Richmond Castle & Easby Abbey ~ 2013

I am going back in time now, to places Sophie and I went before BWP (before wordpress) as we can’t go anywhere as yet. But back on a sunny day in August, 2013, we set off to visit Richmond Castle and Easby Abbey just down the road from the castle. My camera was a Nikon D700, a bit of a gorgeous beast, but my treatment of my photo’s was a bit on the bright side, nevermind, we all have to learn and grow!

But first, of course, we must do…

The History Bit đŸȘ ☕ (long post alert!)

Our Alan.

Richmond Castle stands overlooking the River Swale in a place originally called ‘Riche Mount’, meaning ‘the strong hill’. We are back in Norman Conquest times now gentle reader so everything gets a bit Frenchyfied. The Castle and subsequently the town of Richmond was built by a chap called Alan Rufus, (Alan the Red) which doesn’t sound very French but rest assured he was one of those Pesky French who played a large part in our history.

Alan was a Nobleman of Breton and companion to William the Conqueror who you may remember from our previous history post concerning Auckland Castle.

Born in 1040 his parents were Eozen Penteur, Count of PentfiĂ©vre and Orguen Kernev known as Agnes of Cornouaille. Eozen was related to Willy Conk’s family and there’s a whole shed load of inter-related and married brothers and sisters, and Dukes this and that of here and there that I think we’ll skip over for sanity’s sake, suffice to say our Alan’s family were well heeled and connected in the upper eschelons of Royal society.

By 1060 our Al had properties in Rouen, and was Lord of Richemont in Upper Normandy prior to 1066. Willy Conk gifted Al a couple of churches therein, St-Ouen de Rouen of the church of Saint-Sauveur and the nearby church of Sainte Croix des Pelletiers. You will have clocked 1066 as the date when The Battle of Hastings happened, when the Pesky French wiped the floor with the English. Now, I don’t want to appear to be a bad loser here, but I’m going to point out that the battle took place on the 14th October, and started at 9am. It’s estimated the Pesky French under Willy Conk, had 10,000 men, cavalry and arches and infantry, whilst good ol’King Harold had 7000, mostly infantry. The English were outmanned and out techied, but held their ground, and by dusk of that day the Pesky French had not been able to break the English battle lines. So what did they do to win? They ran away, pretending to flee in panic, and then turned on their pursuers! It’s just not cricket!!

Anyway I digress. Our Al was with Willy Conk at the Battle, and apparently Al and his Breton men aquitted themselves very well, doing the English ‘great damage’. Later in 1066 Norman cavalry swept into Cambridgeshire and built a castle on the hill north of the river crossing and as Al’s first possessions in England were in Cambridgeshire, he possibly obtained them at this point. King Harold who died at the battle (legend has it he got an arrow through the eye, which is enough to kill most people) was married, (sort of) to a lady known as Edith the Fair, or Edith Swanneck, who held many land titles in Cambridge, and our Al aquired all but one of those. He also aquired Edith and Harold’s daughter Gunhild of Wessex as his mistress who abandoned her life as a nun in Wilton Abbey in order to live with him. She was hoping to marry him but that didn’t happen and after Al’s death she went on to live with his brother Alan Niger (Alan the Black), I suppose one brother is much like the next! Except one’s red and one’s black. Nomenclaturally speaking I mean. I think it was down to hair colour.

In January 1069 the rebellion of York kicked off and Willy Conk got his army together in the latter part of the year, putting down the rebellion and then going on to do the ‘harrying of the north’. As a reward to red Al for his help in the conquest, Willy bestowed what’s known as ‘The Honour of Richmond’ upon him. This ostensibly means a huge swathe of land previously owned by Edwin Earl of Mercia who was part of the rebellion in the North, and was killed trying to escape to Scotland. It was one of the most important fiefdoms in Norman England covering parts of eight English counties. Alan went on to become one of the most important, and wealthy men in England, owning land just about everywhere and being the third richest Baron. But that’s another herd of stuff that isn’t of import to Richmond so there we’ll leave it except to say he had a sudden and unexpected death in either 1089 or 1093, most likely 1093.

Our Al commenced the building of the castle in 1071, and the earliest surviving structures at the castle include long stretches of the stone curtain wall, the great archway in the ground floor of the keep, and Scolland’s Hall. No other castle in England can boast so much surviving 11th-century architecture and it is probably the best-preserved castle of this scale and age in the country. After Al’s death, his brother Al the Black took over and after his death another brother Stephen. By 1136 Stephen’s son, wouldn’t you know it, another Alan Niger (so Al the Black 2nd whomst we will call Alby 2) held the estates.

The King at this point was King Stephen, known as Stephen Le Blois, who we never hear much about, so I’ll digress a little to tell you he was the grandson of Willy Conk, and when Conk’s son King Henry 1st died leaving the succession to the throne open to challenge, Stephen hot footed it over the channel to England and with the help of Henry, Bishop of Winchester, took the throne, before Henry’s daughter Matilda got her little graspy hands on it. Alby 2 had a mint built in the castle that issued coins in support of King Stephen, as his reign was muchly embattled with rebellions and the like.

Alby 2 had married Bertha, the heiress to the Duke of Brittany and they had a son named Conan, (not the Destroyer, nor the Barbarian) and he eventually inherited the Duchy of Brittany and the Earldom of Richmond, thereby becoming subject to both the King of England and the King of France. He began to assert control over his English lands from 1154 and during the next 10 years spent a lot of time at Richmond, commencing the building of the castle keep, a statement of his vast power and wealth. The 100 feet (30m) high keep was built of honey coloured sandstone and it’s walls were 11 foot (3-4m) thick.

