Wiltshire Regiment Monument unveiled

PUBLISHED: 21:40 14 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:09 20 February 2013

Wiltshire Regiment Monument unveiled

Wiltshire Regiment Monument unveiled

On April 28 the Wiltshire Regiment Monument was unveiled near Arnhem in memory of those who fell in the Second World War at that place.

THE WILTSHIRE REGIMENT MEMORIAL MONUMENT


The newly unveiled Wiltshire Monument commemorates the men of the 4th and 5th Battalions of the British Wiltshire Regiment who gave their lives fighting for freedom at Schuytgraaf, a suburb of Arnhem. Although the Regiments fight in this area is less well known than the more famous Battle of Arnhem, its impact on the course of the Second World War was at least as great. More than 300 people attended the ceremony, which was conducted by the Mayor of Arnhem, Pauline Krikke, in the presence of military and diplomatic representatives from Britain and the Wiltshire Regiment, and Ray Hare, a Veteran of the Wiltshire Regiment.

History

The soldiers of the Wiltshire Regiment set out from the Normandy landings in June 1944, fighting their way towards Arnhem. Those of the 4th and 5th Battalions were in Belgium when Operation Market-Garden was launched on 17 September 1944. Field Marshal Montgomerys plan was to use airborne landings to seize some key bridges over the rivers en route, while sending ground troops from Eindhoven towards the bridge over the Rhinein Arnhem, from where they would move on to the Ruhr region and Berlin.

The aim of the operation was to bring Nazi Germany to its knees before the end of 1944. On 20 September 1944, the 4th and 5th Battalions entered the Netherlands. The 4th Battalion seized Elst (between Nijmegen and Arnhem) and dug in there on 25 September. The 5th Battalion moved to the north to De Laar (which is now a suburb of Arnhem).

These battalions were then involved in heavy fighting in various places in the pasture where the new suburb of Schuytgraaf is now located. There was especially heavy fighting at the railroad crossing on Laarstraat and at the farm called De Laar. From 27 September to 5 October, their positions were under constant fire from German artillery.

German tanks and armoured cars set out from Elden for the strategically vital railroad crossing on Laarstraat (the eastern side of what is now Stratenmakersveste). During the night of Monday 2 October, these units launched a particularly heavy attack, which involved man-to-man fighting. The Laar farm was partly burnt down The 4th and 5th Battalions ultimately held their positions, but by the time they were relieved by units of the US Airborne Division on 5 October, the two battalions had lost more than 70 men.

On the night of 2 December 1944, German troops used explosives to breach the dikes of the Rhine at Elden, flooding the area with water. After the Liberation, it was very difficult for the War Graves Commission to identify the graves of those who died in the field. Because of the flooding, many victims had disappeared, or the markers on their makeshift graves had washed away.

During construction work at Schuytgraaf in 2001 and 2003, two soldiers of the Wiltshire Regiment were found and identified by the Dutch War Graves Service. One was Thomas Venn, now at rest at the Arnhem Oosterbeek airborne war cemetery. The others name is also known and will be published in the near future. Another 18 soldiers of the Regiment remain missing; some lie in the anonymous graves in the War Cemeteries in Nijmegen and Arnhem; the remainder lie somewhere in the soil of the Overbetuwe Municipality.

The monument


The Wiltshire Monument was designed by Tirza Verrips in the form of a series of steel waves made. The waves represent the long road that the men of the 4th and 5th Battalions of the Wiltshire Regiment took, following their landing at Normandy (D-Day). The waves also symbolise the continuing waves of German forces that assaulted the Regiments positions from the east. The memorial is 4.5 metres long, 2.4m wide and 1.9m high. At its base is the Roll of Honour.

The monument stands on Marasingel 19, in the suburb of Schuytgraaf, in Arnhem, at the site of the former farmhouse De Laar. It was unveiled by Pauline Krikke (Mayor of Arnhem) and Ray Hare, a veteran of the Wiltshire Regiment, and in the presence of military and diplomatic representatives from Great Britain and the Netherlands.

About 300 people attended the unveiling, including the living history group of the Wiltshire regiment. Wiltshire regiment does not exist anymore and is now the newly formed the Rifles, and they adopted the monument and were present with a guard of honour. There was also the Dutch Royal Military band.

For more infomation about the Battle of Arnhem, see www.marketgarden.com, a website produced by Frans Ammerlaan of Arnhem.

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