OOSTERBEEK (LONSDALE) OLD CHURCH
Oosterbeek Church, October 2002
Oosterbeek Church first featured in the fighting at Arnhem on 19th September 1944, when Major Richard Lonsdale, second in command of 11th Bn Parachute Regiment, gathered the survivors of the fighting around St Elisabeth Hospital. Himself wounded, he climbed in the pulpit, and delivered his now famous speech:
"You know as well as I do there are a lot of bloody Germans coming at us. Well, all we can do is to stay here and hang on in the hope that somebody catches us up. We must fight for our lives and stick together. We've fought the Germans before - in North Africa, Sicily, Italy. They weren't good enough for us then, and they're bloody well not good enough for us now. They're up against the finest soldiers in the world. An hour from now you will take up defensive positions north of the road outside. Make certain you dig in well and that your weapons and ammo are in good order. We are getting short of ammo, so when you shoot you shoot to kill. Good luck to you all"
The defenders of this sector of the Oosterbeek Perimeter became known as 'Lonsdale Force' and the church soon known as 'Lonsdale Church'. Close by was Kate Ter Horst's house, used as an aid post, guns of the 1st Airlanding Light Regiment dug in around the church site, and at the close of the battle, there were many foxholes of the survivors of 1st Airborne. South of the church, and visible from the back of it was the Lower Rhine, and it was close to here that Operation Berlin - the evacuation of 1st Airborne - took place from Driel on 25th/26th September.
Damaged in the battle, it was repaired after WW2, but lost its transept. The local people resisted turning it into a 'memorial church', although there are memorials inside, and today it is only open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 14.00-17.00.
Outside are a number of Airborne
memorials, and houses close by, although rebuilt and repaired, often show
signs of battle damage from 1944. It is also worth taking the path alongside
Kate Ter Horst's house, that goes west and follows the Lower Rhine. From here
you can clearly see the heights of the Westerbouwing, and across the river to
ŠPAUL REED 2002-5