Henry II was our King at this time, and in 1166 after getting help from Henry to put down rebellions in his lands in France Conan betrothed his daughter Constance to Henry’s 4th son Geoffrey ceding the duchy of Brittany to the king as part of the agreement. Constance was only 9 years old when Dad died in 1171 so Henry took control of Richmond castle, and held the guardianship of Brittany until Geoffrey and Constance could marry. Royal accounts list several buildings as objects of repair or new work under Henry II, including the tower and houses of the castle (1171–4) and the ‘king’s house’ (1186–7), probably a reference to Scolland’s Hall.

Although Geoff and Connie did marry in 1181, the castle remained in royal hands until the end of King John’s reign in 1261, though there’s no evidence that he did any building works at the castle.

Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries Alby 2’s combination of the French Duchy of Brittany with the English Earldom of Richmond caused a long running international dynastic dispute. The French and English Kings were often having fisticuffs, so the incumbent at Richmond castle had dual allegiances, never really works that does it? As a result the Honour and castle were confiscated from time to time and held by either the English Crown or a royal favourite. Finally in 1372 the castle was surrendered to the Crown.

The Dukes who intermittently ruled Richmond in this period continued to invest in it. In 1278 Duke John II entered into an agreement with Egglestone Abbey to provide six canons (priests, not implements of war- they have an extra ‘n’) for the castle’s Great Chapel so they could spend their time praying for the soul of his late wife Beatrice. Beatrice must have been really bad to need that many prayers I think. The chapel isn’t standing now, so the prayers probably didn’t work too well.

By the end of the 14th century the castle was not in good nick anymore and surveys in 1538 had it ‘derelict’, and in 1609 ‘decayed’ but parts of the castle were still being used. At some point in the 16th century expensive glass was imported from Europe to refurbish the Robin Hood tower’s chapel, and at another point that was abandoned too.

The castle remained in this condition for another 300 years with ownership passing back to the Dukes of Richmond in 1675. These lot were not the Pesky French but started with the extramarital son of King Charles II, probably better keeping it in the family. Every one of the Dukes was called Charles Lennox, Charles Gordon Lennox, Charles Henry Gordon Lennox or Frederick Charles Gordon Lennox. My eyerolling knows no bounds gentle reader. There are 11 of them and apart from one nephew all are sons of the fathers. At least the 3rd Duke made some repairs to the castle keep, but other than that, it stands a ruin. In the 18th and 19th centuries artists including JMW Turner painted the castle in the landscape which encouraged admiration of the castle as a romantic ruin, and the town became a fashionable place for tourists to visit.

In 1854 the North York Militia leased the castle for it’s headquarters and built a barrack block against the west curtain wall. They adapted the keep as a depot and built a range beside the main castle gate, intended as a reserve armoury for the militia. Then in 1908 it became the headquarters of the Northern Territorial Army commanded by Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts until 1910 when the army handed over the historic fabric of the castle to the Ministry of Works, but retained control of the buildings.

When World War 1 happened the Northern Non-Combatent Corps occupied the building. They were a military unit of chaps who had asked to be exempt from going to war but would contribute to the war effort in some other way. However there were a few chaps who didn’t want anything to do with the war at all as it was against their fundamental beliefs and in 1916 some of them were detained in cells at the castle. The tiny rooms where they were held still have the graffiti on the walls that the objectors drew.

Some of these conscientious objectors, who became known as the Richmond Sixteen, were sent to France in May 1916, where they were court martialled for refusing to obey orders. They were given a death sentence, but it was commuted to 10 years penal servitude. Their transportation to France, trial and sentencing have become notorious in the history of conscientious objection.

After the war, from 1920-28 the barracks were used by Richmond Council to help alleviate the shortage of housing in the town and the block was demolished in 1931. In the 2nd World War the roof of the keep was used as a lookout post against enemy activity, and the keep was used as a daylight air raid shelter. In 1940 the cell block was once again used to detain prisoners, although these were soldiers rather than conscientious objectors. Many of them also pencilled drawings and inscriptions on the cell walls.

In 1987 English Heritage became the guardians of the Castle, and now we are bang up to date! That was a long read and I salute you gentle reader for staying to the end, you are still my favourite 🙂 .

So let’s have a look at the castle.

Starting off on the walk around the outside of the castle, and the 11th-century curtain wall.
View over the River Swale from the east wall.
View of Culloden Tower from the East wall.

Built by John Yorke as a feature in the park surrounding his mansion, The Green, which was demolished in the 1820s in the 19th century it was known as the Cumberland Tower, or Temple. It was built on, or close to, the site of an earlier peel tower but an exact date has not yet been discovered. It must however be between 1732 – as it bears the arms of Anne Darcy who Yorke married in that year – and 1749 when it is described as a ‘Gothick Tower on an eminence’. The Culloden Tower fell into disrepair in the 1970s and was rescued by The Landmark Trust which completed an exemplary restoration in 1982.

The Gold Hole Tower
This is where the barrack demolished in 1931 stood.
The keep
The keep and to the right of it the 1865 barrack block where the conscientious objectors were stored and where the graffiti can be seen.
View over Richmond from the top of the Keep.

Well that will do for today, you must have finished your cuppa tea by now, but stay tooned, next week we’ll have a look at the town and the river.

