Walking around Oosterbeek, you will pass numerous sites of interest to anyone interested in in the Market component of the Market-Garden operation. These sites will also be familiar to anyone who has seen the 1946 British film “Theirs is the Glory” directed by Brian Desmond Hurst.
For anyone visiting the Operation Market-Garden area, you will need the essential book “Major and Mrs Holt’s Battle Guide – Operation Market-Garden” ISBN 0-85052-785-6.
This article is about a walk that I did, planned using information from that essential publication.
Walking down the Pietersbergseweg, with the Airborne Museum Hartenstein on your right-hand side, you will arrive at The Hotel Tafelberg.
THE HOTEL TAFELBERG
In September 1944 the Hotel Tafelberg had become the HQ of Field-Marshal Model, the Commander-in-Chief of Heeresgruppe B. Whilst having his lunch on Sunday 17 September 1944, he received news of the British Paratroopers landing at Wolfheze. Thinking that the troops had been sent to capture him, the Tafelberg and Hartestein were both evacuated.
A dressing station was established at the Tafelberg on 18 September 1944 and Captain Michael Jones of 181st AL Field Ambulance set up his operating facilities. By the 21st September, the Tafelberg was going in and out of German hands but, assisted by local Dutch civilians, the facility continued to treat the wounded until the evacuation of the remaining British forces back across the Lower Rhine.
Keep walking down the Pietersbergseweg, until it joins the Kneppelhoutweg. Turn left into the Kneppelhoutweg and continue down the road until the junction with the Benedendorpsweg. At this junction turn left into the Benedendorpsweg and a short distance along this road you will come to the Old Oosterbeek Dutch Reformed Church.
THE OLD OOSTERBEEK DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH
It was here, on 19 September 1944, that survivors from a mixture of units including 1st, 3rd and 11th Battalions, The Parachute Regiment, the South Staffordshires and some glider pilots were gathered and organised by Major Lonsdale. The famous speech, given by Lonsdale, was recreated for the film “Theirs is the Glory”.
When it was decided to evacuate the remaining troops from the Oosterbeek pocket, the route took the soldiers down to the land behind the church and across the Lower Rhine.
When standing in front of the church, to your right-hand side you will see the Kate Ter Horst House.
THE KATE TER HORST HOUSE
The house is the old Rectory, where during Operation Market, many wounded soldiers were treated by army medical personnel and local Dutch residents. 58 of the approximately 300 patients died and were buried in the house’s garden; they were subsequently moved to the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery.
Kate Ter Host recreated her role in the film “Theirs is the Glory”.
The house is a private dwelling so please respect people’s privacy.
Returning to the Benedendorpsweg, with the church on your right-hand side. Continuing to walk along this road, in the direction of Arnhem, on your left-hand side, you will come to the corner of the junction Benedendorpsweg and Acaclalaan.
The tree and metal plaque at this junction marks the location where Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield did the acts for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
John Daniel Baskeyfield was born on 18 November 1922 in Burslem, Staffordshire. At the time of the capaign, Baskeyfield was a member of the South Staffordshire Regiment (1st Airborne Division).
The citation for his posthumous Victoria Cross is reproduced below (London Gazette 23 November 1944):
On 20th September, 1944, during the battle of Arnhem, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was the N.C.O. in charge of a 6-pounder anti-tank gun at Oosterbeek. The enemy developed a major attack on this sector with infantry, tanks and self-propelled guns with the obvious intent to break into and overrun the Battalion position. During the early stage of the action the crew commanded by this N.C.O. was responsible for the destruction of two Tiger tanks and at least one self-propelled gun, thanks to the coolness and daring of this N.C.O., who, with complete disregard for his own safety, allowed each tank to come well within 100 yards of his gun before opening fire.
In the course of this preliminary engagement Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield was badly wounded in the leg and the remainder of his crew were either killed or badly wounded. During the brief respite after this engagement Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield refused to be carried to the Regimental Aid Post and spent his time attending to his gun and shouting encouragement to his comrades in neighbouring trenches.
After a short interval the enemy renewed the attack with even greater ferocity than before, under cover of intense mortar and shell fire. Manning his gun quite alone Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield continued to fire round after round at the enemy until his gun was put out of action. By this time his activity was the main factor in keeping the enemy tanks at bay. The fact that the surviving men in his vicinity were held together and kept in action was undoubtedly due to his magnificent example and outstanding courage. Time after time enemy attacks were launched and driven off.
Finally, when his gun was knocked out, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield crawled, under intense enemy fire, to another 6-pounder gun nearby, the crew of which had been killed, and proceeded to man it single-handed. With this gun he engaged an enemy self-propelled gun which was approaching to attack. Another soldier crawled across the open ground to assist him but was killed almost at once. Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield succeeded in firing two rounds at the self-propelled gun, scoring one direct hit which rendered it ineffective. Whilst preparing to fire a third shot, however, he was killed by a shell from a supporting enemy tank.
The superb gallantry of this N.C.O. is beyond praise. During the remaining days at Arnhem stories of his valour were a constant inspiration to all ranks. He spurned danger, ignored pain and, by his supreme fighting spirit, infected all who witnessed his conduct with the same aggressiveness and dogged devotion to duty which characterised his actions throughout.23 November 1944.
After the war, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield’s remains were not identified, so he is commemorated on the Groesbeek Memorial.
Continue along the Benedendorpsweg, in the direction of Arnhem, you will come to a railway bridge.
THE GRONERT TWINS
Claude and Thomas Gronert were twin brothers from Cornwell. Both ages 21, they were both soldiers in B Company, 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.
On 17 September 1944, the twins, with their fellow soldiers were advancing down the Benedendorpsweg towards the bridge, when a German armoured car came around the corner (other side of the bridge in the above photo). After firing its machine-gun the armoured car retreated back the way it came. After another company had come under machine-gun fire from some high ground, Lieutenant-Colonel Frost, 2nd Battalion’s commander, send a company to investigate.
It was at this point that Claude Gronert was hit. Thomas Gronert then went forward to help his brother but then both brothers were killed by machine-gun fire from further along the railway line that runs over the bridge towards Nijmegen.
Claude and Thomas Gronert are buried side-by-side in Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery: Plot 18, Row A, Grave 17 (Thomas) and Grave 18 (Claude).
Both headstones have an identical inscription.
Winds of heaven
blow softly here
where lie sleeping
those we loved so dear.