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Museum Review: Arnhem


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The_Chieftain #1 Posted Sep 17 2011 - 00:54

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http://statcdn.world...frostbridge.jpg
The most famous bridge in the Netherlands.


http://www.airbornemuseum.nl/

Google Map Link

It is, of course, a well-known fact that only one battle ever occurred in the Netherlands, and that battle occurred 67 years ago this week. Famously known as “The Battle of the Bridge Too Far”, or by people who get their knowledge from something other than Hollywood titles, “Operation Market-Garden,” this was to be the largest airborne operation ever. And the Allies didn’t even win.

http://statcdn.world...emsatellite.jpg

The Netherlands, comparatively, isn’t all that large a country, so the Arnhem area can be reached in only a couple of hours from either Amsterdam or Cologne. The Airborne Museum is actually located in Oosterbeek, which is just to the West of Arnhem. Driving to the museum is not hard, even after getting hopelessly lost arriving from Germany, I was able to find Utrechtsweg. The road from Arnhem is a small two-lane through town, so budget a little extra time.
You’ll know when you’re in the right place, though, when you see the Airborne Monument to the North of the road.

http://statcdn.world...wermonument.jpg

Of course, by the time you’ve seen this, if you’re coming from Arnhem, you’ve come too far, so loop around, and take the turnoff to the South. The museum is in what was the Hotel Hartenstein, used by General Urquhart as his headquarters, and the grounds have no immediately proximate parking. There is a small parking lot just to the East, however, in the complex of buildings which includes the restaurant.

http://statcdn.world...hartenstein.jpg

The building has been fairly substantially modified by the modern addition which contains the entrance and gift shop, and a large subterranean cavern just off the basement. Outside of the building are a couple of 17Pr anti-tank guns and a Canadian medium tank. The museum grounds are immaculately kept, and are basically a memorial park now.

http://statcdn.world...tch/sherman.jpg
http://statcdn.world...dermonument.jpg

Upon paying the 8 Euro fee, one enters the old hotel structure, and up some stairs to the first room. Your route is well defined, though the building is small enough there aren’t many ways to get lost. This first room contains a ten minute video overview of the battle. The video comes with two soundtracks, English or Dutch, and two pushbuttons on the wall select the appropriate language. As a result, the first thing that happens is that you argue with the other attendees over which language you want to listen to. English usually wins as the Dutch generally have a better mastery of English than English speakers have of Dutch. Should you lose, however, there are a number of artifacts on display around the room to keep you occupied while you wait, including Johnny Frost’s bugle.

http://statcdn.world...hatch/bugle.jpg

After the movie ends, you move through three or four other, small-ish rooms which contain a number of exhibits in cases, and a goodly number of personal anecdotes from the battle.

http://statcdn.world...lamethrower.jpg
(Is it possible to look at that and not say “You’ve hit an ammo dump. You’ve hit a bleedin’ ammo dump”?)

After those three rooms, you are forced back down the stairs you came up, and then onto the next floor’s worth of exhibits. Generally either small arms, pieces of personal kit, or mementos, and more personal anecdotes. Three small rooms later, you’re forced downstairs again to the basement.
There you will see a diorama of General Urquhart briefing his men in ‘nearly’ the same location in the basement that he really did, and a few more artifacts recovered from the battlefield.

http://statcdn.world...h/artifacts.jpg

Attached to the basement is an extension, which is a rather large underground facility known as “The Airborne Experience.” Coupled with ample warnings about the disturbing nature of what lies ahead, not for those of faint hearts, and how to egress early, this seems promising. Go past a video briefing (“Any questions, Soldier?”) and into the back end of a Waco. You emerge from the Waco and onto the battlefield.

http://statcdn.world..._hatch/waco.jpg

You then proceed to walk, in a calm, unhurried, and decidedly unexcited manner through a series of dioramas of the battlefield. I have no idea if anything was supposed to happen and it just wasn’t working that day, or if I was just oblivious, but it seemed to me to be a bit of a let-down, really.

