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Nijmegen Bridge

Posted October 19th, 2005

During a recent visit to Germany I went with my friend Peter Donnison to the Marina Strijensas in Holland to spend a couple of days fixing a winter cover over his and his wife Petra's Hallberg-Rassy 352 yacht. It just so happened that our route from Meerbusch (near Düsseldorf) to the marina took us via the Dutch town of Nijmegen and over the famous Nijmegen bridge.

We stopped whilst I took a few photographs of the bridge, because my father, Kenneth Taylor, spent a few weeks there and in Nijmegen itself during the Allied advances in 1944. His experiences are recorded in his war diary. Since then he has never returned to Nijmegen so I took the photos for old times' sake.

The Nijmegen bridge crosses the Waal river, which in Germany is the Rhine (Rhein) and on whose banks stands Düsseldorf and further south, Cologne (Köln). It seems rather odd that the great river Rhine never makes it to the sea in its own name, much better known than the Waal (unless you were defending the Nijmegen bridge in 1944).

Under the bridge: "Jonathan" (Seagull)

In 2003 Peter and Petra took six months off to sail their yacht - "Jonathan" - from Düsseldorf through Holland (passing under the Nijmegen bridge), along the English Channel, down the Bay of Biscay and into the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar, then returning northwards (under engine power) up the Rhone and other rivers and finally passing again under the Nijmegen bridge en route back to their starting point at Düsseldorf. Of course they stopped at various interesting places along the way, and in Peter's words, a good harbour has to be earned. An online illustrated diary of their trip - in German - can be found here.

"Jonathan" (photo by Patrick Taylor)

Pictured above is "Jonathan" (Seagull) in dry dock at the Marina Strijensas on 12th October 2005, before we put the winter cover on. The yacht is beautiful inside and out. Its name comes from a 1970 story by Richard Bach called Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Pete and I slept very comfortably on board, but apparently this is not the same as sleeping on the boat when it is actually at sea.

The wooden struts visible in the picture are not part of the boat but are to support the two-piece cover which is draped over the boom and spinnaker pole, which are also supported on wooden struts. A commercially manufactured cover would be very expensive because of the complexity of fitting it around the shape of the boat and all the shrouds and other wires. So, with just a little help from me, Pete has made the cover from a large rectangular plastic sheet cut into two, one part in front of the mast and the other behind. It was fun, but not as much fun as when we flew our model aeroplanes and boomerangs together in our early teens 45 years ago.

I could never take on the responsibility of a sea-going yacht, even if I had the time and money. For me, sailing is (or was) a contact sport and a boat - a racing dinghy in my case - just a weapon. But I can understand the satisfaction in the challenge of mastering seamanship and navigating the world's oceans not only oneself but in harmony with a crew of like-minded people.

Page last modified: November 30, 2014

Comments


Posted by kuipers

March 20th, 2006 at 11:37

hello,

My name is Anton Kuipers and I live in Nijmegen.

I read youre story about the Nijmegen Bridge (liberated by the famous 82-th airborne division).

Much to my surprise I read that you think the rhine doesn't reaches the sea by its own name. The Rhine however does reaches the sea by its own name, only it floads unther the even more famous Arnhem Bridge (the so called bridge to far…) which is situated 20 KM to the north. The Waal is a split from the Rhine. For your information in 1944 the allied forces had to cross 3 dutch rivers and two canals to get to Germany.

Greetings


Posted by Patrick

March 20th, 2006 at 14:26

Greetings, and thanks for the comments. About two thirds of the Rhine's water volume does become the Waal, going west where the river splits just before Nijmegen. The other third goes north to Arnhem where it divides again, part going west as the Neder Rhine (Nederrijn) and reaching the sea at Rotterdam (by which time is has become the Lek), and part going north as the IJssel to the IJsselmeer (all this is according to my atlas).

Although he wasn't there under ideal circumstances in 1944, at the time my father became fond of Nijmegen and its people, and thought it would be a nice place to live. He was the Signals Officer in the 6th Battalion of Green Howards and he remembers that when he arrived at Nijmegen with the advancing British land forces in September 44, he found a lot of radio equipment abandoned at the bridge by the US 82nd Airborne.

