The biggest parachute drop ever which was the subject of a movie starring Michael Caine will be the focus of a talk later this month.
This year is the 70th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, a failed attempt to end the Second World War by Christmas 1944.
Former University of Buckingham law student John Dale will give the talk, Operation Market Garden: a Bridge Too Far?, at Chandos Road Buildings, on July 29 at 6.30pm.
The operation, which took place on September 17, 1944, is commemorated every year in the Netherlands and has been immortalised in the film A Bridge Too Far starring Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine and Sean Connery.
John, who has now retired, has been researching the battle since meeting a former paratrooper who had dropped into Arnhem during the ill-fated operation and is now writing a book about it.
“He wouldn’t talk about his experience and this made me curious,” said John.
A former assistant chief officer at Two Shires Ambulance Service where he started NHS Direct’s first pilot site from Deanshanger, John visited Arnhem in 1971 and was given a guided tour of the area.
“There was still a lot of hospitality for British people and resentment for the Germans,” he recalls.
John’s book focuses on the battle and the failure of the Guards Tank Division to get up to Arnhem to support the First British Parachute Division dropped outside the city as part of Operation Market Garden.
He said: “There have not been many books written about this subject.”
Operation Market Garden was one of the boldest plans of the Second World War. Conceived by General Montgomery, it involved a parachute drop never attempted before, consisting of 30,000 British and American airborne troops. They were to be flown behind enemy lines and they had to capture eight bridges spanning the rivers on the Dutch/German border. The British Guards Tank Divisions were then tasked to drive up a single road, christened ‘Hell’s Highway’ where they would then relieve the airborne troops at the bridges.
The operation was initially a success as the bridges at Eindhoven and Nijmegen were captured. However, due to the Guards Divisions being delayed six miles south of their objective, they could not relieve the airborne regiments who were eventually overrun at Oosterbeek after nine days of fighting.
At Arnhem they encountered stronger resistance than anticipated. It would take the Allies another four months before they crossed the Rhine into Germany and ended the war.
“Was it the weather, the single road, the planning or was it simply a bridge too far? There were a multitude of reasons why it failed – I have been able to list over 30,” said John.