Posted by: sommecourt | 15/08/2012

Review: Lost At Nijmegen

Lost At Nijmegen by R.G.Poulussen (By the Author 2011); 72pp, illustrated, maps.

One of the more memorable sequences in ‘A Bridge Too Far’ is when the bridge is Nijmegen is taken by US Airborne troops, at high cost. The bridge secure at both ends, British armour rolls across and then stops on the road to Arnhem. The British break out their Tommy cookers and brew up, much to the frustration of the Americans who begin to feel their sacrifice was for nothing. For many the episode highlighted not only the often strained relationship between the Allies, but also pointed to a fundamental point in Operation Market Garden where it finally went wrong and the chance of reaching Arnhem was at an end. But was this really the turning point?

A new book on the battle by Dutch author R.G. Poulussen indicates that the real battle for the Nijmegen Bridge over the river Waal was lost long before the Guards Armoured Shermans even arrived. Poulussen lives locally and is one of the many Dutch historians who have added much to our understanding of the battle, the research they do often leaving many English speaking scholars behind. The essential premise of the book is that General Gavin, commanding 82nd Airborne, wasted an opportunity to take the Waal Bridge when his troops first dropped into the area on 17th September 1944, right at the beginning of the battle. Instead of sending men to secure the vital route to Arnhem, he became concerned about counter-attacks across the nearby Groesbeek Heights and sent troops there; it would be three days before his men returned to Nijmegen by which time taking the bridge was a much more complex proposition.

Poulussen has researched the topic well and used a variety of sources to support his thesis, including those from both American and Dutch archives. He shows clearly that key units of 82nd Airborne jumped into Holland without a true awareness of how key the Waal Bridge was in the whole operation and their commanders seemingly had little chance to use their initiative. At one point his demonstrates that a company of one Parachute Infantry Regiment was less than a mile from the Bridge on the first day, but the caution preached to their commander stopped them from taking the chance to make an assault.

The book is a fascinating insight into a rarely considered aspect of the battle, which many no doubt think is well covered in official histories. It shows that nearly seventy years after Arnhem we are still learning more about the operation, despite the huge numbers of books that have been published down the decades.

This highly recommended book can be purchased online via the author’s website at



  1. My father was there with 2 battalion of the 504th.. I’ d love to read your book. If you could let me know how to order, I’d be most greatful. Brenda daught of 1stSgt. Johnnie Collins

  2. The web link to buy the book is at the end of the article above.

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