On 17 September 1944, the Allies launched Operation MARKET GARDEN, the ill-fated attempt to create a 103km corridor through German occupied Netherlands, capturing a series of bridges which would allow Allied forces to cross the Rhine. The farthest north bridge lay at Arnhem and in other reviews I covered the principle museums in the area, notably the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’, Glider Collection Wolfheze, Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45and its offshoot, the recently opened Out of Ammo Museum. So, for this, the 78th anniversary, below is a link to the classic 1977 film of the battle, A Bridge Too Farin its entirety. Enjoy.
Arnhem’s newest museum commemorating Operation Market Garden in 1944.
A new museum in Arnhem, due to officially launch on the 1st of September 2022, has quietly opened its doors to the public. Located in the Walburgiskerk church it is called “Out of Ammo” and focuses on Arnhem during the German occupation and as it was during September 1944.
The museum exhibition features twelve different dioramas using the collection of the Arnhem War Museum ’40-’45 and is intended to remain in this location for about five years.
The ‘Out of Ammo’ Museum Walburgiskerk Sint Walburgisplein 1 Arnhem 6811, The Netherlands
Photographs of the German paratrooper displays at the Fallschirmjäger Collection shown in the Overloon War Museum in the Netherlands.
On the 30th of September 1944, shortly after the failure of Operation MARKET GARDEN, German and Allied forces clashed in the vicinity of Overloon, approximately 35km south of Nijmegan. It took almost three weeks before Overloon was liberated and the clash went down in history as the most intense tank battle that ever took place on Dutch soil. Harrie van Daal, a civil servant was living in the area during that time and in May 1945 after walking through the battle ravaged Overloonse forest petitioned the Mayor and local pastor to create a memorial honouring those who fought. On May 25, 1946, the Oorlogsmuseum Overloon (Overloon War Museum) opened to the public – even before the village itself was rebuilt. It was the first museum about the Second World War in Western Europe. I will cover the museum in more depth in a future article, but one of the highlights is undoubtedly the Fallschirmjäger Collection which is part of their “Turning Point Europe” exhibition section.
Unlike the Dead Man’s Corner museum in Normandy (see my review and pictures here), which concentrates on the actions of the German paras at Normandy, the Fallschirmjäger Collection presents an overview of the German paras from the early days of WW2 up until 1945. It does this in eight display cases filled with uniforms, equipment and related ephemera.
The first display shows the paratroopers of the early war and the invasion of the low countries, including mannequins representing their Dutch opponents.
The next section shows the uniforms and equipment used during the campaign in North Africa. This is followed by a showcase displaying the paratroopers as they would have been seen in Sicily and the Italian Campaign.
The mannequin display cabinets are also broken up by others featuring an impressive collection of fallschirmjäger related documents, insignia, personal artifacts and other related ephemera.
This is followed by showcases depicting the fighting in the Netherlands during the 1944/45 period and then jumps to displays of the fallschirmjäger kitted out in the equipment used during the fighting in the area of Monte Cassino and the Grand Sasso. The exhibition finishes with the final display cases representing the paratroopers on the Eastern Front during the winter months.
I visited the Oorlogsmuseum Oveloon as a day-trip excursion during my exploration of the battlefields and museums related to Operation MARKET GARDEN in the Arnhem area. Traveling by car it is a relatively short trip from Oosterbeek, roughly an hour’s drive from The Airborne Museum Hartenstein. If you have the time, definitely plan to visit, even without the Fallschirmjäger Collection, the Oorlogsmuseum Overloon remains one of the most impressive WW2 military museums that I have encountered.
Oorlogsmuseum Overloon / Overloon War Museum
5825 AM Overloon
Open: The museum is open Monday to Friday from 10:00 – 17:00 and on weekends from 11:00 – 17:00. It also has reduced visiting hours on some days and is closed on some public holidays so it is best to confirm their opening schedule here. Due to current restrictions the museum only allows a limited number of visitors each days and online ticket reservations are essential prior to visiting.
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A couple of the earlier Congo Mercenary insignia in my collection.
Here are a couple of relatively recent additions to my Congo mercenary collection, an early 5 Commando shoulder title and the shoulder patch of the Congo Commando Force Publique, both of which were worn on the right shoulder.
Both are featured in Gérard Lagaune’s excellent reference book Histoire et insignes des parachutistes et des commandos de Pays des Grand Lacs but unfortunately the book provides little contextual information about the insignia.