All the pictures are embiggenable with a click if you like.

refs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond_Castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Rufus

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/richmond-castle/history-and-stories/history/

https://thefollyflaneuse.com/culloden-tower-richmond-north-yorkshire/

Bamburgh Castle Revisted ~ August 2019 ~ 2

Part 1 HERE

After a good wander around the grounds we went to visit the museums. The first museum we got to was the Armstrong & Aviation museum, which houses some of the stuff that Armstrong produced for WW2, and some stuff from WW1.

Big Gun

Mangled Aircraft Engines

I’m sorry to say I didn’t take notes or many photo’s in this museum, I’m not sure why it didn’t float my boat,  however there was a really nice vintage car that I liked.

Armstrong Siddeley 1936

We also visited the Archaeology Museum and saw some nice bling that they had dug up. The pieces were incredibly small, but beautifully decorated, and they were covered by a magnifying glass so you could see the detail. Not easy to shoot through 2 layers of glass so not the best shots ever, but you can see what I mean.

These date between 10th and 12th century A.D. It’s possible that metal work or scrap recycling was going on in the vicinity of where they were found, so could be dated earlier than the layer in which they were found.

The top piece was discovered in 1971 and has been named the Bambugh Beast. It is believed to date from AD 600-AD 700 and is reminiscent of Anglo-Celtic illuminated manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels. The lower piece was discovered in 2011, it is sheet gold, edged with beaded wire and decorated with small balls of gold.

There is also a Stones museum which we looked into.

The information sign says: “This carved panel displays two ‘Celtic’ heads carved into the front face with long, drooping moustaches. Carved heads are common in Western Europe from the Iron Age to Medieval date. These figures are more suggestive of Irish or French origin than the north of England and will be the subject of further research.”

An anglo-saxon well can also be seen there.

The Victorian Well head on the well dug in Anglo Saxon times. First described by Simeon of Durham in 774, there was originally a church on top of this hill with a spring which was “sweet to the taste and most pure 
 that has been excavated with astonishing labour.” The well is 44 metres deep and 2 metres in diameter and is located in the bottom of the keep of the castle.

Of course the castle rooms are all home to interesting bits of history

 

17th century Flemish Crossbow

There’s a nice little keepsake of Queen Mary’s signature from a vist she made there in 1924

Stay tooned for part 3 when we visit the state rooms.

Raby Castle ~ August 2018 ~ Interior part 3

EXTERIOR…..PART 1 HERE   PART 2 HERE.   PART 3 HERE

INTERIOR…….PART 1 HERE ~ Entrance Hall, Chapel, Baron’s Hall.

INTERIOR……PART 2 HERE ~ Small drawing room, Octagon Room, Dining Room

 

Today we’ll start in the Blue Bedroom.

Blue Bedroom

Guess why it’s called the blue bedroom :). This bedroom was added as a guest bedroom by John Carr in the 18thC and has a Four poster bed which was the marriage bed of the Duke of Cleveland,  It has a handmade bedspread made in Turkey.

Big Bed

 

Commode and bath, with screen for privacy

Of course servants quarters would not be so swish, but even so, not too bad,

Servants bedroom

The kitchen in Raby was in use up to 1954, (Not sure where they cook now!) It originally had an open fire in the middle of the room and carcasses of meat would be hung across beams in the ceiling so the smoke would cure it.  Three large fireplaces were installed at various points in its history.  In the Victorian era, a range with a fan turned spit and side ovens

Victorian Range

Another range was added during WW2 when officers were billeted in the castle

and a third which was turned into a sink so that the fire below could heat up the water

 

Some of the display items seem so funny now, but back in the day this was serious advice!

 

Don’t try this at home! 😀

Again the servants dining area wasn’t too shabby either

That’s the best bits of the Interior finished up, next time we’ll visit the stables where we had lunch, and commence the Deerfest!

Stay tooned!

Frontline Finale

and into battle we go!

The WW2 re-enactors did a display at the end of the day and everyone piled in to do battle.  I’m not sure if it was based on a historical one, but I doubt it.  It was great fun to watch anyway, and everyone survived!

The Germans are coming!!

 

never mind smiling for the camera- shoot the danged gun!

 

everybody out!

 

OOPS!! On yer feet son!

 

preparing

 

fire in the hole!

 

smokin’!

 

Our gun’s bigger than yours!

 

Get this thing pointed at that bagpipe player, he’s driving me mad!

 

Let’s get out of here, that bloke’s got a skirt on and I don’t think he’s wearing pants!

 

We surrender! We can’t take anymore of ‘Scotland The Brave’.

 

How very dare you? That bagpipe player has won the war single handed!

 

The End!

All photo’s embiggenable and

Loads more photo’s of the day HERE

Stay tooned for our next outing, when Sophie and I go to see the Tall Ships when they came to Sunderland.

 

Road Trip ~ October 2017~ Day 5~Overloon

War belongs in the museum. That is the motto of the War Museum Overloon. The War Museum Overloon presents the history of the Second World War. Here you see how it can be that in five years’ time more than fifty million people lost their lives, but also how the oppressed people resourcefully coped with restrictions and shortages. There is attention to the opposition, but also to the persecution. Finally, there is, of course, also attention paid to the liberation, with special attention to the Battle of Overloon.