http://statcdn.world...tch/diorama.jpg

From there, back up the same staircase, out the gift shop, and back to the outside world.
The museum’s website claims to be the Netherlands’ only battlefield museum. I’m not sure what Overloon has to say about that, but it is one of the few battlefield sites where as you go through it today you can gain a bit of an understanding of what it was that the soldiers went through in 1944. As you drive along the road back to Arnhem, bear in mind the animation you had seen in the movie as you look at the terrain and you understand just how much of a challenge the British forces had been handed.
At the bridge itself (Just keep taking the roads closest to the river), you’ll find a small industrial-looking building as follows

http://statcdn.world.../bridgeinfo.jpg

This, too, turns out to be somewhat disappointing. There is apparently only the one room, manned vigilantly by one person who seemed incredibly thankful that he had a visitor for whom he could push The Button, located by his desk. That button starts an animation of the battle on a large table in the centre of the room. In fairness, it’s a good animation with text in both Dutch and English.  Everything else in the room, and there wasn’t much, was in Dutch, so I can’t tell you if it was of interest or not. The parking in the area is pay-per-stay, so don’t put more than a half-hour’s worth of coinage into the meter. That’s enough to see the animation, walk up the tower to the bridge span, cross the bridge and cross back.
Nearby, there’s a small memorial park with a 25Pr, and a few photos. There is also a large rock.

http://statcdn.world..._hatch/rock.jpg

This rock is part of a collection of some sixty which are scattered across central Netherlands, starting out a little south of Nijmegen. It’s called the Liberation Route. http://liberationroute.com/ It’s an interesting concept, you download a bunch of MP3 files from the website which you listen to when you’re standing at the appropriately numbered rock. Only problem is that to get to every boulder is a route in excess of 100km, so it’s probably not feasible to do it all unless you’re incredibly dedicated.
It is also to be noted that there is a third museum in Arnhem, the Arnhem War Museum 1940-45, http://www.arnhemsoorlogsmuseum.com/ which is a little to the NW of town. Due to time constraints I was unable to visit, but the impression I get online is that it’s a little more ‘general’ than the more Market-Garden-oriented facilities so generally seems less appealing to those who have access to larger ‘general’ musea.

http://statcdn.world.../abridgesat.jpg

As far as visiting the Arnhem musea is concerned, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. In terms of what they have to show or what they can teach you, very little will be unfamiliar to the student of military history. Visiting the John Frost Bridge or the Hartenstein Hotel is not really an educational visit. It’s a pilgrimage.

Dominatus #2 Posted Sep 18 2011 - 17:47

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"Only one battle in the Netherlands" isn't exactly true, but seems cool other than that.

Red_Rick #3 Posted Sep 18 2011 - 17:54

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Pity those wonderful Brits were not included in the early release of WOT lol... Otherwise an amazing battle fought by both sides.

Salmon4 #4 Posted Sep 18 2011 - 18:22

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cool, good job, 3rd :D!

sheep21 #5 Posted Sep 18 2011 - 18:33

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A nice write up, one of the great what if's of WWII. Still, if it had succeeded it could have ended up as an epic encirclement of the British & Canadian forces that tried to exploit the route, at that stage of the war germany wasnt as enfeebled as the allies thought, as was show in the Ardennes offensive.

Cant wait for your next article.

Chiyeko #6 Posted Sep 18 2011 - 19:12

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Nice review shame of me being Dutch and never been might drop by somewhere in the next weeks, as you said our country isn't all that big :)

Battles however we had a few of those, but many didn't last very long because we surrendered in just 5 days which is no wonder seeing the state of our army at the time.

johncage #7 Posted Sep 18 2011 - 23:12

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what were you expecting? animatronics?

but that gelderland plaque was hilarious, i think i got it now.

Sealteam6 #8 Posted Sep 18 2011 - 23:43

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I was there in 99, really enjoyed it, I also went to the Wolfsschanze, hope you can do a write up on that as its very interesting.

Motorfix #9 Posted Sep 19 2011 - 13:20

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Ah yes- John Frost Brug: Was there in 2006. My Grandfather was with the troops the Liberated Arnhem. (Not the bridge -too- far battle)
The original bridge was destroyed in the war,

Thanks!

barckleyt #10 Posted Sep 19 2011 - 13:32

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This is a nice museum.  A little tricky to get to as it's not really close to the train station, but still a nice day trip from Amsterdam.

A much better museum for folks interested primarily in tanks is Liberty park.

http://www.libertypark.nl/

The amount of armor here is stunning.  It's another one that's tricky to get to from the train station (moreso than Arnhem), but WAY worth it.  I filled up the memory card on my camera taking pictures here.  I couldn't get enough.  It has a huge indoor facility with tanks, tanks, tanks, plus some aircraft, transport vehicles, machine guns, mortars, artillery, even a one-man submarine!  I only saw the indoor part, but I believe there is an outdoor park which was an actual battlefield with some rusting wreckage still there.

Panzer_Fraulein #11 Posted Sep 19 2011 - 14:38

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One of my favorite museums.