I am not sure when either of these two badges were introduced or superseded. The aforementioned book suggests that the Congolese Commando Force Publique was created in the 1950’s and based at Sonankulu near Thysville, receiving their training from Belgian Commando instructors and that the patch dates from before 1960. Other information suggests that the Commando Force Publique patch was only worn between 1957 and 1960.
However whilst researching these badges I found this photograph of one of the original South African mercenaries in the Congo, Georg Schroeder wearing the insignia whilst a 1st Lieutenant in 5 Commando.
Georg Schroeder was a former South African Parachute Jump Instructor who arrived in the Congo in 1964 and was the last commanding officer of 5 Commando in Congo before they were disbanded and returned to South Africa in 1967.
This studio photograph shows him wearing an interesting assortment of insignia, including the aforementioned 5 Commando shoulder title and Congolese Commando shoulder patch. His rank is that of a 1st Lieutenant, which according to the information on Terry Aspinall’s Mercenary Wars site, indicates that this photograph was taken sometime between 17 September and 26 December 1964, when he was promoted to Captain and took over the command of 53 Commando.
Also visible are his South African PJI wings on his left breast above what appears to be the United Nations Medal with CONGO clasp that was awarded to denote service with the ONUC Mission (1960-64). I am not sure if he was entitled to the medal issue as he is also wearing a Belgian 1st Para Battalion beret despite not having served with that unit. The badge on his right breast remains unknown (to me) although I think it may be the same qualification that is shown as #911, but also unidentified in Andrew Ross Dinnes’ book, Border War Badges: A Guide to South African Military & Police Badges 1964-1994.
Congo mercenary insignia is one of my areas of collecting interest and whilst my collection remains quite small it does contain some nice pieces that I have previously featured on this page, most notably a patch worn by 10 Commando led by Jean ‘Black Jack’ Schramme and a nice group featuring insignia, medals, photographs and paperwork that belonged to another South African, Bill Jacobs, who served with the British Parachute Regiment in Cyprus, prior to enlisting in 5 Commando in 1966. If you are a collector of Mercenary insignia and have spares that you are interested in trading or selling, I will be very interested in hearing from you, so please contact me.
If you like what you see here, please FOLLOW this page via email or by using either the buttons below or in the column on the right. I will try to post NEW content every second Sunday (at least) and knowing that somebody is looking at this gives me the encouragement I need to set aside time to go through my archives and collection in order to develop the content for the page. And of course, feel free to contact me here, via email or by visiting my Facebook or Instagram pages
A Horsa glider near the Caen Canal bridge at Benouville, 8 June 1944. This is glider No. 91, which carried Major John Howard and Lieutenant Den Brotheridge with No.1 Platoon, ‘D’ Company, 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. It was one of the six gliders that carried 6th Airborne Division’s ‘coup de main’ force – commanded by Major Howard – which captured the bridges over the Orne and Caen Canal in the early hours of D-Day. Photograph: Sergeant Christie. No. 5 Army Film and Photo Section, Army Film and Photographic Unit Imperial War Museum Catalogue Number: B 5232
Pegasus Bridge, 9 June 1944. Vehicles including a Royal Signals jeep & trailer and a RASC Leyland lorry on ‘Pegasus Bridge’ over the Caen Canal at Benouville. The signallers are fixing telephone lines across the bridge. Photograph: Sergeant Christie. No. 5 Army Film and Photo Section, Army Film and Photographic Unit Imperial War Museum Catalogue Number: B 5288
On the night of 5 June 1944, six Airspeed AS 51 Horsa gliders carrying 181 men from the 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and 249 Field Company (Airborne) Royal Engineers departed RAF Tarrant in Dorset. Under the command of Major John Howard, their mission, code-named Operation DEADSTICK was to capture two road bridges near Normandy across the River Orne and the Caen Canal. This was the first action of D-Day in the British sector and would allow the allied troops landing on Sword Beach to exit and advance east of the Orne.
One of the six gliders went astray and landed a dozen kilometers from the objective, but the other five landed within meters of their objectives. The bridge over the Orne was guarded by only two German sentries and was captured without firing a shot. The more heavily guarded Bénouville bridge over the Caen Canal was taken after a short but intense firefight. Both bridges had been captured within 10 minutes. Reinforced by soldiers from the 7th Battalion Parachute Regiment during the night, Major Howard’s men held the bridge despite repeated counterattacks until they were joined in the early hours of the afternoon of 6 June, by the commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade, who had landed at dawn at Sword Beach.