In September 1944, the British general Montgomery conceived of the attack plan Market Garden. With air landings at Arnhem and the liberation of a narrow corridor through South Netherlands, it would be possible for the Allies to make a further advance to Berlin. However, the plan only partially succeeded. The Allied forces wanted to broaden and strengthen their corridor, but the German opponent in turn tried to cut the Allies off. On 30 September, the two parties clashed in the vicinity of Overloon. German Panther tanks and American Sherman tanks attacked each other continuously. About a week later, British troops got involved in the fight. Ultimately, it took nearly three weeks before Overloon and more the southerly Venray were liberated. The Battle of Overloon is known as the most intense tank battle that ever took place on Dutch ground.
The battle of Overloon ensued as the Allies in Operation Aintree advanced from nearby positions south toward the village of Overloon. After a failed attack on Overloon by the U.S. 7th Armored Division, the British 3rd Infantry Division and the British 11th Armoured Division took over. The U.S. 7th Armored Division was moved south of Overloon to the Deurne – Weert area. Here they were attached to the British Second Army, and ordered to make demonstration attacks to the east in order to divert enemy forces from the Overloon and Venlo areas.

Suffering heavy losses the British captured Overloon and moved towards Venray. The advance on Venray resulted in heavy losses, especially around the Loobeek creek, which was swollen due to heavy autumn rains and was flooded and mined by the Germans. Casualties were heavy here among the 1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment which was serving in 185th Infantry Brigade of the British 3rd Division. During the battle, the village of Overloon was destroyed. In and around Overloon, some 2,500 soldiers died, making it one of the bloodiest battles in the Netherlands during the Second World War. Dozens of tanks, mainly American, were destroyed. (info from wiki and the museum website).

I did say in my post from Waterloo, that the underground museum there was one of the most impressive I’d seen, but really Overloon War museum was even more so.  The museum was established straight away after the war, in 1946 and  consists of tanks, vehicles and all sorts that were left on the battlefield, and have been restored. The place is huge, big enough to house a B25 tactical bomber as well as all the vehicles.

I was chuffed to see a spitfire too

Phil was happy to see a Panther G (he’s built a few himself 🙂 )

there were guns

and motorbikes

One of the more poignant exhibits was a Churchill tank and with it a letter from the chap who’d been in it when it was blown up, you can click on the picture of the letter to see it large so to speak, and to do so and read it is an experience in itself.

I also liked how they had old war posters and photographs to go with the displays

The Red Ball Express was a famed truck convoy system that supplied Allied forces moving quickly through Europe after breaking out from the D-Day beaches in Normandy in 1944. In order to expedite cargo to the front, trucks emblazoned with red balls followed a similarly marked route that had been closed to civilian traffic. These trucks were also given priority on regular roads.  The system originated in an urgent 36-hour meeting and began operating on August 25, 1944, staffed primarily with African-American soldiers. At its peak, the Express operated 5,958 vehicles, and carried about 12,500 tons of supplies a day. It ran for 83 days until November 16, when the port facilities at Antwerp, Belgium, were opened, enough French rail lines were repaired, and portable gasoline pipelines were deployed.

As well as all the vehicles, there is the history of the awful conditions that the people of Overloon suffered, and the role of the resistance.

outside there are statues (can’t find any info on them, but I think they depict the starvation of the townspeople)

this next one is Shock Troops of the Command/Limburg Regiment during the Second World War. Monument Shock Troops Command, manufactured by the painter/sculptor Charles Eyck.

they’d even restored a Bailey Bridge

ahem 🙂

Far too many photo’s for one post and I won’t bore you to death with lots of military vehicles, but I did take a shed load of them and for anyone interested

the full album can be viewed HERE

It is such a powerful museum to experience, and once isn’t really enough, there are bits that make you cry, like the letter from the tank guy, but there’s just so much that is fascinating, and you get such a sense of the scale of things.

This was the last visit to museums along the way to the Model show in Veldhoeven, but stay tooned, as well be getting to that next time.

 

Road Trip ~ October 2017~ Day 4~Bastogne

The battle of the Bulge was a German offensive intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy four Allied armies and force the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers’ favor. It was planned by the German forces with utmost secrecy, with minimal radio traffic and movements of troops and equipment under cover of darkness. Intercepted German communications indicating a substantial German offensive preparation were not acted upon by the Allies. The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces, and they were largely unable to replace them. German personnel and, later, Luftwaffe aircraft (in the concluding stages of the engagement) also sustained heavy losses.
By 21 December the Germans had surrounded Bastogne, which was defended by the 101st Airborne Division, the all African American 969th Artillery Battalion, and Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division. Conditions inside the perimeter were tough—most of the medical supplies and medical personnel had been captured. Food was scarce, and by 22 December artillery ammunition was restricted to 10 rounds per gun per day. The weather cleared the next day, however, and supplies (primarily ammunition) were dropped over four of the next five days.

Despite determined German attacks, however, the perimeter held. The German commander, Generalleutnant Heinrich Freiherr von LĂŒttwitz, requested Bastogne’s surrender. When Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st, was told of the Nazi demand to surrender, in frustration he responded, “Nuts!” After turning to other pressing issues, his staff reminded him that they should reply to the German demand. One officer, Lt. Col. Harry Kinnard, noted that McAuliffe’s initial reply would be “tough to beat.” Thus McAuliffe wrote on the paper, which was typed up and delivered to the Germans, the line he made famous and a morale booster to his troops: “NUTS!” That reply had to be explained, both to the Germans and to non-American Allies.

