Monday, October 05, 2009

"I fought at Arnhem"

(Top) An Arnhem veteran at the bridge after the war
Private Hugh McGuinness, Border Regiment (left) and a Dutch civilian
[Photo: Courtesy of McGuinness family]
(Bottom): The ‘John Frost Bridge’ at Arnhem, September 2008
[Photo: J. Ritson]

In summing up 'Operation Market Garden', which took place in September 1944, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery said:

"In years to come it will be a great thing for a man to be able to say, 'I fought at Arnhem'."

Private Hugh McGuinness from Whitehaven, Cumberland served in the British 1st Airborne Division during the Battle of Arnhem / Oosterbeek, although during the battle his section never got as far as the bridge seen in the above photographs. Other Allied troops, led by John Frost, did manage to reach the northern side of the bridge and held out for several days. Afterwards, the modern bridge at Arnhem has been renamed ‘John Frost Bridge’ to commemorate this action.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(1) 'Market Garden'

'Operation Market-Garden' in September 1944 involved both airborne and ground-based Allied troops. The airborne element (‘Market’) was to take and hold the bridges of the Netherlands leading into Germany. At the same time the ground-based troops would make their way through the Netherlands to link up with the airborne troops (‘Garden’).

If it proved a total success the road into Germany would be open. After heavy fighting, the ground-based Allied troops were able to take and hold most of their objectives, although they were unable to take command of the final bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem.

However, despite a courageous effort by the British 1st Airborne Division, other Allied troops and the Dutch underground their attempt to take and hold the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem proved to be 'A Bridge Too Far'. The Allies were forced to withdraw from the Arnhem / Oosterbeek area to the southern bank of the Rhine.


(2) Help from the Dutch

Among those left behind when the Allies withdrew across the Rhine on 25 September 1944 was Private Hugh McGuinness from Whitehaven, Cumberland, 1st Battalion The Border Regiment (Service No 3597882). At that time 1st Border formed part of the British 1st Airborne Division as Glider-borne troops. Private McGuinness was a member of 21 Platoon, D Company. They were among the first Airborne troops to land near Oosterbeek on 17 September 1944 and in the thick of the fighting throughout the battle, even after the withdrawal of what was left of the main force.

During the ebb and flow of the battle Private McGuinness and his section were able to take shelter with a Dutch family. After the war Hugh McGuinness, his wife Irene and other members of the McGuinness family returned to the area and met up with the Dutch people who helped them in 1944 - it is believed the gentleman in the photograph with Private McGuinness belongs to this family. Later on the Dutch family wanted to emigrate from the Netherlands to the USA.

At that time the Americans would not let known Nazi sympathisers into the country so they had to furnish some evidence to show they had not supported the Nazi cause during the Occupation. Private Hugh McGuinness was able to provide the family with a written witness statement to confirm they had helped his section during the Battle of Arnhem / Oosterbeek. This was taken as proof that they had supported the Allied cause during the war so they were allowed to enter the United States.


Monday, 05 October, 2009  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(3) The final surrender at Oosterbeek

Private Hugh McGuinness was among the last of the Allied troops British Allies to surrender, on 26 September 1944. Private McGuinness and his section were guarding the perimeter near the Allied HQ at the Hartenstein Hotel, Oosterbeek along with the 2nd in command of D Company, Captain William K. Hodgson.

On the last morning they received word that everyone else who was still capable of fighting had withdrawn across the Rhine or had already surrendered. The wounded and the medical personnel tending them had also surrendered. The Commanding Officer of D Company, Major Charles F.O. Breese, although wounded, had managed to get away. Captain Hodgson was seriously wounded, and in fact died later that day.

After the war, Private McGuinness wrote the following statement for Major Charles Breese (by then a Brigadier) explaining the last action of the Battle of Arnhem / Oosterbeek:

"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 wee 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."

[Source: Border Regiment & KORBR Museum and Archives, Queen Mary’s Tower, The Castle, Carlisle]


(4) Captain William K. Hodgson

Captain William Kitching Hodgson, Service No 129359, was the son of John P. Hodgson and Bertha T. Hodgson from Milnthorpe, Westmorland (now Cumbria). As stated above, Captain Hodgson was 2nd in command of D Company, 1st Battalion The Border Regiment Border during 'Operation Market Garden'. After dying of wounds on 26 September 1944 he was first buried at Renkum General Cemetery and is now buried in Oosterbeek War Cemetery (Grave Ref: 1.C.2).

Monday, 05 October, 2009  

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