To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden the travel arm of the Royal British Legion will be taking a group of WWII veterans on a special journey of remembrance.
Heading over to Holland the veterans who served at the Battle of Arnhem (17-25 September 1944), will retrace their steps and visit key battle sites and cemeteries. On the itinerary are the Dutch towns of Oosterbeek and Nijmegen, as well as the key landing and drop zones of the US Airborne Divisions at Groesbeek, Eindhoven and Hamminkeln Station. Visits will also be made along the Rhine at Wessel and Rees where the greatest river assault crossing of all time took place, plus a stop at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the country, for private remembrance. The tour will also include visits to the National Liberation Museum ‘Friendship Museum’, as well as a commemorative service at the Commonwealth Graves cemetery to give veterans the chance to remember their fallen comrades.
The eight-day tour has been funded by the Treasury through LIBOR fines and enables each veteran, plus a carer and family member to return free-of-charge to where they served.
Nichola Rowlands-Smith, Head of Travel at Royal British Legion, said, “Our journeys of remembrance are vital for veterans of WWII to lay old ghosts to rest. They're also ideal for families to travel together and understand what dad and granddad went through in the war.”
Following the success of the D-Day landings, Operation Market Garden was planned by Field Marshal Montgomery. It was a daring airborne plan to outflank the Siegfried Line, secure the Rhine crossings and advance into Northern Germany. However, Allied forces faced months of bitter fighting against a tenacious enemy and although it did manage to liberate a large part of the Netherlands, it is also considered to be the only major Allied defeat in the North West Europe campaign.
The tour itinerary:
Day 1 – Tuesday, 17 September
Independent travel to the Union Jack Club near London’s Waterloo Station for an overnight stay. Rooms will be available for check-in from mid-afternoon.
Should it be more convenient you can travel to the Ashford International Hotel in Kent for an overnight stay, or to join the coach on the morning of Wednesday 18th May.
Day 2 - Wednesday 18 September
Overnight guests can enjoy breakfast before joining the coach for the transfer to Dover. The coach will collect guests staying at the Ashford International Hotel en-route to the port for a late morning ferry crossing to Calais. On arrival in Calais the tour drives through Belgium to the Dutch border and the start line of Operation Market Garden. It follows the advance of the XXX Corps of the British Second Army. Key to the success of the operation were the airborne troops and around Eindhoven so you’ll see the landing zones of the 101st US Airborne Division before visiting the Bridge at Graves over the River Maas, which was captured by the 82nd US Airborne Division. The tour then continues to Nijmegen to the hotel for a five-night stay.
Day 3 - Thursday 19 September
The River Waal at Nijmegen was an important natural barrier and Allied forces feared the Germans would destroy the road bridge at Nijmegen, which would render Operation Market Garden a failure. Today starts with a visit to the bridge that was captured intact by Allied forces. Then on to Groesbeek and the landing and drop zones of the 82nd US Airborne Division along with key battle sites. There’s a visit to the National Liberation Museum, also known as the Friendship Museum. Operation Veritable was the codename given to the Rhineland Offensive, the northern part of an Allied pincer movement that took place in the final stages of World War II. This afternoon visit the sites of principal battles for the Reichswald. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery was created after World War II when burials were brought in from all over western Germany. It is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the country. A private Service of Remembrance is a chance to pay respects to the fallen.
Day 4 - Friday 20 September
The focus on the Rhineland Offensive continues with a visit to the site of strategic battles that took place in early 1945. The Rhine was considered the last barrier between advancing Allied forces and the conquest of Germany. In March 1945 Allied forces launched Operation Plunder, considered the greatest assault river crossing of all time. Visit the crossing points near Wessel and Rees before free time for lunch. In the afternoon visit sites associated with air support including the landing and drop zones of the 6th and 17th US Airborne Divisions, Hamminkeln Station, which was the objective of the 2nd Ox and Bucks, and Kopenhof Farm, the intended HQ of the 6th Airborne Division. Some of the hardest fighting was seen by the 51st Highland Divisions and you can visit the area around Schloss Moyland before returning to the hotel.
Day 5 - Saturday 21 September
This morning visit the battle sites around Oosterbeek where the remnants of the 1st Airborne Division fought against Kampfgruppe ‘von Tettau’, 9th SS Panzer Division. Visit the Airborne Museum in Hartenstein which, during the Battle of Arnhem, was Major-General Urquhart’s British Headquarters. After time at leisure for lunch in Oosterbeek follow the route taken by 2 Para to John Frost Bridge over the River Rhine and hear about the battles that were fought for its ownership. Arnhem was the iconic bridge too far and you can join the 75th Anniversary activities around the city of Arnhem.
Day 6 - Sunday 22 September
Today visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery to honour the fallen in a special Service of Remembrance commemorating the 75th anniversary of the campaign. A farewell dinner will be served in the hotel this evening.
Day 7 - Monday 23 September
After breakfast in the hotel retrace your route through Holland and Belgium to Calais for a late afternoon ferry to Dover. On arrival return via the Ashford International Hotel to London where you have the option of an overnight stay with breakfast in the Union Jack Club.
Day 8 - Tuesday 24 September
Breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Independent travel home.
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