At the end of May a group of adventurous OBs, partners and friends of the School thoroughly enjoyed a four day battlefield tour to Holland to learn more about Operation Market Garden. This Operation took place in the Second World War in September 1944 and was made famous by the 1977 film ‘A Bridge Too Far’ which had an amazing cast (including OB Simon Chandler) and was directed by Richard Attenborough. The strategic plan, devised by Montgomery, was for the allied forces to break out of Belgium and on into Germany by seizing the key river crossing points in Holland across the Maas River and two arms of the Rhine, the Waal and Lower Rhine, as well as a number of tributaries and canals.
In simple terms the plan, which was put together in a matter of days, was for the US 101st Airborne Division to drop in two locations to take the bridges northwest of Eindhoven and Veghel. The US 82nd Airborne Division would drop north east of them to take the bridges at Grave and Nijmegen, and the British 1st Airborne Division, along with the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, would drop to the extreme north and capture the road bridge at Arnhem and rail bridge at Oosterbeek. While the airborne forces (made up of soldiers who would deploy by parachute and glider) held their objectives XXX Corps would push up the road (later to be called Hells Highway) to link up with the airborne forces and relieve them after they had held the bridges for a maximum of 48 hours. As many are aware the plan soon ran into huge problems and resulted in a large number of allied and civilian casualties, along with the destruction of parts of Arnhem and Oosterbeek. In the end XXX Corps never captured the bridge at Arnhem, and the forces finally withdrew from Oosterbeek after eight days of heavy fighting rather than 48 hours.
In Holland the party was able to look at this offensive in detail and to learn why it had not gone to plan. Many thanks to our tour guide, Philip Pearce who gave us an amazing insight in such an entertaining way. The tour catered for all levels of interest and there was a good balance between historical, cultural and social activities. The social component is very important on trips like this, and everybody enjoyed meeting one another and sharing this special experience. We finished with some time for reflection at the Oosterbeek War Cemetery, where we joined together for a short act of remembrance at the grave of Old Bedfordian Captain Gareth Drayson (1931-1935), who was a doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Regimental Medical Officer for 10 Para battalion. A wreath was laid in memory of all Old Bedfordians who had taken part in this operation, and all military and civilians who had been involved in this gruelling part of the Second World War.
In 2016 we plan to run another Battlefield Tour which is likely to visit some of the battlefields and cemeteries of the First World War in Northern France. Please look out for details or contact the OB Club Office if you are interested in attending. Whether you are a keen historian or always have just had a vague interest in making this sort of trip you will be most welcome.