Sunday, September 19, 2010

Remembering Arnhem 66 Years On

I'm typing this before the commencement of the service at Oosterbeek military cemetery, near Arnhem. Sixty six years ago this week hundreds of British, American and Polish airmen and soldiers gave their lives in the cause of the liberation of Holland. And it is they whom we remember and honour today.

Sixty six years seems a long time, yet in historical terms it is but the flicker of an eyelid.

My generation have been lucky never to have had to fight. For my Dad's generation, World War 2 defined them and their world outlook. My Dad was 9 when the war broke out and fifteen when it ended, but it defines who he is today. He may not have fought himself, but he is determined that those who fought so he could live in freedom should never be forgotten. It's why we are here today, and it's part of the reason I love him. Not, of course that- would ever tell him that to his face. We're British after all!

11 comments:

Sean Haffey said...

It's sad to compare the mistakes and inefficiencies of Operation Market Garden with the efficient Nazi Blitzkrieg four and five years earlier. So many "might have beens".

Martin said...

We're British after all!

Typical wishy-washy post Empire sentiment. Are you tone trolling your own blog?

Q said...

My generation have been lucky never to have had to fight.

Broadly true but it highlights the great issue with people of your and Bliar's generation: never having had to fight yourselves and never having undergone military service, it becomes that much easier for you (plural) to send younger men off to fight your wars for you.

Never having seen firsthand what a war is and having been fed saccharine sentiments about the Second World War ("The Good War"), your generation leads us into quagmires like Iraq - not because of cold Realpolitik or because you crave Iraq's oil but because your generation is divorced from the terrible reality of war while being intoxicated by its imagined glories.

Max Atkinson said...

Your recent Twitter reports, and now this, have had a unexpected effect on me - by reviving memories of the most terrifying hour I ever spent in a cinema.

As schoolboy members of the CCF (Combined Cadet Force), we were spending the first week of our Summer holidays at an army camp somewhere on the Salisbury Plain.

One night, they showed us archive film footage of the raid on Arnhem - from the fall of the parachutes onwards. Two vivid memories have survived. One was that we came out deafened by the continuous sound of gunfire and explosions. The other was that none of us said anything much for the rest of the evening and, for once, our 'officers' had no problems at all in keeping us quiet in the huts that night.

It all resurfaced again about twenty years later when I saw the epic war film 'A Bridge too Far' - and came out thinking it very tame compared with what we'd seen and heard at that army camp on the Salisbury Plain.

The next time images of Arnhem resurfaced was a few years after that when I went to give a lecture near the neighbouring bridge at the University of Nijmegen - where my memories from Salisbury Plain prompted me to turn down an invitation to be taken to see some or the sites that you've been visiting.

My hosts must have thought me very impolite. But it would have been difficult to explain to them why, having seen all that wartime film footage, I was quite content to enjoy the tranquility of a pleasant university town - whilst appreciating its everyday normality as proof that the horrors and heroism of Arnhem had been a price worth paying.

Man in the Street said...

Martin said...

We're British after all!

Typical wishy-washy post Empire sentiment. Are you tone trolling your own blog?


Your attitude is typical of what has been and still is a pestilence in this great country.

Unsworth said...

@ Q

Actually old chap some of 'us' have undergone military service and had to fight in various 'small wars' since then. I can personally speak of such conflicts both in the Middle East and the Far East. Those that I fought in were Just Wars, not 'Good' - no war is 'Good', but certainly justified.

As to 'saccharine' sentiments, well maybe you can explain what they are. You see my parents' generation - Second World War - were very keen indeed to explain the horrors of war, in the vain hope that future 'leaders' such as Blair would not project us into unwinnable conflicts.

True, Thatcher oversaw the Falklands conflict but that is on a much smaller scale than WW2 or Iraq (and now Afghanistan) and it was self-evidently winnable. That is a tribute to our skill at arms and her leadership.

Is Blair 'your' generation? He's certainly younger than me - and many of those visiting this blog, I suspect. I'd also suggest that he's younger than many of the electorate.

When you know a little more maybe you'd like to reconsider your sweeping and inaccurate comment. Oh, and you seem to be forgetting Korea, Suez etc etc.

norman said...

"Q" is hyperventilating. Perhaps Q is one of those wolly Libdems who used Iraq wars to win more seats in that GE. They would have been happy with Millpede brothers. Yes, Blair lied and sent youngmen to war. We Brits ( collectively- speaking) voted for him again and again, we all including yourself are responsible.

Any of the above does not preclude us from remembering Arnhem and thank the soldiers of WWII for the freedom we enjoy today. Out of the war was born new Europe, whilst we may not like the EU, we are not fighting in battlefields of Europe today. I read Cornelius Ryan's "The Longest Day" and " the Bridge Too Far" books in my teens and saw those two films later, I would like to visit Arnhem and the beaches of Normandy.

norman said...

"Q" is hyperventilating. Perhaps Q is one of those wolly Libdems who used Iraq wars to win more seats in that GE. They would have been happy with Millpede brothers. Yes, Blair lied and sent youngmen to war. We Brits ( collectively- speaking) voted for him again and again, we all including yourself are responsible.

Any of the above does not preclude us from remembering Arnhem and thank the soldiers of WWII for the freedom we enjoy today. Out of the war was born new Europe, whilst we may not like the EU, we are not fighting in battlefields of Europe today. I read Cornelius Ryan's "The Longest Day" and " the Bridge Too Far" books in my teens and saw those two films later, I would like to visit Arnhem and the beaches of Normandy.

chris said...

You should tell him Iain. He'd like that I'm certain..

@Martin Typical wishy-washy post Empire sentiment. Are you tone trolling your own blog?

Eat shit and die.

The Military Wing Of The BBC said...

I remember, clearly, touring these war graves for the 40th aniversary with a para vet who broke down at the graves of twin brothers who died within minutes of each other.
(this from a google search)
http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/news/Tom-honours-war-memory-Cornish-twins/article-1378047-detail/article.html

The Military Wing Of The BBC said...

...
http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=2644734