was moving out of the Nijmegen bridgehead, Colonel Mackenzie and Lieutenant Colonel Myers had reached Sosabowski and the Poles at Driel. Their crossing of the Rhine had been surprisingly uneventful. “Only a few shots were fired at us,” Mackenzie says, “and they went over our heads.” On the southern side a full-scale battle was in progress and the Poles were hard pressed, holding off enemy infantry attacks from the direction of Elst and Arnhem. For some time Mackenzie and Myers had waited on the Rhine’s southern bank for the Poles. “They had been told by radio to watch out for us,” Mackenzie says. “But there was quite a battle going on, and Sosabowski had his hands full.” Finally, riding bicycles, they were escorted to Sosabowski’s headquarters.
Mackenzie was heartened to discover the Household Cavalry units. But his hopes of reaching General Browning at Nijmegen quickly were dashed. To Lord Wrottesley and Lieutenant Arthur Young, the failure of Hopkinson’s third troop of reconnaissance vehicles to reach Driel meant that the Germans had closed in behind them; nor had the attack of the 43rd Wessex yet broken through. Mackenzie and Myers would have to wait until a route was opened.
Wrottesley recalls that “Mackenzie immediately asked to use my radio to contact Corps headquarters.” He began to relay a long message via Wrottesley’s squadron commander for Horrocks and Browning. Urquhart’s chief of staff made no effort to encode his signal. Standing beside him, Wrottesley heard Mackenzie “in the clear” say, “ ‘We are short of food, ammunition and medical supplies. We cannot hold out for more than twenty-four hours. All we can do is wait and pray.’ ” For the first time Wrottesley realized “that Urquhart’s division must be in a very bad way.”
Mackenzie and Myers then conferred with Sosabowski about the urgency of getting the Poles across. “Even a few men now can make a difference,” Mackenzie told him. Sosabowski agreed, but asked where the boats and rafts were to come from. Hopefully DUKWs, which had been requested, would arrive by night. Meanwhile, Myers thought, several two-man rubber dinghies, which the airborne had, could be used. Linked by hawser they could be pulled back and forth across the river. Sosabowski was “delighted with the idea.” It would be painfully slow, he said, but “if unopposed, perhaps two hundred men might be shipped across during the night.” By radio, Myers quickly contacted the Hartenstein to make arrangements for the dinghies. The pathetic and desperate operation, it was decided, would begin at nightfall.
In the bridgehead across the river, Urquhart’s men continued to fight with extraordinary courage and resolution. Yet, at places about the perimeter, even the most resolute were voicing worry about relief. Here and there a looming sense of isolation was growing, infecting the Dutch as well.
Douw van der Krap, a former Dutch naval officer, had earlier been placed in command of a twenty-five-man Dutch underground unit which was to fight alongside the British. The group had been organized at the instigation of Lieutenant Commander Arnoldus Wolters, the Dutch liaison officer at Urquhart’s headquarters. Jan Eijkelhoff, who had helped make ready the Schoonoord Hotel for casualties on Monday, was charged with finding German weapons for the group. The British could give each man only five rounds of ammunition—if weapons could be found. Driving as far as Wolfheze, Eijkelhoff found only three or four rifles. At first the newly appointed commander of the unit, Van der Krap, was elated at the idea, but his hopes dimmed. His men would be instantly executed if captured while fighting with the paratroopers. “Without relief and supplies for themselves, it was obvious the British couldn’t last,” Van der Krap recalls. “They couldn’t arm us and they couldn’t feed us and I decided to disband the group.” Van der Krap, however, remained with the paratroopers. “I wanted to fight,” he says, “but I didn’t think we had a chance.”
Young Anje van Maanen, who had been so excited by the paratroopers’ arrival and the daily expectation of seeing “Monty’s tanks,” was now terrified by the continuous shelling and constantly changing battle lines. “The noise and the hell go on,” she wrote in her diary. “I can’t bear it any longer. I’m so scared and I can’t think of anything but shells and death.” Anje’s father, Dr. Gerritt van Maanen, working alongside British doctors at the Tafelberg Hotel, brought news to his family whenever he could, but to Anje the battle had assumed unrealistic proportions. “I don’t understand,” she wrote. “One side of a street is British, the other German, and people kill each other from both sides. There are house, floor and room fights.” On Friday, Anje wrote, “the British say Monty will be here at any moment. I don’t believe that. Monty can go to hell! He will never come.”