Imperial War Museum Video – Operation Deadstick The Airborne Assault on Pegasus Bridge
Shortly after the engagement, on the 26 of June 1944, the Caen Canal bridge was renamed Pegasus Bridge as a tribute to the British airborne troops involved in the action. In 1974 the Airborne Forces Museum was opened on the west bank of the canal, opposite the glider landing site and close to the original Bénouville bridge but closed in 1997. A campaign started for a new museum and on 4 June 2000 Memorial Pegasus was opened by HRH Prince Charles, Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment.
Pegasus Bridge and memorial plaque to Lieutenant H.D. Brotheridge who was the first British soldier to be killed in action on D-Day when he led his platoon across the bridge. Photo: Julian Tennant
Fullsize replica of an Airspeed AS 51 Horsa Glider as used by the British troops in Operation DEADSTICK and the assault on D-Day. Photo: Julian Tennant
Glider Pilot of the Army Aviation Corps. Photo: Julian Tennant
Exhibits at the Memorial Pegasus museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
Heavily laden 6th Airborne Division jeep as transported by glider on D-Day. Photo: Julian Tennant
Objects relating to the Royal Ulster Rifles. The Dennison smock was worn on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy by Captain Bob Sheridan, Adjutant of the 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles. Photo: Julian Tennant
German parachutist’s Gravity Knife, rare British Beaded & Ribbed’ pattern Fairbairn Sykes commando dagger and other 6th Airborne Division objects on display at Memorial Pegasus. Photo: Julian Tennant
Spread over three acres, the museum grounds contain the original Pegasus Bridge, which was purchased from the French authorities for just one Franc in 1999, along with a full size replica of a Horsa glider. The main exhibition building features a very interesting selection of artifacts related to the British 6th Airborne Division and the D-Day landings. There are guided tours of the museum conducted in both French and English which last for about an hour and a half. These are worth doing in addition to taking your time to browse the exhibits. Visitors can also scan the QR code panels to get information about the exhibits in ten languages, French, English, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish and Czech.
British paratrooper kitted out for the jump into France in advance of the D-Day landings. He is wearing the British X-Type parachute over the 1942 Pattern Parachutist Oversmock and Mk1 Parachutist helmet. Photo: Julian Tennant
British military chaplain’s dress uniform. Note the bullion Glider Pilot qualification wing. Photo: Julian Tennant
Canadian Parachute Battalion soldier wearing the 2nd pattern Dennison smock and Canadian parachutist qualification wings. Photo: Julian Tennant
Cloth insignia of the ‘Forces Navales Francaises Libres” (Free French Naval Forces) worn on the sailors jackets and commando’s green berets until May 1944. Photo: Julian Tennant
Beret worn by Guy de Montlaur who served with the French No. 4 Commando. Photo: Julian Tennant
Avenue du Major Howard
Open:The Memorial Pegasus is open everyday from 1st February to 15th December. A visit, with guide, lasts about 1h15.
1st February to 31st March from 10.00 to 17.00
1st April to 30th September from 9.30 to 18.30
1st October to 15th December from 10.00 to 17.00
Note that this site has NEW content posted every Sunday! If you like what you see here, please follow this page via email or by using either the buttons below or in the column on the right. Knowing that somebody is looking at this gives me the encouragement I need to go through my archives and collection to develop the content for the page. And of course, feel free to contact me here, via email or by visiting my Facebook or Instagram pages
Airborne insignia provides a popular collecting focus for many collectors and as a result has become a lucrative market for dealers and opportunists who have seized on the opportunity to peddle faked badges for handsome profits. Faked insignia have been around for decades and whilst some are easily recognised as copies, a series of extremely well-made reproductions of British and commonwealth airborne and special forces badges that were being sold by the likes of Nicholas Morigi and Andrew Butler in the early 90’s really upped the ante. Whilst both dealers sold these detailed and artificially aged copies as reproductions, they could be extremely difficult to tell apart from the original insignia, as in the days before the internet became widespread, many collectors did not have access to originals for comparison and there was no solid reference books that dealt in sufficient depth with these insignia. Many of these badges continue to pop up on eBay or dealers lists, but as ‘original’ insignia, commanding very high prices.
As a result, collecting WW2 period British Airborne and Special Forces insignia can be a minefield for even experienced collectors and money spent on good reference books is a sound investment that can help collectors prevent costly mistakes. However, for a long time most of the references that were available on the subject did little more than survey the insignia, identifying types and units but not providing the essential details that allowed collectors to determine originals from reproductions.
Oliver Lock’s two books help to bridge that gap. Both volumes were produced in conjunction with the Airborne Assault Museum, drawing extensively on their collection and archives. Both volumes are filled with close up detailed pictures of the insignia, front and back, plus important descriptive information regarding who made the badges and also how they were constructed, invaluable information when trying to ascertain whether a badge is an original ‘period’ piece.
