The Battle of Arnhem and an evening in Nijmegen with Tauck
This morning, those of us aboard Tauck’s new ms Inspire were able to kick back and enjoy an unexpected second cup of coffee. Owing to heavy congestion at the locks in our path, our arrival into the Dutch city of Arnhem was delayed from 9:00a.m. to 9:45a.m..
However, this had no impact on our touring schedule, other than putting it slightly behind. But Tauck Cruise Director Steve kept everyone constantly appraised of the situation, particularly as it became apparent that, after 20 minutes of waiting, we’d be stopped at the lock for a long time.
Once we cleared it, however, Arnhem was an easy five minutes away. We came alongside, the coaches reversed down the pier (an impressive move I first saw Tauck perform in Regensburg a few years ago) and pulled up next to the ship. Another fifteen minutes, and we were on our way.
To understand Arnhem and the Battle of Arnhem – which was the basis for the movie A Bridge Too Far – here’s the situation, summarized: in 1944, the Allies were searching for a route that would allow them to continue their aggressive expansion east and into the heart of Germany. The solution was Operation Market Garden, which was put into effect on 17 September 1944.
The battle was not a success. British and Canadian forces were overwhelmed by the unusually-strong German response, and the majority of divisions were never able to fight their way out of the Arnhem city limits. Inadequate intelligence had led the British to believe the operation would be a cakewalk, when in fact the Dutch Resistance had been warning of a strong German presence in and around Arnhem.
By Monday, 25 September 1944, a rescue mission was underway.
Despite its historical importance, Arnhem today has the appearance of a town ravaged by the economic downturn. Vacant businesses with “For Lease” and “For Sale” signs litter the downtown district, and graffiti is everywhere. Some of the graffiti is very politically motivated, questioning everything from the recession to the rampant increase in immigration that has proven problematic for many European countries.
Our first stop of the day was the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, or more simply, the Airborne Cemetery. Here, 1759 graves from those who died in the Battle of Arnhem are buried, including 1392 servicemen from the United Kingdom; 73 from Poland; 32 from Canada; six from the Netherlands; and four from both Australia and New Zealand.
There is also a single American buried at the Airborne Cemetery; in fact, the remains of Allied and German forces who perished in the battle are still being found to this day.
The saddest thing ever was a note, its ink partially erased by the rain, left on the grave of a 27-year old from England. It began with the word ‘Dad:” and included the sentence “I’ve brought your great-grandchildren to see you.” Below the note was an English-style Poppy, typically worn on clothing during the run-up to Remembrance Day on November 11.
Seventy years have passed since these men died, yet their legacies are still being remembered and honoured to this day.
Our Live Voyage Report from the maiden voyage of Tauck’s new ms Inspire continues tomorrow as we discover the city of Rotterdam and spend some quality time sailing the Rhine River! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.