Sunday, May 27, 2007

A wedding and a happy ending to 1945

This wedding photograph of 3597882 Private Hugh McGuinness, 1st Battalion The Border Regiment and his bride, the former Miss Irene Hollman of Whitehaven, Cumberland (now Cumbria) was taken on 29 December 1945. It is used with the permission of the McGuinness family. During the Second World War Hugh McGuinness served firstly with the 5th Battalion (T.A.) The Border Regiment before transferring to the 1st Battalion which became part of the Airborne Division.

In September 1944 - towards the end of the Battle of Arnhem - Regimental records show that Hugh McGuinness was among the last troops to surrender. His platoon only did so when ordered to do so after virtually everyone else capable of doing so had withdrawn. Virtually everyone else who remained was dead, dying, wounded or those caring for them. For the remainder of the war, Hugh was a Prisoner of War. For a time, Hugh’s sweetheart, family and friends did not know what had happened to him. As this photograph proves Hugh’s wartime story had a happy ending.

Like many other servicemen and women, after the war Hugh McGuinness rarely spoke to his family and friends about his wartime experiences. However, at the request of his C.O., Hugh McGuinness did leave an account in his own words about the final surrender of the Allied bridgehead of Operation Market Garden. This can now be found in the Border Regiment and KORBR Museum at Carlisle, Cumbria. For further details about 1st Border in Operation Market Garden and Hugh’s account of the final surrender click on ‘Comments’ below.

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Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The final surrender of the Allied bridgehead during Operation Market Garden

In September 1944 the Allies launched Operation Market Garden planning to drive a bridgehead through the German occupied Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands). The intention had been to land airborne troops to guard the bridges that were necessary for the ground troops following on and enter Germany after securing the last bridge before Germany at Arnhem.

The Arnhem Bridge has gone down in history as ‘A Bridge Too Far’. After several days fighting, the Allied airborne troops had fallen back to a defensive line in the nearby Oosterbeek. Eventually, a planned withdrawal of the main force of Allied troops was executed, leaving only the dead, wounded, medical staff and padres, plus a very small number of soldiers still able to man the last line of defence. These troops left behind were left with no other option but to surrender to the Germans.

Among the troops manning the perimeter of the final Allied bridgehead near the Hartenstein Hotel in the Oosterbeek area was ‘D Company’ of the 1st Battalion The Border Regiment. The Officer Commanding was Major Charles Frederick Osborne Breese (Service No 66138) who was wounded and managed to be evacuated back to the Allied lines. Second in Command of ‘D’ Company’ was Captain William Kitching Hodgson (Service No 129359) from Milnthorpe, Westmorland (now Cumbria).

According to information held by the Border Regiment Archives ‘D Company’ of 1st Border heard about the Allied evacuation from Sapper Stan Holden, R.E. All the other Allied troops had been surrendered to the enemy, mainly for the welfare of the many wounded who needed medical attention.

Later on, after the war ended one of the soldiers of ‘D Company’, Private Hugh McGuinness from Whitehaven, Cumberland wrote to Major Breese at Major Breese’s request, about the final surrender of ‘D Company’:

“When we couldn’t fight any more, we just sat and waited for the Hun to come, but still he wouldn’t come until we told him we had no more ammunition. The SS Captain asked me where my commander was.

I took him to Captain Hodgson, whom he saluted. Captain Hodgson was mortally wounded and could not respond. The German thanked him and us for an honourable fight. They treated us with great respect and said we were the finest soldiers they had come into combat with. When he found out how many of us were left capable of fighting he said that had he known, he would have taken the position two days ago”.

Private Hugh McGuinness spent the next few months until the end of the war as a prisoner of war of the Germans. He subsequently returned to his hometown of Whitehaven, Cumberland (now Cumbria). On a rather happier day Hugh McGuinness married to Miss Irene Hollman on 31 December 1945.

Major C.F.O. Breese became a Brigadier. As the testimony of Hugh McGuinness states, Captain W.K. Hodgson was mortally wounded just before the final surrender of the Battle of Arnhem. Captain Hodgson was first buried at Renkum General Cemetery, Netherlands and eventually laid to rest at Oosterbeek War Graves Cemetery (Grave Ref. W.C.1 C.2).

Hugh McGuinness sadly passed away on 3 May 1980 at the relatively early age of 59. His headstone includes the emblems of 1st Border Airborne Forces and the Parachute Regiment. Mrs Irene McGuinness passed away on 21 September 1993, 49 years after Operation Market Garden.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Hugh and Irene McGuinness. “Peace be with you”.

[Acknowledgements: Mr Stuart Eastwood (Curator) and Mr Tony Goddard (Assistant Curator) of the Border Regiment and KORBR Museum for their assistance in researching the records].

Sunday, 27 May, 2007  

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