Both 2nd Panzer and Panzer-Lehrdivision moved forward from Bastogne after 21 December, leaving only Panzer-Lehrdivision’s 901st Regiment to assist the 26th Volksgrenadier-Division in attempting to capture the crossroads. The 26th VG received one Panzergrenadier Regiment from the 15th Panzergrenadier Division on Christmas Eve for its main assault the next day. Because it lacked sufficient troops and those of the 26th VG Division were near exhaustion, the XLVII Panzerkorps concentrated its assault on several individual locations on the west side of the perimeter in sequence rather than launching one simultaneous attack on all sides. The assault, despite initial success by its tanks in penetrating the American line, was defeated and all the tanks destroyed. The next day, 26 December, the spearhead of Gen. Patton’s 4th Armored Division, supplemented by the 26th (Yankee) Infantry Division, broke through and opened a corridor to Bastogne. (info purloined from wiki).

Phil wanted to visit two places inn Bastogne, Bastogne Barracks, which has a goodly amount of restored tanks , and the Bastogne War museum.  We arrived at the barracks to find it didn’t open until 2pm, so went off to visit the War museum.  We parked up in the car park and I opened up the back of the car to get my camera, whereupon we were invaded.

After we evicted the cat we walked up the hill. I wasn’t expecting a giant statue of the famous photo ‘The Kiss’ by Alfred Eisentaed,

also outside is the Belgian-American memorial, in the shape of a 5 point star

These words are carved into panels in the memorial like the ones in the photo above, it is worth reading.

We were given handsets to listen to as we walked around the museum, and the story of 4 real people from the time is told as you walk through each section. Robert Keane : an American corporal of the 101st airborne division;Hans WegmĂŒller : a German lieutenant of the 26th Volksgrenardier Division; Mathilde Devillers : a young teacher from Bastogne school and Emile Mostade : one of her pupils, aged 13. The museum is laid out in 7 sections starting with an overview of pre-war Europe, and ending with the New World order. It’s really well done and worth a visit.

Some of the exhibits.

After the museum we went back to the barracks as it was after 2pm, only to be told that we were now too late 🙄 as it’s a tour with a guide, that starts at 2, and ends at 4.  Didn’t spot that when we looked it up online so we were a bit disappointed.  Instead we had a wander into Bastogne itself, and had a coffee or two.

Belgium of course is noted for it’s chocolate,

but we were good, and didn’t indulge.

There’s a square at the top of the street where every building seems to be a restaurant

and it had a Sherman tank in the carpark

which had been wounded in the war

Even though we missed out on the barracks tour, we had a lovely day again, the weather started off cloudy but turned into blue skies in the afternoon and we stayed in a really nice guest house where we had our own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, so dined in on microwave meals, from a supermarket up the road. Actually that was a bit of a disaster as the microwave conked out after heating up one dinner and we had to wait 1/2 an hour for it to work again. 🙄

Stay tooned for the next visit which is to Overloon and the War museum there, which is an amazing place.

more about Bastogne War museum HERE

full set of pictures HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip ~ October 2017~ Day 2~ Arnhem

Operation Market Garden (17–25 September 1944) was an uncompleted Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. Airborne and land forces succeeded in the liberation of the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen, but failed in keeping their further positions in and around the city of Arnhem with its strategically important bridge over the river Rhine.

The operation made massed use of airborne forces, whose tactical objectives were to secure the bridges and allow a rapid advance by armoured ground units to consolidate north of Arnhem. The operation required the seizure of the bridges across the Maas (Meuse River), two arms of the Rhine (the Waal and the Lower Rhine) together with crossings over several smaller canals and tributaries.  Several bridges between Eindhoven and Nijmegen were captured at the beginning of the operation. Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks’ XXX Corps ground force advance was delayed by the initial failure of the airborne units to secure bridges at Son and Nijmegen. German forces demolished the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Son before it could be secured by the 101st Airborne Division. The 82nd Airborne Division’s failure to capture the main road bridge over the river Waal at Nijmegen before 20 September also delayed the advance of XXX Corps.

At the furthest point of the airborne operation at Arnhem, the British 1st Airborne Division encountered initial strong resistance. The delays in capturing the bridges at Son and Nijmegen gave time for German forces, including the 9th and 10th SS panzer divisions who were present at that time, to organize and retaliate. In the ensuing battle, only a small force managed to capture the north end of the Arnhem road bridge and after the ground forces failed to relieve them, the paratroopers were overrun on 21 September. The remainder of the 1st Airborne Division was trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge, having to be evacuated on the 25th of September.  The Allies had failed to cross the Rhine. The river remained a barrier to their advance into Germany until offensives at Remagen, Oppenheim, Rees and Wesel in March 1945. The failure of Market Garden to form a foothold over the Rhine ended Allied expectations of finishing the war by Christmas 1944. (Wiki.)

Well that’s the  history summation, and if you’ve seen the movie A Bridge Too Far, or read the book, you’ll know it was complete clusterfuck from the get go.

We drove from Bruges to Arnhem and initially couldn’t find a way in to the museum and ended up in the War graves cemetery, so decided to visit it.  It was a beautiful autumn day and the cemetery is surrounded by splendid trees, raining their leaves on our heads.

We spent some time looking at the headstones, and as always for me there were tears.

Phil noted all the different badges of army and airforce units, and how many different nationalities were involved.

Although there were Polish forces amongst the headstones they also had their own section,

We managed to find out that in order to visit the museum, you had to park in the local cafe’s car park, and then walk a short way up to the museum.

The Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’ in Oosterbeek, is set in what was the Hotel Hartenstein. In the area around Arnhem more than ten thousand men of the British 1st Airborne Division and the Glider Pilot Regiment landed north of the Lower Rhine, whilst the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade landed on its southern banks in order to capture the Arnhem Road Bridge. Over 700 men under the command of John Dutton Frost did manage to reach the bridge and held its northern ramp for 4 days, but the bulk of the British forces were engaged by superior German forces (including the II SS Panzer Corps) and became trapped in Oosterbeek. Major General Roy Urquhart chose ‘Hartenstein’ as his headquarters.  The building unfortunately was covered in scaffolding and coverings, so I didn’t take a shot but this is how it looked back in 1944.

from website http://www.heemkunderenkum.nl/hotel-hartenstein-1944-zwaar-beschadigd/

There is a memorial outside the museum, and caused more tears for me

In the museum an extensive and diverse collection is displayed consisting of original weaponry, genuine uniforms and equipment used in the battle. The numerous photos and films on display provide a realistic picture which is enhanced by interviews with Allied soldiers. I found myself still weeping whilst reading the comments of the soldiers. In addition the museum has an award-winning Airborne Experience exhibition, that depicts the area around Arnhem and Oosterbeek during the battle. This was set in a basement added to the building in 2008.

It starts off in a faux airplane where you hear the noises of flak and feel it shaking

and then you go into the main battle area

Back in the main part of the museum are the details of the main commanders.

Lt Col Frost was in command of 2 Battalion The Parachute Regiment which dropped 6 miles west of Arnhem on Sunday 17th September 1944. The task of this battalion was to seize the main bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem and to hold this bridge until the arrival of 30 Corps. During the advance on the bridge Lt Col Frost commanded his battalion with great initiative and skill and by 2000 hours considerable enemy forces had been outflanked and the northern end of the bridge captured together with sixty prisoners. All attempts to capture the southern end of the bridge failed. The bridge itself was covered by fire from the south bank of the river while the railway bridge further downstream was blown before Lt Col Frost could get a company across. During the night a few other troops arrived and by the morning of Monday 18th September Lt Col Frost found himself in command of a force consisting of one Battalion The Parachute Regiment, Brigade Headquarters, one troop of Royal Engineers and a small party of Royal Army Service Corps. Meanwhile the remainder of the Brigade had met with intense resistance and, with the enemy constantly reinforcing with infantry and armour, all attempts to reinforce the defenders of the bridge proved hopeless. From now until the night of Friday 20th September, Lt Col Frost’s forces numbering at the outside not more than 550 all ranks, were subjected to almost continuous attack by all arms. Despite no re-supply of ammunition and food, this force, under the commanding officer and inspiring leadership continued to fight magnificently; very heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy, and many tanks, S.P. guns and half track vehicles were destroyed. It was only when the enemy, having burned the defenders out of each house in turn, set fire to Brigade Headquarters house, where there were nearly 300 wounded that had to be surrendered, that co-ordinated defence ceased. Lt Col Frost though wounded on Wednesday morning, showed the greatest courage and determination throughout the battle.  It was largely due to his fine leadership that the position was maintained intact for over three days.  (pegasusarchive.com)

Major Victor Dover of C Company wrote in his book, The Silken Canopy, “Johnny was tall and inclined to be heavily built (not an advantage for parachuting); he had eyes that twinkled behind heavy lids, but they could, at times, flash with impatience if not anger. He grew a rather untidy moustache which he had a habit of pulling and twisting – a habit which helped to keep it rather untidy. He was a dreamer of battles to be fought and to be won; there was no such thing as defeat in his dreams, dreams which became reality. Johnny Frost had a mystical magic – no need for him to write high-sounding messages to his junior commanders or to address the men whom he led with words of inspiration – such was the aura which surrounded him. He was sentimental, sometimes ruthless when he had to be, sometimes aloof, but always calm. I shall never know if he knew fear, but if he did, I never saw it. He chuckled rather than laughed and he chuckled easily and frequently. Johnny was a modest man, almost shy in matters which concerned him personally. On the other hand he was frequently outspoken to officers senior to himself when he disagreed with a proposed plan of action – and he did so with authority and a conviction that was almost divine! 

In June 1944, Major James Anthony Hibbert was appointed Brigade Major of the 1st Parachute Brigade. During the planning stages prior to Operation Market Garden, Hibbert had come into contact with his friend and chief opponent of the plan, Major Brian Urquhart. “He took me into his office and he showed me photographs of German panzer IV’s mainly, I think they were, tucked in underneath woods. And he went to General Browning and said that in his view Operation Market Garden could not succeed. They said that his nerve had broken, of course Browning had every right to make his own judgement, my own view is that Urquhart was a very brilliant chap, he knew what he was suggesting and that was the end of it.” Hibbert also commented that Urquhart was “highly strung but intelligent, and his fear for the 1st Airborne’s safety were justified.” (pegasusarchives.com)

Well I was in bits after all that, so Phil took me off back to the cafe and we had some coffee sitting outside and talking of what we’d seen and learned.

After coffee Phil wanted to return and look around the museum shop and as we walked back up to it I noticed a field next to the museum was full of deer, which was a bit of a surprise. So while Phil went round the shop, I went over to the fence and took some pictures of them.

