Barkston Heath piece needs a little more detail adding

REGARDING your piece in last Friday’s Journal concerning Barkston Heath, I feel it might benefit from some clarification.

To place Market Garden (Arnhem) ahead of Overlord (D-Day) is incorrect.

D-Day was on June 6, 1944, whereas Market Garden was launched on September 17, 1944. The caption to the photograph showing paratroopers entering an aircraft is also a little misleading.

The British airborne involvement in Overlord was undertaken by the 6th Airborne Division (6 AB Div) mainly located in and around Salisbury Plain and South West England. 6 AB Div took off for Overlord from airfields such as Netheravon, Fairford, Broadway etc. Market Garden was undertaken by 1 AB Div based in and around Grantham with its headquarters located in Fulbeck Hall. It is unlikely therefore that Barkston Heath featured significantly in Overlord but it was central to Market Garden. The emplaning troops pictured are therefore more likely to be destined for Arnhem not Normandy. The caption asks how many were to return?

Interestingly one of those buried in the Arnhem-Oosterbeek Military Cemetery is a Corporal Grantham. His unit was located in the old school in Station Road East (now a commercial enterprise) and he was billeted in accommodation over what is now the Design Works establishment in London Road. The unit Sergeants’ Mess was located over the cafe on the corner of London Road and Cambridge Street and the officers were housed in the George Hotel. Some members of this unit formed part of the 2nd Parachute Battalion Group whose task it was to capture road and rail bridges over the lower Rhine at Arnhem. The Division was then to hold the bridges for 48 hours, when the ground advance coming up through Holland from the Belgian border would link up and the way would be open to outflank the Ruhr and drive straight to Berlin.

In the event due to a number of factors, predominantly but by no means all connected to weather, it was made impossible for the Division to get through to 2 Para holding the road bridge. The rail bridge had been blown. The lightly equipped battalion group, about 800 men, held the bridge for four days against continuous attacks by 10th SS Panzer Division and elements of 9th SS Panzer Division. Almost 11,000 men of 1 AB Div dropped by parachute or delivered by glider onto the dropping and landing zones of Arnhem on the sunny three days in September 1944. On September 26 about 2,000 returned from the north bank of the lower Rhine at Arnhem (where they had been surrounded for nine days by two panzer and one infantry division with little or no re-supply) to the south bank of that fast flowing river.

It is indeed a great pity that Grantham has made little, if anything, of its association with Arnhem and 1 AB Div, preferring to concentrate almost entirely upon the Dambusters Raid. The pity is that whilst Market Garden was a failure for reasons far too complicated here to explore, the knock-on effects of that failure were of greater significance than were the successes of the Mohne and Eder Dam breaches. Had Market Garden been a success it would have shortened the war in Europe by Christmas 1944.

PETER GIBSON

Hazelwood Drive, Grantham