Introduction by Sir Brian Urquhart KCMG MBE

Corps Intelligence Officer for “Market Garden” and later Under Secretary-General United Nations

In most wars the civilian population on or near the battlefield suffers almost unheeded. They play no part in the battle and, for obvious reasons, are largely ignored by the fighting troops. The citizens of Arnhem and its surroundings turned this traditional situation on its head. There was never any doubt which side they were on, and when the battle went against the airborne forces, they performed heroically and without regard for their own safety or welfare. They recklessly gave whatever help they could, and in succeeding weeks and months they hid and cared for hundreds of airborne wounded and survivors and helped others to escape as well. They paid a heavy price. The German reaction was punitive.  Many of the people of Arnhem and Oosterbeek were shot or sent to concentration camps and all were forcibly evacuated from their homes and suffered the terrible starvation winter of 1945.

Out of this tragic experience grew a bond of respect and affection that is unique in the annals of war and peace. It is a bond between soldiers and civilians who have gone through a terrible trial together – a trial in which they have seen the best and bravest in each other and have determined never to forget it. It is one of the most positive and most exemplary human reactions to war that I, in a lifelong and varied familiarity with conflict, have ever seen.

Such a rare and inspiring human relationship should, and must, outlive the limits of age and generation. The presence of the children of Arnhem beside the airborne graves at the annual Remembrance Service already points the way to the future.  Throughout the 65 years since the battle, both the people and the airborne veterans have made an extraordinary and highly successful endeavour to preserve this relationship.  Inevitably the number of the original veterans and their Dutch helpers has dwindled to a fraction of their former strength.

So I support and applaud the formation of the “Arnhem 1944 Fellowship” for the descendants of the Allied Forces and the Dutch Resistance Army and civilians who fought at Arnhem and I am confident that they will keep alive this unique flame of the human spirit.

Brian Urquhart