While I was stood there, a little old chap came up on a bicycle, and stopped and said something in Dutch to me. “Sorry, English” I replied, ‘Ah, no English’ he said pointing to himself, stood a little while watching the deer and then cycled off.  I kept taking pictures, and 5 minutes later the chap returned, got off his bike and stood near me holding his hand out over the fence. All the deer then came gambling over to him as he had horse chestnuts in his hands for them and they were mad for them! I took lots of close ups then of the deers

and I couldn’t ask to take his photo but got a bit of him feeding the deer.

He gave me a chestnut to give them too, but I dropped it! The deer didn’t mind. When they’d eaten the lot he smiled at me and said ‘get good pictures?’  after he’d pedalled off I realised he’d gone to get the chestnuts so I could get the pictures. And I never got to thank him. So I cried of course, the kindness of a stranger in another land is still going strong.

Phil came over to see the deer, and we walked around the fence to see the Daddy!

The bridge at Arnhem is now named the John Frost Bridge, and after dinner we went down to see it.

It was an amazing, humbling, thought provoking experience to visit Arnhem, and each year the Airborne Museum is involved in events commemorating the Battle of Arnhem. It also serves as a gathering place for veterans, civilians and young people. The museum is close to the  cemetery where several hundred of the Allied casualties are buried. Every year the participants of the Airborne March pay a special tribute when the parade is held in front of the museum.

Full set of photographs HERE 

Further reading on Operation Market Garden at the brilliant Pegasus website HERE

 

 

 

 

Road Trip ~ October 2017~ Day 1~The Atlantic Wall

Our road trip started on 16th October, and we headed from Calais straight to Belgium and to the Atlantic Wall open air museum. The Atlantic wall is a really long set of defences and fortifications along the coast that were built between 1942 and 1944 by Nazi Germany, when they were anticipating and preparing for an invasion by the allies.  As 1944 approached Field Marshall Rommel was charged to improve the wall’s defences. Believing the existing coastal fortifications to be entirely inadequate, he immediately began strengthening them. Under his direction, hundreds of reinforced concrete pillboxes were built on the beaches, or sometimes slightly inland, to house machine guns, antitank guns, and light and heavy artillery. Land mines and antitank obstacles were planted on the beaches, and underwater obstacles and naval mines were placed in waters just offshore. The intent was to destroy the Allied landing craft before they could unload on the beaches.  Which they did a lot of on D-Day, but not enough. 🙂

It was amazing to see how much is still left standing, and we walked through tunnels and along the coast to see it all. Phil was chuffed to see the guns in their places.

PAK 40 anti-tank gun inside a restored bunker

 

walking through the tunnels

as you walk through you come across bunkers where the soldiers were stationed

captains quarters

you could believe he’d be back in a minute!

They had a doctor and emergency room

and their comfy ‘homes’

communications dept

and weapon stores

Many constructions in the open-air museum are still in their original condition and have been refurbished with authentic objects and furniture.  Light and heavy artillery and searchlights can be seen in their original locations and the every day life of the soldiers is evoked in true-to-life dioramas. It was quite cheap to get in, 8 euro’s, and even cheaper for us as the chap behind the counter thought we were ‘seniors’ i.e. over 65!! 🙄 so only charged us 6 each. Obviously we are not wearing well 😀 .

More of my pictures of it are on my website HERE

The museums website is HERE

and theres an interesting bit on it at the Traces of War website HERE

 

After our long afternoon, we headed off to Bruges, and that I’ll save for the next post, so stay tooned!

Poland~ April 2017 ~Auschwitz

It’s taken me a little while to get to this part of our trip, it’s taken a little while to Marshall all my thoughts. It may be a lengthier post than normal, but I am not going to do this in ‘parts’, once is enough, so anyone with a short attention span feel free to bow out now 🙂 .

First thing to say is I was wary of going here, I, like many, have seen harrowing movies, Schindlers List, Sophies Choice, Boy in striped pyjamas, The Pianist, etc, and have seen the truly staggering news reels from when the camps were liberated, and been deeply horrified, so a trip to see the place where it all happened seemed a question of how much worse could I feel about it all?  Second thing to say is I am not going to write about or explain the history of the place, plenty of proper historians and better writers than I have done that and can be googled, and unless you live under a rock you already know the gist of what it’s all about.

We set off early from Eddy’s for the 2 hour drive, on a beautiful blue sky day.  We arrived at 11.30am, got parked up and went to get our tickets.  The queue was lengthy, as they had a portacabin with three servers on and there was a lot, and I mean a lot, of people wanting to get in. It was a Bank Holiday in Poland so maybe not the best day to visit.

The Queue

 

While we were queueing Eddy went to find out bus times for us to get to Krakow as we were flying home in the evening, and then we said our final goodbye to Eddy.  Phil left me to go and put our luggage in a ‘left luggage’ store where he was told his backpack would have to be left too as it was too big to go in with, so then he had to come back and tell me the same would apply to my camera backpack. So out with the camera and stuffed my pockets with the lenses (didn’t want to use them, just not let them out of my sight!).  We of course were dressed for the cooler weather we’d been having, so standing in the sun wasn’t that comfortable, but we did.  People were stoic, and we had little chats with some Chinese ladies and a Canadian family either side of us. It took about 50 minutes to get to our turn at the portacabins.  There we found out that you were not allowed to wander around on your own until 4pm, and would have to go on a guided tour. The tours were timed every 1/2 hour and were categorised by nationality.  It turned out the English speaking tour would set off too late for us to go round in time to catch our bus, so we chose the next one to leave which was the Polish tour. We got our tickets and went through to the next bit where you picked up a headset so you could hear the guide, as we were on the Polish tour we didn’t bother to get one, as we don’t understand Polish.  That was a big mistake!  After we left the headset room, we gathered in the courtyard before the entrance where there were 3 or 4 groups getting ready to set off.  It was quite confusing as there were no clues as to which group was which so we just tagged on the the end of the nearest group.  There was an English couple with us but the rest were German and Polish. The first bit we got to was the entrance, and everyone stopped to get a shot of the famous sign above it,  Arbeit Macht Frei~ Work Sets You Free.

