Today we visited the Arnhem area in the footsteps of Lance Sergeant Hugh Lake from 9th Company Field Engineers / 1st Airborne Division who was awarded a DCM for his actions. We began on the landing zones and then followed the footsteps of his 3rd Platoon to both the Recce Ambush and the Hotel Wolfheze.
Then we visited his former positions which were around the Sonnenberg during the siege of Oosterbeek phase. The field he looked out over is almost exactly as it was in 1944 and the treeline still has many trees that bear the scars of battle yet are still standing. Hugh ventured out of this position to go on a foraging party under murderous mortar fire to get some food for the men.
After Lunch we continued on to the Driel ferry site at the foot of the Westerbouwing heights, there Hugh spent almost 2 days from the 20th of September. Some of the time all alone and half submerged in the river near the ferry and the landing site. When he returned he was able to provide detailed information about the Germans at the river.
We then proceeded to the Oosterbeek church and walked to the bank of the Rhine at the evacuation point to see the memorial. It was another surreal experience, standing there in the footsteps of giants, at the same spot where Hugh with over 2000 men were evacuated across the Rhine into safety.
We continued on to the Oosterbeek war cemetery where a seeming randomly selected grave of a 9th Field Company trooper turned out to be that of Sapper Morris who was at the Driel ferry with Hugh when killed. An incredible coincidence or… ?
We ended the day at the Arnhem Bridge where a number of men from 9th Company fought were also involved in the fighting.