In the Schoonoord Hotel, where British and German wounded crowded the wide veranda and lay in the reception rooms, passageways and bedrooms, Hendrika van der Vlist could hardly believe it was Friday. The hospital was constantly changing hands. On Wednesday the hotel had been taken by the Germans, on Thursday by the British; and by Friday morning it had been recaptured by the Germans. Control of the Schoonoord was less important than the need to prevent it being fired on. A large Red Cross flag flew on the roof, and numerous smaller ones were spotted around the grounds, but the dust and flying debris often obscured the pennants. Orderlies, nurses and doctors worked on, seemingly oblivious to anything but the constant flow of wounded men.
Hendrika had slept in her clothes for only a few hours each night, getting up to assist doctors and orderlies as fresh casualties were carried in. Fluent in English and German, she had originally noted a pessimism among the Germans in contrast to the patient cheerfulness of the British. Now many of the severely wounded Red Devils seemed stoically prepared to accept their fate. As she brought one trooper the minuscule portion of soup and a biscuit that constituted the only meal the hospital could provide, he pointed to a newly arrived casualty. “Give it to him,” he told Hendrika. Pulling down the man’s blanket, she saw he wore a German uniform. “German, eh?” the trooper asked. Hendrika nodded. “Give him the food anyway,” the Britisher said, “I ate yesterday.” Hendrika stared at him. “Why is there a war on, really?” she asked. Tiredly, he shook his head. In her diary she put down her private fears: “Has our village become one of the bloodiest battlefields? What is holding up the main army? It cannot go on like this any longer.”
In Dr. Onderwater’s cellar, where the Voskuil family was sheltering along with some twenty others, both Dutch and British, Mrs. Voskuil noticed for the first time that the floor was slippery with blood. During the night two wounded officers, Major Peter Warr and Lieutenant Colonel Ken Smyth, had been brought in by British troopers. Both men were seriously wounded, Warr in the thigh and Smyth in the stomach. Shortly after the injured men were laid on the floor, the Germans burst in. One of them threw a grenade. Lance Corporal George Wyllie of Colonel Smyth’s 10th Battalion remembers “a flash of light and then a deafening explosion.” Mrs. Voskuil, sitting behind Major Warr, felt “red hot pain” in her legs. In the now-dark cellar she heard someone shouting, “Kill them! Kill them!” She felt a man’s body fall heavily across her. It was Private Albert Willingham, who had apparently jumped in front of Mrs. Voskuil to protect her. Corporal Wyllie saw a gaping wound open in Willingham’s back. He remembers the woman sitting on a chair with a child beside her, the dead paratrooper across her lap. The child seemed covered with blood. “My God!” Wyllie thought as he lost consciousness, “we’ve killed a child.” Suddenly the fierce battle was over. Someone shone a torch. “Do you still live?” Mrs. Voskuil called out to her husband. Then she reached for her son, Henri. The child did not respond to her cries. She was sure he was dead. “Suddenly I didn’t care what happened,” she says. “It just didn’t matter any more.”
She saw that soldiers and civilians alike were terribly wounded and screaming. In front of her, Major Warr’s tunic was “bloody and gaping open.” Everyone was shouting or sobbing. “Silence,” Mrs. Voskuil yelled in English. “Silence!” The heavy burden across her body was pulled away and then she saw Wyllie nearby. “The English boy got up, shaking visibly. He had his rifle butt on the floor and the bayonet, almost level with my eyes, jerked back and forth as he tried to steady himself. Low animal-like sounds—almost like a dog or a wolf—were coming from him.”
Corporal Wyllie’s head began to clear. Someone had now lit a candle in the cellar, and a German officer gave him a sip of brandy. Wyllie noticed the bottle bore a Red Cross insignia, and underneath the words, “His Majesty’s Forces.” As he was led out Wyllie looked back at the lady “whose child was dead.” He wanted to say something to her but “couldn’t find the words.”*
The German officer asked Mrs. Voskuil to tell the British “they have fought gallantly and behaved like gentlemen, but now they must surrender. Tell them it is over.” As the paratroopers were taken out, a German medical orderly examined Henri. “He is in a coma,” he told Mrs. Voskuil. “He is grazed along the stomach and his eyes are discolored and swollen, but he will be all right.” Mutely she nodded her head.