As we started the tour I realised the guide was actually speaking in English, but it was difficult to hear him over all the people so at this point we wished we’d taken the headset!  So we followed along, and were not always sure of what we were seeing, but even so there was enough information in the buildings and rooms he took us round to understand what had gone on there.  Half way round the lady chaperone of the group realised we were without a headset and gave me one.  Phil let me wear it first and listening to the guide added a whole different layer, as he explained what went on in each of the places we went through. He was quite monotoned, but knew his facts and figures by heart, and after a while I could not listen anymore without crying so gave the set to Phil. I accept it’s necessary to be upset, but not in front of loads of people who were not as visibly so.

I found the whole experience very surreal. There were so many groups going round that we would meet the tale end of another group while the group behind caught up with us, and we became an endless herd of people going through each area, stopping now and again while the guide told us his information, sometimes there would be 2 or 3 guides in the same room all talking to their groups, so it was noisy and difficult- hence needing the headsets!      We were taken into rooms where the belongings of the people who were killed there were behind glass panels, where there were models of the process people went through, where people had been packed into tiny rooms and left to die.  The guide told us of the experiments performed on people in each room and what each room was used for. We went round quickly because of the number of people needing to be taken round, you could register what you were being told, but there was no time to assimilate it before you were on to the next bit.

After that part of the tour finished, we were to get on a bus to be taken to the second part of the tour at Berkenau but unfortunately we couldn’t go without missing our bus to Krakow.  I think, hope, someday we will go back to complete it, but not on a bank holiday.

I found the sunny day incongruous to my expectations, so with that and the speed at which we were taken round, the atmosphere I had thought I would experience just wasn’t there.  Consequently the outside shots I took of the place I processed to make it look like I felt about it, and I (mostly) avoided getting tourists in my shots.  It is only since I got back, seeing the pictures I took and doing some more reading and watching about it, that it has all made sense (no sense) in my mind.   Phil got out one of his movies for me that I hadn’t seen before, entitled ‘Good’ and starring Viggo Mortensen.  It shows how a mild mannered German literary professor goes from being against the Nazi party to working for Adolph Eichmann and goes someway to explaining how “ordinary ” Germans could get caught up in it all.  The movie didn’t get great reviews but I found it enlightening.

 

Also Phil had me a watch a brilliant series on Auschwitz by the BBC called “The Nazi’s and The Final Solution.  It really should be compulsory viewing, so much detail and accurate history.

From wiki-The series uses four principal elements: rarely seen contemporary colour and monochrome film from archives, interviews with survivors such as Dario Gabbai and former Nazis such as Oskar Gröning, computer-generated reconstructions of long-demolished buildings as well as meticulously detailed and historically accurate re-enactments of meetings and other events. These are linked by modern footage of locations in and around the site of the Auschwitz camp. Laurence Rees stressed that the re-enactments were not dramatisations but exclusively based on documented sources:
There is no screenwriter
 Every single word that is spoken is double — and in some cases triple — sourced from historical records.
The computer-generated reconstructions used architectural plans that only became available in the 1990s when the archives of the former Soviet Union became accessible to Western historians.

I still think about what I learned from this, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s available as a book, a DVD and the episodes are all on Youtube.

So now my shots.

ashes collected from the crematoria

empty cans of Zyclon-B, the chemical gas dropped through the roofs of the crematoria.

 

the shot of the hair didn’t come out well so this instead

 

suitcases

 

 

ladies

 

men

 

The wall against which prisoners were shot, in batches, either for transgressions, or after being tortured and finished with.

 

leaving the gas chamber, which we could.

 

Rudolf Höss 25 November 1901 – 16 April 1947)[ was a Nazi German SS-ObersturmbannfĂŒhrer (lieutenant colonel) and the longest-serving commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp in World War II. He tested and carried into effect various methods to accelerate Hitler’s plan to systematically exterminate the Jewish population of Nazi-occupied Europe, known as the Final Solution. On the initiative of one of his subordinates, SS-HauptsturmfĂŒhrer (captain) Karl Fritzsch, Höss introduced pesticide Zyklon B containing hydrogen cyanide to the killing process, thereby allowing SS soldiers at Auschwitz to murder 2,000 people every hour. He created the largest installation for the continuous annihilation of human beings ever known. He was tried at Nuremberg and hanged here.
 

We went and sat in the sun and had our lunch before we caught the bus to Krakow, talking about what we’d seen, and our thoughts on it all. We caught the 3.30pm bus, but it was full, so standing room only, and we were packed in like sardines. It was hot, airless, and we had our coats on and luggage with us. It was an hour journey, during which we became more and more uncomfortable, both of us at one point felt like we were on the verge of passing out.  The co-incidence of that did not escape me, but we were on the way home when this journey ended for us, and able to carry on with our lives.

 

That’s the end of my trip to Poland, I didn’t post every photo I took, and for anyone interested the full set can be found HERE.