The first volume, British Airborne Insignia deals specifically with the British Airborne forces, including the British Indian Army. Whilst the bulk of the book concentrates on the Second World War period it does also include a significant amount of information on the insignia that was used by the Airborne Forces post WW2. This is extremely useful as it allows comparisons to be made between contemporary and earlier war period insignia.
The follow up book, Airborne Insignia Vol. 2: Britain and her Allies in Exile, which was published in 2017 expands the focus to include the Australian and Canadian airborne units as well as the insignia used by the French, Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish and Italians (post armistice). It also includes several more chapters on British insignia variations that were not included in the first volume.
The pictures that are shown below are samples of some of the pages that are contained in each book. As can be seen, the information contained is detailed and comprehensive. Oliver’s two books provide invaluable reference material and should be on the bookshelf of every airborne insignia collector. Highly recommended.
British Airborne Insignia
Hardcover: 314 pages, colour and B&W photographs throughout. Publisher: Military Mode Publishing (2015) Language: English
ISBN-10: 1634524047 ISBN-13: 9781634524049
Airborne Insignia Vol. 2: Britain and her Allies in Exile
Hardcover: 247 pages, colour and B&W photographs throughout. Publisher: Military Mode Publishing (2017) Language: English
Note that this site has NEW content posted every Sunday! If you like what you see here, please follow this page via email or by using either the buttons below or in the column on the right. Knowing that somebody is looking at this gives me the encouragement I need to go through my archives and collection to develop the content for the page. And of course, feel free to contact me here, via email or by visiting my Facebook or Instagram pages
This is part of a larger collection of items belonging to a South African mercenary who served with the British Parachute Regiment and then went on to become a decorated mercenary officer of 5 Commando of the Armee Nationale Congolaise (ANC) in the Congo from 1966 until it was disbanded in 1967.
At this stage I am still researching and am awaiting a promised detailed personal biography of the soldier from the seller in South Africa. So, right now the details that I have are scant, largely based on the photos and documents contained in the group. As more information comes to light I will update this post.
William (Bill) Martin Jacobs was born in Cape Town, South Africa on the 20th of March 1933. In 1957 he went to the United Kingdom and joined the Parachute Regiment passing out from Depot, The Parachute Regiment as a member of either 103 or 104 platoons according to one of the newspaper clippings in the group.
Bill was then posted to the 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment in time for it’s redeployment to Cyprus after the Suez operation, to combat the Greek terrorist organisation EOKA who were waging a campaign to drive the British out. Included in the group are some photographs from his deployment to Cyprus including a picture of the Police station in the village of Kilani and a photo of Bill in the Troodus Mountains, however I am yet to discover more information about his activities there.
Newspaper clipping showing Major-General R.A. Bramwell Davis, G.O.C., Aldershot District inspecting newly graduated recruits from Airborne Forces Depot Recruit Company Platoons 103 and 104. Private Bill Jacobs is the soldier on the right speaking with the General. I am unsure of the exact date of this event. Collection: Julian Tennant
Group photo of Bill Jacobs (back right) and fellow paras from the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment, during camouflage training in Aldershot. Collection: Julian Tennant
William Jacobs in the Troodus Mountains of Cyprus during his deployment with the 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment in 1958. Collection: Julian Tennant
At the time of his discharge in 1960, Bill had attained the rank of corporal, qualified as a Marksman and Light Machine Gunner, plus been awarded the General Service Medal (1918) with Cyprus clasp. I am not sure what Bill did then and I assume that at some point he returned to South Africa before signing up as a Mercenary with Colonel ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare’s famous 5 Commando (The Wild Geese) of the Armee Nationale Congolaise.
According to the documents accompanying the group, I believe that he joined 5 Commando in 1966, which is after Mike Hoare had left the Congo at the time when the unit was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel John Peters, then subsequently by Georg Schroeder.
Included in the 5 Commando section of the group are several rare company patches, beret badge, rank slides, photographs, his ANC Identification book and a Bronze Cross of Valour (Croix de la Bravoure Militaire des Forces Armee Nationale Congolaise), which according to Jacobs’ documents, was only awarded to six members of 5 Commando. However, inspection of the Bronze Cross of Valour indicates that this particular medal is actually the subsequent variant used when Congo had evolved into Zaire, so I believe that this medal is a replacement that was added later and I can find no evidence of Jacobs himself being awarded this medal. Bill Jacobs left 5 Commando in 1967 and I assume that it was as a result of all the mercenary contracts being suspended by Mabutu Sese Seko in April 1967.