On the floor Major Warr, his shoulder bones protruding through the skin from the explosion, shouted, cursed and then fell unconscious again. Leaning over, Mrs. Voskuil moistened her handkerchief and wiped the blood from his lips. A short distance away Colonel Smyth mumbled something. A German guard turned, questioningly, toward Mrs. Voskuil. “He wants a doctor,” she said softly. The soldier left the cellar and returned a few minutes later with a German doctor. Examining Smyth, the physician said, “Tell the officer I am sorry to have to hurt him but I must look at his wound. Tell him to grit his teeth.” As he began pulling away the clothing, Smyth fainted.
At daylight the civilians were ordered to leave. Two SS men carried Mrs. Voskuil and Henri out into the street, and a Dutch Red Cross worker directed them to the cellar of a dentist, Dr. Phillip Clous. Voskuil’s parents-in-law did not go. They preferred to take their chances at home. In the Clous house, the dentist warmly welcomed the family. “Don’t worry,” he told Voskuil. “It’s going to be all right. The British will win.” Voskuil, standing beside his wounded wife and child, his mind still filled with the night’s horrors, stared at the man. “No,” he said quietly, “they will not.”
Though they were unwilling to recognize that their endurance had nearly run its course, many paratroopers knew that they could not hold on alone much longer. Staff Sergeant Dudley Pearson was tired “of being pushed around by the Germans.” On the northern edge of the perimeter, he and his men had been chased by tanks, pinned down in woods and forced to fight off the Germans with bayonets. Finally, on Thursday night, as the perimeter tightened, Pearson’s group was ordered to pull back. He was told to cover the withdrawal with a smoke grenade. Nearby he heard a lone Bren gun firing. Scrambling through underbrush he discovered a corporal hidden in a deep hollow in the woods. “Get out,” Pearson told him. “I’m the last one here.” The corporal shook his head. “Not me, sergeant,” he said. “I’m staying. I won’t let those bastards by.” As Pearson made his way back he could hear the Bren-gunner firing. He thought the situation was hopeless. He began to wonder if it wouldn’t be better to surrender.
In a slit trench near the tennis courts at the Hartenstein—where the earth was now crisscrossed with foxholes that the German prisoners had been allowed to dig for their own protection—Glider Pilot Victor Miller stared at the body of another pilot, who lay sprawled a few yards away. Firing had been so intense that men had not been able to remove the dead. Miller saw that since the last mortaring the body was half buried by leaves and shattered branches. He kept staring at the corpse, wondering if anyone would come to pick it up. He was frightened that the features of his dead friend would change, and he was certain there was a “strong smell of death.” He felt sick. He remembers thinking wildly that “if something isn’t done soon, we’ll all be corpses. The shells will eliminate us one by one, until this will be only a park of the dead.”
Other men felt they were being exhorted to keep up courage without access to the facts. Private William O’Brien, near the church in lower Oosterbeek, remembers that “every night an officer came around and told us to hang on, the Second Army would arrive the next day. There was a helluva lot of apathy. Everyone was asking what the hell they were there for and where the hell was the goddam army. We’d had it.” Sergeant Edward Mitchell, a glider pilot, in a position opposite the church, remembers one man locked himself in a nearby shed. “He would let no one near. Every now and again he’d shout, ‘Come on, you bastards,’ and empty a magazine all around the shed.” For hours, the lone trooper alternately shouted and fired, then lapsed into periods of silence. As Mitchell and others debated how to get him out, there was another sharp burst of fire and then silence. Reaching the shed, they found the paratrooper dead.
Here and there shell-shocked, concussed, battle-fatigued men roamed the Hartenstein area, finally oblivious to the battle. Medic Taffy Brace, who on Tuesday had tended the mangled body of his friend, Andy Milbourne, was encountering these tragic, pathetic men as he treated the wounded. By now Brace had run out of morphia, and he was using paper bandages. He could not bring himself to reveal that he had no medication. “What would you be wanting morphia for?” he asked one critically wounded trooper. “Morphia’s for people who are really hurt. You’re doing fine.”
