Posted by: sommecourt | 12/09/2009

65 Years Since Arnhem

Sixty five years ago men of the Airborne Army were pre-paring for the largest airborne operation of the Second World War which would later always be defined by one place, Arnhem. Operation Market Garden saw both American and British airborne troops drop along a narrow corridor with the aim of capturing bridge after bridge until Arnhem was secure – and a foothold for the entry into Germany would be gained. Supported by ground troops advancing up the same narrow corridor, the operation nearly succeeded. But of the 10,000 men of 1st Airborne Division who dropped into the area around Arnhem itself, only 2,000 got back. The rest were killed or taken prisoner. War Correspondent Alan Wood later remarked, “‘If in the years to come, you meet a man who says, “I was at Arnhem”, raise your hat and buy him a drink” and certainly there is something about those who fought in what the Germans called The Cauldron.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting another of these fine men, Reg Curtis. Reg served with the Grenadier Guards, joining in 1937 and serving at Dunkirk in 1940. He volunteered for the Parachute Regiment on its formation and served with 1st Battalion in North Africa, Sicily and at Arnhem, where he was badly wounded and lost a leg. He spent most of the battle in the Tafelberg, a hotel then used as a hospital, before being taken prisoner. Reg had published two books on his war experiences, the most recent of which is one entitled Tafelberg about his time and Arnhem and full of interesting stories, and rarely seen illustrations. Details can be found on his website: Talfelberg by Reg Curtis.

Every September my mind wanders to Arnhem, even if my body doesn’t. What happened there has fascinated me ever since I saw A Bridge Too Far in the 1970s. I must have read almost every book on the battle, and visited the ground countless times. Holland in the early autumn often has golden sunshine that casts long shadows among the trees and leafy glades of Oosterbeek. The sun sets across the Lower Rhine, but the sun must never set on the story of men like Reg. We owe them debt we can probably never repay, except to remember those who stayed behind, and whose souls cast their own shadows at The White House, The Bakery, or among their gardens and fields that once they mastered.



  1. Hi Paul, very well put indeed. From the Grandson of an Arnhem veteran.

  2. Thanks – much appreciated.

  3. […] You find the original post here sommecourt.wordpress … | sommecourt […]

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