When I obtained this group, Bill Jacobs was living in South Africa. It’s a fascinating and rare record of a unique individual’s service, which fits well into my mercenary insignia collection. Hopefully I will be able to find out more about his service in the near future, but I’ll definitely be showing more of the group in future posts featuring the insignia used by mercenaries in the various African wars that sit in my collection.
Some of William Jacobs souvenirs of his military service including insignia from the Parachute Regiment and from 5 Commando in the Congo. Also included in the group is his British GSM with Cyprus clasp and a Congolese Bronze Cross of Valour (which was awarded to only six members of 5 Commando), identification book and Lieutenant’s rank insignia. Collection: Julian Tennant
Cover of the Armee Nationale Congolaise (ANC) Identity Card issued to Lieutenant William Martin Jacobs whilst serving with 5 Commando in the Congo, 1966-67. Collection: Julian Tennant
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The Airborne Assault Museum is housed within the IWM Duxford complex and visitors have to buy an entry ticket to the Imperial War Museum Duxford to gain entry to Airborne Assault.
Yamaha Quad All Terrain Vehicle (ATV), Afghanistan 2010. The ATV’s with attached trailers deliver food, water and ammunition to troops in difficult to access areas or where larger vehicles are not suitable. Photo: Julian Tennant
Horsa Glider nose cone and exhibit displays in the Airborne Assault Museum.
The Airborne Assault Museum traces the history of British Airborne Forces since their beginning in 1940 to the present day. The museum was originally established by the Committee of the Parachute Regiment Association in October 1946 and relocated from its former home in Browning Barracks, Aldershot to Hangar no.1 (Building 213) of the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in 2008.
Some of the weapons and uniforms on display at Airborne Assault Duxford
Early WW2 era parachutist during training at Ringway. He wears the early smock and training helmet made by by SL & M Feathers Ltd and used between 1940-43.
Horsa Glider Pilot
WW2 Parachute Regiment soldier kitted up with equipment and parachute.
Horsa Glider cockpit nose cone.
Whilst relatively small and tucked away in the back corner of the hangar, the museum is extremely well done. The outside the entrance some of the heavy equipment used by the Airborne Forces is on display, but the really interesting stuff, for a collector like me, was inside. Lots of uniforms, weapons, personal kit and artifacts related to the Parachute Regiment and other Airborne soldiers from the time of their formation in 1940 through the various campaigns of WW2 to post war operations in the Suez crisis, Borneo, Aden, Northern Ireland, The Falklands, Kosovo, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
To visit Airborne Assault you have to buy an entry ticket to the Imperial War Museum Duxford, which will also give you entry to the other exhibition spaces, including the Land Warfare Display and the Royal Anglian Regiment Museum both of which are also worth a visit along with the other air warfare related displays. I’ll do a review and show some pictures of those exhibits in a future post.
Parachute Regiment crowd control duties, Op ‘Banner’, Northern Ireland 1960’s to early 70’s.
Para Sig wearing a 1959 pattern Denison smock. Note the claymore in front of his radio.
Glider Pilot Regiment battledress blouse with M.R.C. (Medical Research Council) body armour, consisting of three 1mm thick manganese steel plates, covering the chest, lower belly and lower back. They were usually worn under the denison smock.
Parachute Regiment circa 1944
Parachutist undertaking a static line jump with equipment.
Pathfinder of 16 Air Assault Brigade kitted out for a High Altitude parachute insertion. Photo: Julian Tennant
Parachute Regiment ‘Red Devils’ parachute display team display.
Subdued Parachutist wing and DZ flash worn by members of the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment.
Op ‘Corporate’ 1982 – Falkand Islands display.
“Crow” from 1 Para, Operation Agricola, Kosovo, 1999.
The Airborne Museum Hartenstein, is one of the best known museums dedicated to the battle for the ‘bridge too far’ and the focal point for commemorative celebrations every September.
Major-General Robert E Urquhart, commanding 1st British Airborne Division, with the Pegasus airborne pennant in the grounds outside his headquarters at the Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek, 22 September 1944. Photograph by Sergeant D.M. Smith (Army Film & Photographic Unit). Imperial War Museum accession number: BU 1136
Memorial to the People of Gelderland on the grounds of the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
A British Paratrooper taking aim with an American M1 carbine from the first floor balcony of the Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek, near Arnhem in The Netherlands. September 1944. The photograph was taken by Sergeant D M Smith, Army Film & Photographic Unit on Saturday the 23rd of September 1944. Sergeant Dennis Smith, the photographer, wrote: “We have had a very heavy shelling this morning, September 23rd and now the situation is serious. the shelling is hellish. We have been holding out for a week now. The men are tired, weary and food is becoming scarce, and to make matters worse, we are having heavy rain. If we are not relieved soon, then the men will just drop from sheer exhaustion”. The British 1st Airborne Division headquarters had been established in the Hotel during ‘Operation Market Garden’ and it is now the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’.