As Brace bandaged the man, he was aware of a strange hooting sound behind him. Turning he saw a totally naked paratrooper, pumping his arms up and down and “sounding like a locomotive.” As Brace caught his eye, the soldier began to curse. “Blast this fireman,” the trooper said, “he was never any good.” In one house near the perimeter Brace, arriving with a casualty, heard a man softly singing “The White Cliffs of Dover.” Thinking the trooper was soothing the other injured, Brace smiled at him and nodded encouragement. The soldier lunged at Brace and tried to choke him. “I’ll kill you,” he yelled. “What do you know about Dover?” Brace loosened the fingers at his throat. “It’s all right,” he said gently, “I’ve been there.” The man stepped back. “Oh,” he said, “that’s all right then.” Minutes later he began to sing again. Others remember a shell-shocked trooper who walked among them at night. Bending over the huddled forms of men trying to sleep he would shake them roughly awake, stare into their eyes and ask them all the same question: “Have you got faith?”
Despite those pitiable, shocked and desperate men whose faith was gone, hundreds of others were bolstered by the actions of eccentric, undaunted soldiers who seemed utterly fearless and who refused to give in to wounds or hardships. Major Dickie Lonsdale, commander of the “Lonsdale Force,” holding positions about the church in lower Oosterbeek, seemed to be everywhere. “His was a figure that would inspire terror,” recalls Sergeant Dudley Pearson. “He had one arm in a bloodstained sling, an equally bloody wrapping around his head and a giant bandage on one leg.” Hobbling about exhorting his men, Lonsdale led attack after attack.
Sergeant Major Harry Callaghan, who had added extra touches to his uniform—he had found a tall black hat in a hearse and wore it everywhere, explaining to the men that he had been named “the Airborne representative to Hitler’s funeral”—remembers the awesome-looking Lonsdale deliver a ringing, defiant speech to men in the church. Officers and noncoms had rounded up troopers and sent them to the ancient ruined building. “The roof was gone,” Callaghan remembers, “and each new explosion sent plaster cascading down.” As soldiers leaned listlessly against walls and broken pews—smoking, lounging, half-asleep—Lonsdale climbed into the pulpit. Men stared upward at the fierce-looking, bloodstained figure. “We’ve fought the Germans in North Africa, Sicily and Italy,” Callaghan remembers Lonsdale saying. “They weren’t good enough for us then! They’re bloody well not good enough for us now!” Captain Michael Corrie of the Glider Pilot Regiment had been struck as he entered the church “by the weariness I saw. But Lonsdale’s speech was stirring. I felt stunned by his words, and proud. The men went in looking beaten, but as they came out, they had new spirit. You could read it on their faces.”
Some men seemed to have overcome even the paralyzing fear that the brute force of enemy armored attacks instilled. With few antitank guns, troopers were helpless against tanks and self-propelled guns that roamed the perimeter, pulverizing position after position. Yet, somehow the foot soldiers were fighting back. Even 60-ton Tigers were destroyed—often by men who had never before fired an antitank gun. Lance Corporal Sydney Nunn, who had eagerly looked forward to Arnhem as an escape from the “nightmare” of his camp in England and the mole which had invaded his mattress, now faced a far more dreadful nightmare with outward calm. He and another paratrooper, Private Nobby Clarke, had become friendly with a glider pilot in an adjoining slit trench. During a lull in the mortaring, the pilot called over to Nunn, “I don’t know whether you know it, old lad, but there’s a whopping great tank out in front to our right. One of the Tiger family.” Clarke looked at Nunn. “What are we supposed to do?” he asked. “Go drill holes in it?”
