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THE WITHDRAWAL

By the morning of the 25th September it was clear to General Urquhart, the landings during the previous night having failed, that heavy casualties, fatigue, and lack of ammunition, food and water were exercising an increasing effect on the defenders of the perimeter and that further strong enemy offensive action might cause its defences to disintegrate. It was at this time that a message was received from 2nd Army stating the possibility of the withdrawal of the lst Airborne Division southwards across the river. General Urquhart immediately replied that if this withdrawal was to be carried out, it must be done on the night of the 25th September and no later. A signal confirming that the withdrawal would be that night was soon after received.

Enemy action during the 25th September was fortunately less intense than on previous days, and by ten o'clock that night the withdrawal began in a storm of wind and rain and strong artillery and machinegun support from the south bank of the river, which all helped to deaden sounds of movement. By dawn on the morning of the 26th approximately 1700 men of the 1st Airborne Division together with about 420 pilots had been ferried across the river, 300 men remaining on the north bank, all who could swim having already done so. These were all that remained from a force of 10.000 men.

The courageous British and Canadian sappers did everything in their power to rescue the trapped para's, a very dangerous job. When the first 3 Canadian storm boats went in the water, one of them recieved a direct hit by a stray mortar. The dramatic incident was observed from both sides of the river. The result was that all three engineers in the first boat and another 2 in the second were killed.

One of the casualties from the first stormboat was the Canadian Sapper Harold C. Magnusson. His body was recoverd from the river on 14-11-1944 far downstream near Gorkum together with a Polish soldier. Harold was 22 years of age. It was only in oktober 2003 the family got to know what had happend exactly to Harold.

THE END OF THE BATTLE OF ARNHEM

Thus ended the Battle for Arnhem, but no account of it would be complete without mention of the heroic efforts made during the battle by the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force to supply the 1st Airborne Division with ammunition, food, and other supplies by air, by the medical services in their treatment of the wounded, and by the local population by the information they gave, their efforts to succour the wounded and aid the escape of those left behind.

The Royal Air Force had to contend with bad weather, intense opposition from fighters and flak and lack of exact knowledge of where to drop supplies, the planned dropping zones not being in the Division's hands. No wonder that much of the supplies dropped fell into enemy hands, but if ever men of the 1st Airborne Division needed inspiration it was provided by the sight of the supply dropping aircraft flying straight and level through the flak, and continuing to do so even when on fire until they had dropped their supplies.

After the battle, the medical personnel of the Division were evacuated with the casualties to Apeldoorn. The majority became prisoners, but some, including Brigadier Hackett, who had been seriously wounded during the battle, and Colonel Warrack, the Chief Medical Officer of the Division, succesfully escaped. Many others including Brigadier Lathbury were concealed and fed by the local population, while arrangements for their escape were made.

No praise can be too high for all those Dutch men and women who risked their lives in this way. Within a month of the withdrawal of the Division a party of 120 officers and men had crossed the river in a body. Thereafter escaping became much more difficult but for a considerable period odd groups of men continued to infiltrate across the river into the British lines.

THE RESULTS

In conclusion, it is necessary to sum up the results of this battle. In the opinion of Field-Marshall Montgomery the action of the British 1st Airborne Division against overwhelming odds held off reinforcements from Nijmegen and vitally contributed to the capture of the bridge there. On this account alone the considered that the battle had been ninety percent succesful. Finally in a letter to General Urquhart written on the 28th September 1944 he said as follows:

' In the annals of the British Army there are many glorious deeds. In our Army we have always drawn great strength and inspiration from past traditions, and endeavoured to live up to the high standards of those who have gone before. But there can be few episodes more glorious than the epic of Arnhem, and those that follow after will find it hard to live up to the high standards that you have set. So long as we have in the armies of the British Empire, officers and men who will do as you have done, then we can indeed look forward with complete confidence to the future.' In years to come it will be a great thing for a man to be able to say: 'I fought at Arnhem'

MULTIMEDIA ADDITIONS TO THIS PAGE

File from our Digitale Monument: Harold C. Magnusson

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