As an aside, I wonder if Rembrandt van Rijn's name somehow relates to the Rhine (van Rijn = "from Rhine?").


Posted by Elmo

July 3rd, 2006 at 22:37

I am interested in gathering information on Navigating on the River Rhine. Can you help me please?


Posted by Patrick

July 3rd, 2006 at 22:59

Elmo, it wasn't me who sailed down the Rhine. It was my friends Peter and Petra Donnison who live in the Rhineland. I'm not a sailor myself, so I'm sorry I can't really help.

I would begin by searching Google, Yahoo! and MSN Search for phrases like "navigate rhine", "rhine navigation charts", "rhine sailing navigation", etc. Good luck!


Posted by Debbie

July 28th, 2006 at 15:33

I found your website whilst "googling" for two of the place names (Conde-sur-Noireau and Nijmegen) where I knew my grandfather, George Jackson, had been whilst serving in the Army as an Ack Ack gunner. We have a photo of him on the gun which we got from the Imperial War Museum Archives. It is taken in the height of a battle at Conde-sur-Noireau. Your father mentions "our guns" in his diary.

I have so little information about my grandfather's war service that I was absolutely delighted to have found your father's War Diary [see Friday 11 August, 44] and your excellent explanation of the organisation of the Allied Expeditionary Force. My grandad was a Yorkshireman from Leeds but somehow or other ended up with a Middlesex RA HAA regiment (we think!). It is very difficult therefore to trace his service record.

He hardly ever talked about what happened to him other than refusing to take the copy of the photograph from the IWM Archives because it brought back so many bad memories for him. He was the only survivor of the crew pictured on it. My mum remembers him coming home from the war and having nightmares for months afterwards and terrible pains in his shoulder and arm (which plagued him for the rest of his years) from loading the shells.

Thank you for publishing the diary on your site. It is a very emotional account and a wonderful legacy of the bravery of so many men at that time.


Posted by Patrick

July 28th, 2006 at 16:27

Debbie, thanks for the interesting and generous comment. I'd love to see that photo – the battle at Conde-sur-Noireau. I'm sure my father would also. And yes, men were brave – women too.


Posted by Tom Robinson

November 21st, 2006 at 12:37

Debbie, please could you contact me on tomrobinson1980 @ yahoo.co.uk (leave out spaces between the @). I am also researching my Grandfather's war history and he crossed the bridge at Nijmegen with a HAA regiment. If they were in the same regiment – great I have quite a lot of information obtained from the Royal Artillery Archives.

Patrick, if you could pass on email details of Debbie I would be very grateful!

Many thanks

Tom Robinson


Posted by Patrick

November 21st, 2006 at 13:58

Tom, I can't really pass on Debbie's email address without her approval as this would contravene my privacy policy. However, I have written to her saying she might be interested in your comment. Hopefully you will receive a response sooner or later.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your research!

[Debbie approved. Thanks Debbie.]


Posted by alan westcob

June 8th, 2007 at 16:56

My late father in law Major General Anthony Jones MC was awarded his bravery medal for his action in defusing the Nimegen Bridge in 1944 as a young Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers attached to the Guards Armoured Brigade which was part of XXX Corps. In the book "A Bridge Too Far" by Cornelius Ryan, General Horrocks the Corps commander is quoted as saying "he is the bravest of the brave" when referring to my father in law.

To speak to him about his exploits was not easy as he was an extremely modest man. Apparently some days before, he defused two lesser unnamed bridges under withering fire but there was no one there to observe his brave actions!! How ironic. There is an excellent photo of him in the book.


Posted by martyn

August 2nd, 2007 at 20:33

I have a photograph of my uncle "tot", which was his nickname, surrendering to the germans, actually on the bridge with his hands up and a gun pointing at him. His version of events aren't quite the same as documented in the famous film, i would have to ask my Dad if any of you doubt me about actuall facts, but the true events that took place apparently differed from the ones widely portraid on TV and also in a lot of the history books.


Posted by Patrick

August 2nd, 2007 at 21:54

Martyn, I'd very much like to see that photo of your uncle on the Nijmegen Bridge.