Cautiously Nunn looked over the edge of the trench. The tank was “enormous.” Nearby in the bushes an antitank gun was concealed, but its crew had been killed, and no one in Nunn’s group knew how to load or fire the weapon. Nunn and the glider pilot decided to crawl to it. As the men climbed out they were spotted and the tank’s gun began firing. “We dug grooves in the soil with our noses, we were that low,” Nunn recalls. “Our little woods began to look like a logging camp as trees came down all around us.” The two men reached the gun just as the Tiger “began to give us personal attention with its machine gun.” The pilot sighted down the barrel of the gun and shouted happily. “Our gun was pointed directly at the tank. If we’d known how to do it, we couldn’t have aimed it better.” Looking at Nunn, the glider pilot said, “I hope this thing works.” He pulled the trigger. In the heavy explosion that followed, both men were thrown on their backs. “When our ears stopped ringing, I heard other men around us begin to laugh and cheer,” Nunn says. As he stared disbelievingly, he saw the Tiger engulfed in flames, its ammunition exploding. Turning to Nunn, the glider pilot solemnly shook hands. “Our game, I think,” he said.
Many men remember Major Robert Cain of the 2nd South Staffordshires as the real expert against tanks and self-propelled guns. It seemed to Cain that he and his men had been pursued and threatened by Tigers ever since they had arrived. Now, with his small force positioned at the church in lower Oosterbeek, in houses and gardens across the road, and in a laundry owned by a family named Van Dolderen, Cain was determined to knock out every piece of armor he saw. Searching for the best site from which to operate, Cain picked the Van Dolderen house. The laundry owner was unwilling to leave. Surveying the back garden, Cain said, “Well, be that as it may, I’m going to dig in out there. I’m using your place for my ammo dump.”
Cain was using the bazookalike antitank weapon known as a Piat to hunt down armor. On Friday, as the street battles grew in intensity, Cain’s eardrums burst from his constant firing. Stuffing pieces of field dressing into his ears he continued lobbing bombs.
Suddenly someone called out to Cain that two tanks were coming up the road. At the corner of a building, Cain loaded the Piat and aimed it. Staff Sergeant Richard Long, a glider pilot, looked on aghast. “He was the bravest man I’ve ever seen,” Long says. “He was only about a hundred yards away when he started to fire.” The tank fired back before Cain could reload, and the shell hit the building in back of him. In the thick swirl of dust and debris, Cain fired again and then again. He saw the crew of the first tank bail out, spraying the street with machine-gun bullets. Immediately around Cain, paratroopers opened up with Bren guns and, Cain remembers, “the Germans were just cut off their feet.” Reloading again, he fired, and Sergeant Long saw “a tremendous flash. The bomb had gone off inside the Piat. Major Cain threw his hands in the air and fell backward. When we got to him, his face was black. His first words were, ‘I think I’m blind.’ ” Staff Sergeant Walton Ashworth, one of the Bren-gunners who had shot up the German tank crew, stared stonily as Cain was taken away. “All I could think was ‘that poor bloody bastard.’ ”
Within half an hour Cain’s sight had returned, but his face was imbedded with bits of metal. He refused morphia and, deciding that he “wasn’t wounded enough to stay where he was,” went back to the battle—as Captain W. A. Taylor described it, “to add to his bag of enemy tanks.” By Friday afternoon, the thirty-five-year-old Cain had a bagful. Since landing on the eighteenth he had put out of action or driven off a total of six tanks, plus a number of self-propelled guns.
Ferocious men throughout the airhead were making heroic stands, unmindful of their own safety. By dusk on Friday Corporal Leonard Formoy, one of the survivors of Colonel Fitch’s 3rd Battalion, who had made the desperate march to reach Frost’s men at the Arnhem bridge, occupied a position on the western outskirts not far from Division headquarters at the Hartenstein. “We were being hit from practically all sides,” Formoy remembers. Suddenly a Tiger tank, coming from the direction of Arnhem, rumbled toward the cluster of men around Formoy. In the twilight Formoy saw the turret swivel. Sergeant “Cab” Calloway picked up a Piat and rushed forward. “You’re going where I’m going!” Formoy heard him yell. Approximately fifty yards away from the tank, Calloway fired. The bomb exploded against the tracks and the tank stopped, but Calloway was killed at almost the same moment by its guns. “It was an act of desperation,” Formoy remembers. “He was just ripped in half, but he saved our lives.”
Private James Jones remembers an unknown major who asked Jones and three others to go with him outside the perimeter on a search for guns and ammunition. The small party came suddenly upon some Germans in a machine-gun nest. Leaping up, the major fired, yelling, “There’s some more of those bastards who won’t live!” As the Germans opened up, the group scattered and Jones was trapped behind a disabled jeep. “I said a prayer, waited for another burst from the gun, and got back to the lines,” Jones recalls. He never saw the major again.
