Every year in September, on Nassau Square in the Lombok district, at the monument ‘Remember September 1944’, the fallen British soldiers and the Arnhem civilians who died in the fighting are commemorated. This commemoration is organized by the Airborne Commemoration Committee Arnhem-West. Below, a very brief summary of the events in West Arnhem and in particular the Lombok district during the Battle of Arnhem.
On Sunday 17th September 1944, ‘Operation Market Garden’ begins, with the most northern part of this Allied airborne operation as its main objective, the capture of the road bridge over the river Rhine at Arnhem.
Around eight o’clock in the evening of 17th September, units of the 2nd Battalion of The Parachute Regiment commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Frost reach the road bridge in Arnhem and occupy the Arnhem side of it.
Lieutenant Colonel David Dobie, the commander of the 1st Parachute Battalion, which initially had to defend the northern side of Arnhem, also decided to go to the Rhine Bridge. The 3rd Parachute Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel John Fitch, is also on its way to the bridge to join Frost and his men. After a series of battles, only B Company and a few separate units of this 3rd Parachute battalion are the first to reach West Arnhem on Monday morning 18th September, around half past seven. The rest of the battalion has lost its way. In the vicinity of the Utrechtseweg – Oranjestraat intersection in the Lombok district, they meet German opposition and continue to wait for the rest of the battalion. It takes until the evening for units of the 1st Parachute Battalion to arrive in the vicinity of the St Elisabeth’s Gasthuis. Then, however, one cannot continue. German troops block the road and from the south bank of the Rhine heavy German fire is received from anti-aircraft guns, which are positioned on the south bank of the Rhine.
At that time, the British have approached the bridge at one and a half kilometers. In the meantime they have succeeded in occupying the entire Lombok district up to the west side of the St. Elisabeths Gasthuis. There is a lot of heavy German machine gun fire from the other side of the railway yard. In the meantime, troops of the 16th Parachute Field Ambulance have installed themselves in St. Elisabeths Gasthuis and take care of the wounded British soldiers and civilians from the Lombok district. They will remain there until German units take over the hospital, after which the majority will be taken captive.
During the evening and night of 18th – 19th September, the 2nd Battalion of The South Staffordshire Regiment and the 11th Parachute Battalion will arrive in Lombok. On Tuesday 19th September, another attempt is made to push through to the bridge. Units consisting of the 1st, 3rd and 11th Battalion of The Parachute Regiment and the 2nd Battalion The South Staffordshire Regiment, however, cannot break through the German lines, but have to give up house by house under overwhelming pressure from the SS troops advancing via Utrechtseweg. At the end of the afternoon St. Elisabeth’s Gasthuis, the Lombok district and the streets, then known as ‘Onderlangs’ and ‘Bovenover’, will be lost. To indicate how tough the fighting has been during these two days: of the British 11th Parachute battalion, only 150 of the nearly 600 men who started the fighting are left. In his war diary, Lieutenant Colonel David Dobie writes in the last entry that day:
“Fire fades in the distance. S. Company is having a bad time and seems to have taken refuge in a few trenches. Could not deliver a message. Tanks outside our house. Lots of civilians on the ground floor with me. Can’t do anything more. Four injured between my men ”.
The remnants of the four battalions of the 1st British Airborne Division that went to Arnhem to reinforce the units at the bridge, withdraw to Oosterbeek at the end of the afternoon of the 19th September. They are only with 500 men.
The conflict in West Arnhem and especially in the Lombok and Heijenoord districts is also taking a heavy toll on the civilian population. A number of civilians are killed or (sometimes) seriously injured in the fighting. The material damage is also great. Military historians are almost unanimous in agreeing that the Battle of Arnhem took its dramatic turning point as early as the 18th and 19th September 1944 and was probably lost on Utrechtseweg, Onderlangs and in the Lombok district
“Lest We Forget”.