17 Pounder anti-tank gun and re-enactor vehicle outside the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. This gun was part of X-Troop of the 2nd Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, arriving by glider on September 18 at Landing Zone X between Wolfheze and Renkum. It took up several positions in the area north of the railway to support the advance of the 156th and 10th Battalions The Parachute Regiment along the Northern route into Arnhem, before being withdrawn to Oosterbeek. The crew managed to defend their position until the night of the withdrawal on September 25th/26th, 1944. They then buried the breech block, remaining ammunition and drained oil from the recoil cylinder. All the crew except for one wounded gunner managed to reach safety on the opposite bank of the river Rhine. Photo: Julian Tennant
The Hotel Hartenstein as it appeared in 1945, shortly after Operation Market Garden. From a photograph album compiled by Frank Tomlinson, 74th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery of North West Europe from 1944-46. Held in the National Army Museum. Accession number: NAM. 2014-08-16-447
For visitors exploring the battlefields related to Operation Market Garden, the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’ in Oosterbeek serves as a rallying point and provides a focus for much of the activity surrounding the annual anniversary commemorations of the battle for Arnhem. The museum is housed in what was formally the Hotel Hartenstein, which served as the Headquarters for Major General Roy Urquhart, commander of the 1st Airborne Division during this famous battle in September 1944.
Operation Market Garden was launched in an attempt to capture a number of bridgeheads that would allow the Allies to bypass the Siegfried line and cross the Rhine, entering the German industrial base of the Ruhr pocket. Allied Airborne troops were dropped in the Netherlands to secure key towns and bridges along the axis of advance. The British 1st Airborne Division was tasked with seizing the most distant bridges at Arnhem and hold them for two to three days whilst awaiting the arrival of the British XXX Corps who were advancing up the corridor created by the Airborne operation.
Although Initially taken surprise by the landing of the 1st Airborne Division at Wolfheze and north of Heelsum the German forces quickly moved to regain the initiative. Allied intelligence had not accounted for the presence of the 9th SS Panzer Division in the area around Arnhem. This combined with poor communications and the distance of the landing zones from their objectives undermined British attempts to seize the bridges. Only the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment under the command of Lt-Col John Frost managed to reach the northern side of Arnhem bridge, which they held for four days.
The bulk of the British forces became trapped in Oosterbeek, fighting a brutal defensive action until the 25th of September when their situation became untenable and a retreat, code-named Operation Berlin began in an attempt to evacuate the remaining airborne troops to the South side of the Rhine. British engineers assisted in evacuating 2200 men across the river but on the morning of the 26th September, the operation was halted leaving 300 troops behind. In the nine days of Market Garden, combined Allied losses amounted to more than 17.000. The British 1st Airborne Division was almost completely destroyed and of the 10,000 men committed to the operation, casualties numbered 7,578 dead, wounded or missing.
Hartenstein, which was built as a villa in 1865 before becoming a hotel in 1942 was commandeered as the 1st Airborne Division’s headquarters during Operation Market Garden and badly damaged during the fighting. It was subsequently restored and once again used as a hotel before being purchased as the site for the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’ which was officially opened by Major General Roy Urquhart in 1978.
In 2008 it was temporarily closed for an extensive renovation and expansion program which included a basement displaying the ‘Airborne Experience’, a series of dioramas which takes the visitor through the battle from the perspective of a British soldier. After being briefed on the mission you enter an Airspeed AS.51 Horsa Glider replica being battered by flak before exiting into the dimly lit streets of Arnhem as the battle rages around you. You then wander through a juxtaposition of life-size dioramas combined with period visual footage and an audio soundscape, approaching Arnhem bridge before retreating back to the perimeter around the Hotel Hartenstein and finally the Rhine River.
British airborne troops and vehicles at the Airborne Experience diorama at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant.