Senior officers, often unaware of the impression they made, set examples their men would never forget. Brigadier Pip Hicks refused to wear a helmet throughout the battle. Trooper William Chandler, one of Major Freddie Gough’s Reconnaissance Squadron men whose group had been cut off on the northern, Leopard route on Sunday and had been moved back to a crossroads at Oosterbeek, remembers Hicks’s red beret standing out among groups of helmeted men. “Hey, Brigadier,” someone called out, “put your bloody helmet on.” Hicks just smiled and waved. “I wasn’t trying to be debonair,” Hicks explains. “I just couldn’t stand the damn thing bouncing around on my head.” His activities might have had something to do with that. Some men recall Hicks’s frequent daily trips to Urquhart’s headquarters. He started each journey at a jog and ended up sprinting a step ahead of German shellfire. “I felt fully my age when I finished those mad dashes,” Hicks confesses.
Brigadier Shan Hackett, who had brought his battered 10th and 156th battalions back to the Oosterbeek area after their brave but futile attempt to break through the German defenses to the north and east and get to Arnhem, visited his men constantly, offering them quiet words of praise. Major George Powell was commanding two platoons of the 156th in perimeter positions to the north. “We were short on food, ammunition and water,” Powell remembers, “and we had few medical supplies.” On Friday Hackett suddenly appeared at Powell’s command post, where, says Powell, “we were literally poking right into the enemy’s lines.” Hackett explained that he had not had time to visit Powell until now, “but you’ve been holding so well, George, I wasn’t worried about you.” Powell was pleased. “The only real mistake I’ve made so far, sir,” he said, “is putting the headquarters in a chicken run. We’re all alive with fleas.” To Staff Sergeant Dudley Pearson, chief clerk of the 4th Brigade, Hackett earned respect because “he shared with us as though he had no rank. If we ate, he did, and if we went hungry, so did he. He didn’t seem to have a mess kit. On Friday he sat down with us and ate a little piece of food with his fingers.” Pearson went to find a knife and fork. On the way back he was wounded in the heel; but, he says, “I thought the Brigadier rather deserved something better than the way he was living among us.”
And Signalman Kenneth Pearce, attached to Command Artillery Signals at Division headquarters, will always remember the man who came to his aid. Pearce was in charge of the heavy storage batteries, called “Dags”—each weighing approximately twenty-five pounds and encased in a wooden box with cast-iron handles—that powered the signal sets. In the late evening Pearce was struggling to move a fresh Dag from the deep trench in which they were stored. Above him, he heard someone say, “Here, let me help you.” Pearce directed the man to grab one handle and pull up the set. Together the two dragged the cumbersome box to the command-post trench. “There’s one more,” Pearce said. “Let’s go get it.” The men made the second trip and, back at the command post, Pearce jumped into the trench as the other man hoisted the boxes down to him. As they walked away Pearce suddenly noticed that the man wore red staff officer’s tabs. Stopping dead, he stammered, “Thank you very much, sir.” General Urquhart nodded. “That’s all right, son,” he said.
Step by terrible step the crisis was mounting; nothing went right on this day, which General Horrocks was to call “Black Friday.” Weather conditions in both England and Holland again grounded Allied planes, preventing resupply missions. In answer to Urquhart’s plea for fighter strikes, the R.A.F. replied: “… After most careful examination regret owing to storm unable to accept …” And, at this moment, when Horrocks needed every man, tank and ton of supplies to retain Montgomery’s bridgehead over the Rhine and break through to the Red Devils, Field Marshal Model’s counteroffensive finally succeeded in cutting the corridor. Thirty minutes after receiving Mackenzie’s message that Urquhart might be overrun in twenty-four hours, General Horrocks received another message: in the 101st Airborne’s sector, powerful German armored forces had cut the corridor north of Veghel.
