Heroes Return Blog – Stories from Second World War veterans’ trips

Arnhem: a bridge too far

September 2010 was the 66th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation in history. Over 86,000 Allied troops took part, their aim to seize control of bridges and river crossings in Germany and the Netherlands from the German Army. Control of the Rhine was crucial to the success of Market Garden but the bridge at Arnhem proved to be a bridge too far

Gerry Dimmock, (pictured left) 90, from Newton Stewart in the Scottish Borders was one of the 10,000 troops that landed at Arnhem on 17 September 1944. Gerry says, “We were part of the force that was sent in by military glider, which were engineless aircraft that were towed in the air and used to drop troops as near as possible to the target zone.

Because they didn’t have engines they had no control of where they landed and we were also being shot by German soldiers. Many of my comrades lost their lives before they even landed on Dutch soil.

The troops were supposed to hold the bridge at Arnhem for 24 hours but the brave few held out for nine days before making their dramatic escape.

Only 2,000 men were able to move along the front line; the rest were either killed or captured by the Nazis. Gerry was one of the lucky ones and he made his escape by swimming 500 metres across the Rhine.

“I had to discard my uniform and my kit as they would have weighed me down. Luckily I was pulled out the other side by a British guardsman.”

In September 2010, Gerry travelled to Arnhem with the Liverpool Arnhem Veterans’ Club to take part in commemorative services and a parade across the bridge itself.

“This trip was very emotional for me as I met up with an old friend, Harry Houghton. It’s the first time I’d seen him since we completed our parachute training. In the Battalion (10th Para) we were all very close – more so in wartime as you don’t know how much longer you are going to live!

“I didn’t know that Harry had survived Arnhem as during the battle I was a jeep driver moving between the lines picking up survivors. I probably picked him up and took him to the dressing station at Oosterbeek.

“Of the 750 battalion members, there are now only 13 still alive today.

“I’ve been back seven times since the Second World War and I so look forward to each visit as I get to meet old comrades and take part in all the events.

“I’m always upset when I visit the cemeteries to pay my respects and remember those who didn’t come home.”

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It was an exciting time for me as an 11 year old seeing all the British walk by my house on the Noordelijke Parallelweg just across from the hospital. But then the Germans came back and wanted all the food we had hoarded for the winter, including about 80 jars of applesauce and blueberries. Later when we had to leave our house it was looted and what was not taken was smashed to pieces. We never came back because all the windows were broken and glass was not available. The house still stands today and even the front door is still there with a repair from 1946 intact. Only our cat made out while we were gone, he ate the pigeons from the neighbor. Our bikes were stolen and any silverware we had, my sisters dolls were in the street. Also 2 motorcycles hidden and apart in the attic were gone. Bob Groos

Comment by robert groos

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