Arnhem Bridge in the Netherlands was has become a timeless symbol of the bravery of airborne soldiers and was the site of a legendary battle during the Second World War. The resulting failure to capture the bridge has led it to be known as "a bridge too far".
By September 1944, the Allies had broken Hitler's Atlantic Wall with the invasion of Normandy and, after bitter fighting, the Germans had been forced back through France and Paris had been liberated. Wanting to capitalise on their momentum and determined to defeat Germany as swiftly as possible, Allied forces planned to invade northern Germany. In doing so, they planned an ambitious airborne assault to capture a number of key river crossings and open a gateway into Germany.
The plan, known as Operation Market Garden, involved dropping thousands of Allied troops behind enemy lines to secure a number of key river crossings. These troops would then secure the crossing over the Rhine, including Arnhem Bridge, paving the way for a ground assault. It would be the biggest airborne assault in history.
The divisions involved included the American 82nd Airborne Division under General James Gavin, the 101st American Airborne Division led by General Maxwell Taylor and the First British Airborne Division commanded by Major General Robert Urquhart. This ambitious plan would also require the British XXX Corps to relieve the airborne troops.
Operation Market Garden, which took place from 17 to 25 September 1944, soon went badly wrong for the Allies. Paratroopers were dropped too far from their lines and few made it to their correct targets, communication was a major issue and the force of the German response had been underestimated.
The Second Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, led by Lieutenant-Colonel John Frost, were responsible for securing Arnhem Bridge but only had a fraction of their planned numbers after the jump. They did succeed in capturing half of the bridge and fought determinedly to defend it for several days against overwhelming odds, but eventually the Germans managed to pin them down and regained control of the area.
Yet, despite the fact that the battle of Arnhem Bridge and Operation Market Garden as a whole were a defeat for the Allies, the bravery and valour of Frost’s troops has become the stuff of legend and even inspired the 1977 film, “A Bridge Too Far”.
Today, Arnhem Bridge is an unassuming sight and there is little to see, although there are memorials and museums nearby. Yearly commemorations take place at Arnhem Bridge to remember the battle which took place there.
Arnhem Bridge is located in the city of Arnhem in the east Netherlands. Bus routes 20, 43S and 69 stop nearby. By car, Arnhem is around 115 km east of Rotterdam along Route A15 (exit onto Route A325) and just under 100 km southeast of Amsterdam along Route A1. It has train links to Utrecht and Amsterdam Schiphol.
Several tour companies offer tours to Arnhem.
Nijmeegseweg, 6841 Arnhem, The Netherlands
Contact local tourist office