Nottingham Branch

Trip to Arnhem - Friday 19th - Monday 22nd September 2014

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On Friday 19th of September a coach of 50 members of the Nottingham Branch of the Parachute Regimental Association headed south to the Port of Dover for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle for Arnhem. This had been two years in planning and was organised through Skills Holidays in Bulwell.


After a few hiccups on the way, we finally arrived at our destination, "The Princess Hotel” at Wipselberg, about a 20 minutes’ drive, North of Arnhem. It was a secluded wooded area, with separate chalet accommodation from the main Hotel facility. After 20 hours by road and sea we arrived and unloaded our belongings and headed for the bar, where members were able to relax, before a good night’s sleep.


After an early morning breakfast we boarded our coach, but due to foggy conditions, changed our itinerary for the day. Instead of heading directly to Ginkel Heath Drop Zone, we headed for the Village of Oosterbeek. This was a lovely little Village and we toured the memorials and bars and visited the Hartenstein Hotel, which is now the Hartenstein museum. This had been the Headquarters for the 1st Airborne Division after their arrival by parachute. As history showed only 2 PARA and small elements of the brigade actually made it to the Bridge at Arnhem, over nine miles away. The rest of the Division found themselves bogged down around Oosterbeek trying to find a way through.


By 13:30 hrs the fog had lifted and most members boarded the coach and headed for Ginkel Heath. We arrived on site, around ten minutes before the first parachute insertion by the Pathfinder Group, who were jumping from C47 Dakota. Around forty five minutes passed by before the main drop came in with groups of around four Hercules Aircraft at a time. The troops were mainly jumping on the latest American chutes, which resemble a flying cottage. At around 16:00 hrs we withdrew from the drop zone and boarded the coach for Arnhem, where we spent time at the bridge before heading into Arnhem centre for food and drink. Our day out ended at around 21:15, when we headed back to the Hotel for another stay at the bar, and to get our heads down for the Sunday morning breakfast at 07:30.


Sunday was another sunny day. We headed for Oosterbeek cemetery and managed to park up just outside the cemetery, along with around 30 other coaches. The service was very moving as expected and we managed to bump into our local Airborne Unit 144 Parachute Medical Squadron's Nottingham Detachment IC, Captain Conway and WO2 Joyce.  After the service we headed into Oosterbeek for a social event for the following couple of hours. At 17:00 hrs we headed by to the Hotel and had an evening meal at around 19:30 hrs. The following morning we were up bright and early to start loading our luggage onto the coach at 07:00 hrs, before breakfast and the journey home at 08:00 hrs.


The four days, with two days of travelling was quite tiring, but well worth the effort. It will be a holiday that most will never forget, for all the right reasons.


Particular thanks go to the Skills driver, and our very own Dave Ross, who volunteered to be the co-driver on the trip, allowing our driving hours to be shared over the four days. Dave is a professional coach driver for a living, but his professionalism during the trip is very much appreciated by all members of the branch.


Mark Holding (Treasurer)


Photo above shows the new American parachutes as they land onto Ginkel heath drop zone.