Model could hardly have chosen a more vital spot or timed his attack better. British infantry forces of the XII and VIII Corps, advancing on either side of the highway, had only now reached Son, barely five miles into the 101st’s area. Fighting against stiff resistance, they had made agonizingly slow progress. The 101st’s commander, General Taylor, had expected the British to reach his sector of “Hell’s Highway” long before. After more than five days of continuous fighting without support, Taylor’s hard-pressed troopers were thinly spread and vulnerable. Along some stretches the highway was unguarded except by the British armor and infantry moving along it on the way north. Elsewhere, the “front” was literally the sides of the road. Field Marshal Model had chosen to counterattack at Veghel for a particular reason: throughout the entire length of the Market-Garden corridor the Veghel area contained the greatest cluster of bridges—no fewer than four, of which one was a major canal crossing. With one stroke Model hoped to strangle the Allied lifeline. He almost did. He might have succeeded, but for the Dutch underground.
During the night and early morning, in villages and hamlets east of Veghel, the Dutch spotted the German buildup; they promptly phoned liaison officers with the 101st. The warning came not a moment too soon. Massed German armor almost overwhelmed Taylor’s men. Twice in four hours, in a wild melee that ranged over a five-mile stretch of the corridor, German tanks tried to push through to the bridges. Desperately, Taylor’s men, aided by British artillery and armor on the road, threw back the attacks. But four miles to the north, at Uden, the Germans succeeded in cutting the corridor. Now, with the battle still raging and the forces in the rear cut off and isolated, Horrocks was forced to make a fateful decision: he would have to send armored units—urgently needed in his efforts to reach Urquhart—back south down the corridor to help General Taylor, whose need was now even more urgent. The 32nd Guards Brigade was sent rushing south to support the 101st in reopening the highway. The gallant 101st would hang on to the bridges, but even with the help of the Guards, not a man, tank or supply vehicle would move north along the corridor for the next twenty-four hours. Model’s counteroffensive, though unsuccessful for the moment, had still paid enormous dividends. In the end, the battle for the corridor would decide the fate of Arnhem.
By 4 P.M. on Friday, September 22, in the Nijmegen-Arnhem area—six and one-half hours after they had first been pinned down by German tanks and artillery—British infantrymen finally bludgeoned their way through Oosterhout. The village was in flames, and SS prisoners were being rounded up. The relief route west of the “island” highway, the low-lying secondary roads used by the enterprising Household Cavalry in their race to Driel at dawn, was now believed to be free or, at worst, only lightly held by the enemy. The 5th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, supported by a squadron of Dragoon Guards’ tanks and carrying the precious two amphibious vehicles loaded with supplies, was ready to slam through whatever opposition remained and dash for the Rhine. Lieutenant Colonel George Taylor, commanding the force, was so eager to get to Urquhart that he “felt a mad desire to sweep my infantry onto the tanks with my hands and get moving.”
In a small wood north of Oosterhout, his loaded vehicles waited to move out. Suddenly, off in the distance, Taylor spotted two Tiger tanks. Quietly he warned Lieutenant David Wilcox, his intelligence officer, “Don’t say anything. I don’t want anyone to know about those tanks. We can’t stop now.” Taylor waved the relief column up the road. “If we had waited five minutes more,” he says, “I knew the route would have been closed again.”
At full speed—his infantry mounted on tanks, carriers and trucks—Taylor’s column rolled through Dutch hamlets and villages. Everywhere they were met by surprised, cheering villagers, but there was no slowdown. Taylor’s only concern was to get to the Rhine. “I felt a sense of great urgency,” he says. “Any time lost would give the enemy an opportunity to move up a blocking force.” The convoy met no opposition, and for Taylor, “it was an exhilarating feeling as the light faded rapidly and the head of the column reached Driel.” They had covered the ten-mile journey in just thirty minutes. At 5:30 P.M. the first tanks of the Dragoon Guards reached the Rhine and, skirting northeast along its banks, moved into the outskirts of the village. Taylor heard an explosion and guessed immediately what it was: on the cautious Sosabow-ski’s defense perimeter, one of the tanks had run over a Polish mine.
It was dark when Taylor reached Sosabowski’s headquarters. The information he had about Urquhart’s division was vague. “I had no idea where they were in Arnhem or if they still held one end of the bridge.” But Taylor planned to send his infantry and tanks immediately toward the southern end. He knew the DUKWs must get “across as soon as possible and if the bridge was still held it would be obviously quicker to drive them across than to float them over.” At Sosabowski’s headquarters, Taylor was astonished to find Colonel Charles Mackenzie and Lieutenant Colonel Myers. Quickly they dissuaded him from heading out for the Arnhem bridge. Nothing had been heard from Frost, Mackenzie explained, since Wednesday night and it was presumed at headquarters that “it was all over at the bridge.”