Entry to the Airborne Experience at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein Photo: Julian Tennant
Clark CA-1 Bulldozer transported in a Horsa glider and used by Royal Engineers of the 1st Airlanding Brigade during Operation Market Garden. Photo: Julian Tennant
Glider pilot at the Airborne Experience diorama in the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
The Airborne Experience display in the basement of the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
Parachute Regiment mortar crew in “The Airborne Experience” diorama at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
“The Airborne Experience” diorama at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
“The Airborne Experience” at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
In addition to the ‘Airborne Experience’, the museum also features dioramas representing how the Hotel Hartenstein was used during the operation. One shows the medical post that was situated in the basement and the other shows the headquarters of Roy Urquhart. It also features several other exhibits and displays reflecting the experience of the battle from Dutch and German perspectives as well as a large collection of medals that have been donated to the museum by deceased veterans. The current displays reflect the current trend in exhibition design and many of the items that I saw at the museum during my first visit in 1991 are unfortunately no longer on display. This includes some of the uniforms and insignia that I was particularly interested in examining once again. In this respect, the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’ is quite different to the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45, which maintains an old-style approach to exhibit presentation and should also definitely be on your itinerary. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also exhibits temporary displays related to the conflict and the grounds surrounding the building feature artillery pieces, a Sherman tank and memorials commemorating the battle.
Diorama featuring Major General Roy Urquhart in his HQ at the Hotel Hartenstein at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
Detail from the Medical Aid Post that was set up at the Hotel Hartenstein during the battle. Note the bullion parachute wings on the chaplain’s sash. An interesting touch, but I am not sure that bullion wings were used during WW2. Photo: Julian Tennant
Signaller in the Command Post diorama at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
Waffen SS insignia on display at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
A selection of German cuff titles on display at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
German Luftwaffe insignia on display at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
Paratrooper of the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade. Photo: Julian Tennant
Polish parachutist and glider borne infantry qualification badges. The initial parachutist qualification is the badge on the left, with each qualifying soldier being awarded an individually numbered badge. After completing an operational jump, a separate serial numbered wreath is attached to the badge (centre). The badge on the right is the Glider pilot qualification worn by the Polish troops. Photo: Julian Tennant
Watch, map, British medic’s brassard, British para qualification wing and plastic economy issue Royal Army Medical Corps beret badge.
RAF aircrew and British Paratrooper with a ‘dummy’ para in the background. Photo: Julian Tennant
An example of the uniform worn by a German SS soldier in 1944. Photo: Julian Tennant
Display featuring uniforms and equipment items used during Operation Market Garden at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
German uniforms and equipment used during the battle for Arnhem’s bridges. Photo: Julian Tennant
A selection of 2nd and 3rd pattern Fairbairn Sykes daggers carried by troops of the 1st Airborne Division on display at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein. Photo: Julian Tennant
The museum also features a large display of medals which have been donated by veterans of Operation Market Garden.
Parachutist qualification and shoulder titles of the Parachute Regiment and 21st Independent Parachute Company, which acted as the pathfinder force for the operation. Photo: Julian Tennant
Insignia worn by members of the Glider Pilot Regiment. Photo: Julian Tennant
Detail of the helmet worn by a Glider pilot of the 1st Airlanding Brigade. Photo: Julian Tennant
The Airborne Museum also has an annex, Airborne at the Bridge, on the banks of the Rhine, opposite the John Frost Bridge. This annex tells the story of the battle fought by John Frost’s 2nd Parachute Battalion at the bridge from three perspectives, British Lieutenant John Grayburn, German Hauptsturmführer Viktor Eberhard Gräbner and Dutch Captain Jacob Groenewoud. Unlike the Airborne Museum Hartenstein, entry to Airborne at the Bridge is free and if you don’t have a MuseumKaart (see below), you can buy a discounted ticket to the Airborne Museum Hartenstein when visiting.
Military re-enactors in their jeep at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein for the Operation Market Garden commemoration held every September. Photo: Julian Tennant
Military vehicles being inspected by visitors to the Airborne Museum Hartenstein for the Operation Market Garden commemoration held every September. Photo: Julian Tennant
Norton WD Big 4 motorcycle and side-car at the commemoration event held at the museum each September. Photo: Julian Tennant
Airborne Museum Hartenstein Utrechtseweg 232
6862 AZ Oosterbeek
T: 026 333 77 10
Open daily from 10:00 – 17:00
Closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
The MuseumKaart entry option
The MuseumKaart is a Dutch annual pass scheme which gives the holder unlimited free entry into over 400 museums in the Netherlands. It costs €54.95 (excluding €4.95 administration fee) for adults and €32.45 for teenagers up to 18 years of age.
