Aln Valley Railway – July 2019 – part 3

Part 1 HERE   Part 2 HERE

There was plenty of interesting train and WW2 paraphenalia to look at and photograph

 

I thought this would make a nice biscuit tin!

in the library

There was also a concert and these ladies were called the Seatones and did a cracking job of singing 40’s songs

This chap was a bit of a character

and I had to get a shot of the rear parcel shelf of his car

Who??

So that’s the end of our day out at the Aln Valley Railway.

All pictures by me and embiggenable with a click.

Full album can be viewed HERE

Stay tooned for our next adventure,  when we visited Dunston Staiths.

Frontline -Part 5-WW2-June 2018

The main event as far as Phil was concerned was the German armour and uniforms, and he was very impressed with the authenticity of both. The re-enactors covered the German, British,American WW2 and included some French resistance people too.  Lots of renovated vehicles were also on show, and at the end of the day they had a full on battle which was fun to watch.

Radio gaga – british communications display

 

British Army weapons

Previously mostly used for rail, industrial or agricultural hopper cars, the Kubelwagon was a light military vehicle designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built by Volkswagen during World War II for use by the German military (both Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS).

Volkswagon Kubelwagon

 

A happy German Afrika Corps Nurse

I have no idea what this next thing really is, (but had a guess)

a steam punk flux capacitor

 

There’s some Yankeedoodle peeps around somewhere!

The Resistance were here too

dot dot dash dosh dat oops

they were cooking lunch….

Ratatouille

 

More evidence of the USA contingent

 

and we found some!

Kilroy and friends.

I think that’ll do for today, but stay tooned for more WW2 next time.

 

 

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 Lüttwitz, 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 Wegmüller : 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~part 3 ~ Museum Ulma

Part 1 HERE.   Part 2 HERE

On the Saturday of our weekend with Eddy & Gosia, we all went out for the day.  Firstly we visited the Museum Ulma at Markowa.

The museum is quite small but beautifully presented.  On the wall outside are the names of all the Poles who saved Jews

Josef & Wiktoria

There are many displays inside, lots of old photographs, household items and is based on a recreation of the Ulma’s family house.  I didn’t take a lot of pictures as there was a lot of reflective glass to contend with, also a herd of visitors in a coach descended on the place so it was getting very busy.

Josephs camera I think,

I think this is the Hebrew Bible  or Tanakh

Phil watching and listening to one of the many videos of people who were there at the time telling what happened, it was cool they had subtitles in English.

After that we went off to   Łańcut Castle, so stay tooned for that!

In doing a bit of research regarding the Ulma museum, I came across a really well thought out and well written blog regarding the history of this and the relevant politics, so for further reading if you are interested I am leaving a link to it, HERE .