The_Chieftain #12 Posted Sep 19 2011 - 16:19

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View Postbarckleyt, on Sep 19 2011 - 13:32, said:

I only saw the indoor part, but I believe there is an outdoor park which was an actual battlefield with some rusting wreckage still there.

Most of the old outdoor displays were moved indoors a couple of years ago. Although it's still worth a brief walk around the park, there's not much of huge interest outside any more: IS-2, Bailey Bridge, a ruined Staghound, a bunker, and a rather large radar dish was all I could find. But that's the subject of a different article.

friekNL #13 Posted Sep 19 2011 - 16:20

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Thats a nice museum. I went there a couple of times since I used to live near Arhnem. There Airborn Experience is great. About the bridge, check out how we celebrated 50 years of freedom in 1995:

http://youtu.be/w_yQSXY3R1s

A complete show on the bridge lol

LeSnoet #14 Posted Sep 19 2011 - 19:20

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View Postbarckleyt, on Sep 19 2011 - 13:32, said:

This is a nice museum.  A little tricky to get to as it's not really close to the train station, but still a nice day trip from Amsterdam.

A much better museum for folks interested primarily in tanks is Liberty park.

http://www.libertypark.nl/

The amount of armor here is stunning.  It's another one that's tricky to get to from the train station (moreso than Arnhem), but WAY worth it.  I filled up the memory card on my camera taking pictures here.  I couldn't get enough.  It has a huge indoor facility with tanks, tanks, tanks, plus some aircraft, transport vehicles, machine guns, mortars, artillery, even a one-man submarine!  I only saw the indoor part, but I believe there is an outdoor park which was an actual battlefield with some rusting wreckage still there.
Overloon is definitely way better in terms of getting a healthy dosis tanks!

But when you're visiting the Airborne museum in Overloon, one should walk down to the river. From there turn right towards Heveadorp. If you're a bit into archeology, some small stuff can still be found along that small road.
Also in the museum itself, there are some pictures from aerial photography. Exactly the same pictures are used in the game Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far.

The_Chieftain #15 Posted Sep 19 2011 - 19:57

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View PostFreakNL, on Sep 19 2011 - 16:20, said:

Thats a nice museum. I went there a couple of times since I used to live near Arhnem. There Airborn Experience is great. About the bridge, check out how we celebrated 50 years of freedom in 1995:

http://youtu.be/w_yQSXY3R1s

A complete show on the bridge lol

I'm all for tanks and pyro, but that seemed a little... erm... odd.

KGdautzenberg #16 Posted Sep 22 2011 - 14:58

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the only battle?

ever heard of this?

battle for the hague

The_Chieftain #17 Posted Sep 22 2011 - 17:43

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View PostKGdautzenberg, on Sep 22 2011 - 14:58, said:

the only battle?

ever heard of this?

battle for the hague

Yes. And Overloon which I mentioned in the article. And a bunch of other places in the area which saw forceful exchanges of opinion. (Did I mention we had an apartment in The Hague for a few years? I get around... Sister still lives in Rotterdam, for some reason)

I feel the need to make sure people have seen this video, at least the sequence starting at 3:47.


Unfortunately, and perhaps this does not translate well across language boundaries, satire and irony are commonly used weapons in my literary arsenal. It might be why I like British humour. Please, before taking exception at a comment I may write which is so obviously wrong that it astounds, have a think to see if it is possible that the intent behind my comment was to poke fun at common conception or daftness. The sad truth is that it is entirely likely that the only reason some Americans even know that the Netherlands exists is because they watched the movie "A Bridge Too Far." (Yes, another bit of satire)

KGdautzenberg #18 Posted Sep 22 2011 - 19:13

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lol,i actually am from the hague ;)

overloon is one of the most gruwsome(?) forgotten battles of WW2,on the western front that is offcourse,just like the battle for the hurtgen forest,the prelude to the battle of the bulge

i wanted to point out with my previous post,that the dutch forces did put up a heroic defence with outdated weaponry,its just one of those facts people never hear about... :)

crazytrain #19 Posted Nov 20 2011 - 19:33

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I really enjoy reading all these articles written by The Chieftain. The photo quality is generally excellent. I wonder if the author takes all the pictures himself.

Pooch #20 Posted Feb 16 2012 - 17:02

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View Postcrazytrain, on Nov 20 2011 - 19:33, said:

I really enjoy reading all these articles written by The Chieftain. The photo quality is generally excellent. I wonder if the author takes all the pictures himself.

I see alot has change there over the 30 plus years last time I been there. I had a good time in Arnhem.
many thanks

Pooch




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