Previously buying a MuseumKaart was a great deal as it included a number of military-interest museums around the Netherlands, including the Airborne Museum, National Military Museum at Soesterberg, OorlogsmuseumOverloon, Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum), Rijksmuseum, Scheepvaartmuseum (Maritime Museum), National Holocaust Museum and Anne Frank House in Amsterdam to name a handful. If you were travelling around the Netherlands and dropping into the museums it was a ‘must have’ but unfortunately since 2018 the full unlimited year-long entry is now limited to Dutch residents and (for the same price) tourists receive a card that expires after only 5 museum visits or 31 days. However it can still be a worthwhile savings option depending on your plans.
The MuseumKaart website is in Dutch language only and online purchase is only to Dutch residents. However, you can buy the temporary (tijdelijk) MuseumKaart over-the-counter at some of the museums, including at the Airborne Museum Hartenstein.
Major & Mrs Holt’s Battlefield Guide to Operation Market-Garden. (Third Edition) Published 2013
British paratrooper removing his Welbike motorcycle from it’s drop container in the Market Garden display at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant.
Plastic ‘economy’ issue Parachute Regiment beret badge and half section of a German dog-tag. Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant
Operation Market Garden German soldiers and British para captive on display at the Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant.
British and German paratrooper on display at the Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant
Various British 1st Airborne Division shoulder and beret badges. Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant
German fallschirmjäger (paratrooper) helmet on display at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant
German weapons display at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant
British Sten gun variations on display at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant
Like the Glider Collection Wolfheze, the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum (sometimes referred to in English language search engines as the Arnhem War Museum) is another private museum in the Arnhem area.
Owner Eef Peeters started collecting militaria as a boy, storing his collection at first in his home, followed by a shed and then finally, in 1994, moving the collection to its current location, an old school, in Schaarsbergen. The collection does not focus specifically on Operation Market Garden but paints a much broader picture of what happened in Arnhem and the surrounding areas during the war years. This includes a number of objects relating to less popular subjects including collaboration and the Dutch Nazi Party, the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland (NSB).
Dutch Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland (NSB) uniform. The printed caption in Dutch referred to Carolus Huygen, the Secretary General of the NSB fron 1940. However it did not indicate whether this uniform was his or belonged to another member. Photo: Julian Tennant
Various insignia and items relating to the Dutch Nazi Party, the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland (NSB). Photo: Julian Tennant
Dutch Nazi Party, the Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland (NSB) cap. Photo: Julian Tennant
Dutch volunteer of the Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 10 ‘Westland’ / SS-Standarte ‘Westland’ and propaganda recruiting poster. Photo: Julian Tennant
Two Dutch SS cufftitles. The “Frw. Legion Nederland” title was worn by members of the “Freiwillige Legion Niederlande”. The “Landstorm Nederland” was originally a a home guard unit, which the SS took over in 1943 and became the SS-“Freiwilligen-Brigade Landstorm Nederland” before evolving into the “34. SS-Freiwilligen-Grenadier-Division Landstorm Nederland” in February 1945. I am not sure of the significance of the newspaper beneath the cuff titles. Photo: Julian Tennant
This is an old-style museum concentrating on artifacts, rather than interactive displays. It’s a fascinating and at times eclectic collection of items squeezed into the available space. A lot of the memorabilia is not captioned in English, so I had to rely on my rusty Afrikaans/Dutch skills to interpret some of the captions, but the staff were helpful and friendly. When one of the volunteer staff members found out that I was a collector, after I asked if there were any antique or shops around which may have militaria for sale, he invited me into the office to show me some of the original items that were available for sale to help fund the museum upkeep. But, whilst I was tempted by a couple of period Dutch National Socialist badges, I decided that I had better try to maintain focus on my airborne interest and left empty handed.
German Luftwaffe display at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant
Shoulder patch of the Legion Freies Arabien (Free Arabian Legion), which was worn by units raised by the Germans using recruits from the Middle East and North Africa. Photo: Julian Tennant
Selection of German gorgets that have seen better days, on display at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant.
German Waffen SS officer’s cap with bevo type Totenkopf skull on display at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant.
German Luftwaffe uniforms worn during the occupation of Holland. Photo: Julian Tennant
German army officer uniforms worn during the occupation of Holland. Photo: Julian Tennant
Dutch resistance ‘Oranje’ armbands on display at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Photo: Julian Tennant
Items for sale at the Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum 40-45. Like many museums, there are a selection of replica items for sale. However after chatting to the staff and mentioning my collecting interest, they also showed me some original pieces that were not on display that were also available to help fund the museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
If you have a car, Arnhem Oorlogsmuseum is about 10 minutes drive from central Arnhem or if you are using public transport can be reached in under half an hour via the #9 bus departing from near Arnhem Centraal train station.