Reluctantly Taylor gave up his plan and ordered out a reconnaissance group to scout along the riverbank for a site from which the DUKWs might be launched. Sosabowski’s engineers were not optimistic; the awkward amphibious vehicles would prove cumbersome to manhandle across ditches and banks down to the river, especially in the dark. A short while later Taylor’s reconnaissance group confirmed the Poles’ opinion. The river could be approached, they thought, only by one narrow ditch-lined road. In spite of the serious obstacles, Taylor’s men believed they could get the DUKWs down to the Rhine. Colonel Mackenzie, still unable to continue on to Nijmegen, would oversee the launching. The DUKWs would cross the river at 2 A.M. on Saturday, the twenty-third. First priority, however, was to get men into the bridgehead: Sosabowski’s Poles had to be ferried over in the little string of rubber boats.
At 9 P.M. on Friday night that operation began. Silently crouching along the riverbank, the Polish soldiers waited. On both sides of the river engineers, under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Myers, stood ready to pull the hawser attaching the rubber dinghies back and forth. In just four boats—two 2-man and two 1-man dinghies—only six men could cross the 400-yard-wide Rhine at a time. Supplementing the craft were several wooden rafts that the Polish engineers had constructed to carry small supplies and stores. On Sosabowski’s order the first six men got into the boats and moved out. Within a few minutes the men were across. Behind them came a string of rafts. As fast as men landed on the northern bank the boats and rafts were hauled back. “It was a slow, laborious process,” Sosabowski noted, “but so far the Germans seemed to suspect nothing.”
Then, from a point to the west of the landing site across the river a light shot up into the sky, and almost immediately the whole area was brilliantly lit by a magnesium parachute flare. Instantly Spandau machine guns began raking the river, “stirring up small waves and making the water boil with hot steel,” Sosabowski recalls. Simultaneously, mortar shells began to fall among the waiting Poles. Within minutes two rubber boats were riddled, their occupants heaved into the river. On the southern bank, men scattered, firing at the parachute flare. In the wild melee, Sosabowski halted the operation. Men moved back and took up new positions, trying to avoid the bursting mortar shells. The moment the flare dimmed and burned out, they ran to the boats and rafts, climbed in, and the crossings began again. Another flare burst in the sky. In this cruel game of hide-and-seek the Poles, suffering terrible casualties, continued to cross the river all night in the remaining boats. At the schoolhouse in Driel which had been temporarily turned into a casualty station, Cora Baltussen tended the injured as they were brought in. “We can’t get across,” a Pole told her. “It’s a slaughter up there—and we can’t even fire back.”
At 2 A.M., Taylor’s amphibious DUKWs began moving down to the river. Because of heavy rain during the day, the low, narrow, ditch-lined road was inches thick in mud. And, as the DUKWs, surrounded by sixty men, slowly approached the river, a heavy ground mist formed. Men could not see either the road or the river. Again and again, struggling soldiers labored to straighten the vehicles as they slid off the road. Supplies were unloaded to lighten the DUKWs, but even this was not enough. Finally, despite strenuous efforts to hold them back, the cumbersome vehicles slid into the ditch only yards from the Rhine. “It’s no good,” the despairing Mackenzie told Taylor. “It’s just hopeless.” At 3 A.M., the entire operation came to a halt. Only fifty men and almost no supplies had been ferried across the river into Urqu-hart’s bridgehead.
*Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe, p. 516.
*The names of the famous British regiments involved always caused confusion for Americans—especially when they were abbreviated. At First Allied Airborne headquarters a message concerning the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry arrived, reading, “5DCLI are to make contact with 1 Airborne Division …” The puzzled duty officer finally decoded the message. He reported “Five Duck Craft Landing Infantry” were on their way to Urquhart.
*Wyllie never again saw the Voskuils, nor did he know their names. For years he worried about the woman in the cellar and the child he believed dead. Today young Henri Voskuil is a doctor.