Posted by bernard cowley

November 6th, 2007 at 10:37

I've just seen alan westcob's post about Major General Tony Jones. I knew him quite well especially after he retired and I can absolutely confirm what an outstandingly modest and charming man he was. I'm ex-army (RE) and married to an army wife and I know what fatheads senior army officers can be when they like! But Tony was a hugely intelligent and educated man and his repution in the Engineers was without parallel – his bravery was a byword – we could never understand why Tony was passed over; he would have made a terrific Chief of the Army Staff.

bcowley@globalnet.co.uk


Posted by Patrick

November 6th, 2007 at 10:58

Bernard, I'd be happy to pass on your comment to Alan Westcob, in case he isn't keeping tabs on this page.


Posted by bernard cowley

November 17th, 2007 at 11:54

Patrick, that would be very kind of you. Best wishes


Posted by Patrick

December 29th, 2007 at 19:02

Update: "Jonathan", Peter and Petra Donnison's Hallberg-Rassy 352 yacht, is now for sale (located Holland).


Posted by alan owen

May 7th, 2008 at 19:14

I am writing a book about the wartime adventures of Lt.Cdr John Bridge RNVR who defused the mine under the bridge at Nijmegen. (Mentioned by Gordon Brown in his recent publication 'Wartime Courage.'

A week or so after the bridge had been captured by British and American troops 12 German frogmen swam down for Emmerich in Germany (about 12 miles away) and laid mines on the rail bridge and the road bridge at Nijmegen. The rail bridge blew up but only one section of the carriageway of the road bridge suffered any damage.

General Horrocks sent for John Bridge who was in Antwerp to come and deal with one of the mines which was seen below the water attached to one of the bridge's abutments and which hadn't exploded.

John was the longest serving member of the bomb and mine disposal section of the RVNR and was the most highly decorated naval officer(for bravery) with the George Cross, George Medal and Bar and King's Commendation for Brave Conduct.

The story of how he managed to get the one ton mine out of the river and defuse it was reported in The Times and other papers at the time but when he returned to his base in Antwerp his Commanding Officer said to him "I should like to recommend you for another gong but you have had your quota."

He left the Navy in 1946 and later became a much respected Director of Education for Sunderland. He died in 2006 at the age of 91. The naval diving centre in Portsmouth is named after him.


Posted by Patrick

May 7th, 2008 at 19:40

Alan, many thanks for your interesting comment. I wish you every success with the forthcoming book. I'd like to know its title, when it's available.


Posted by Patrick

August 26th, 2008 at 20:11

Update: the boat has now been sold.


Posted by Paul Smith

December 7th, 2008 at 02:53

Hi Patrick, I've only just discovered your website. My late father served with Tony Jones from sometime before D Day untill the end of the War. He spoke very highly of him and was very proud to class him a friend and army colleague. I have at least 2 photos, 1 of their unit (1 Troop, 14th Field Squadron Royal Engineers, Guards Armoured Div. 30 Corps) just before leaving for France in May 1944 & 1 of Tony Jones, my Father and another soldier. I'm sure Alan Westcob would be interested if you would be so kind as to pass this info. onto him.


Posted by john cogan

March 1st, 2009 at 11:57

just found your site whilst brousing what an interesting site.(ex army wallah REME)


Posted by Peter Vrolijk

April 8th, 2009 at 17:02

Hi all, I am Dutchmen working on a webpage about the battle at Nijmegen, so if you are a veteran or are family of a vetaran that fought at Nijmegen then please please please contact me !
I do hope those already posted before me such as Paul Smith and Alan Westcob will contact me at abrg@planet.nl
A big THANKS in advance !

Patrick, if you want to know about British Royal Artillery units fighting in the Netherlands I suggest following page. Contact the webmaster, he is a good friend of mine.

http://www.royalartilleryunitsnetherlands1944-1945.com/


Posted by John Wright

September 10th, 2010 at 10:28

Hello Patrick,

My late father was in the 2nd Battallion Grenadier Guards from 1939 to 1946. He was a sergeant tank commander in the Guards Armoured Division which was heavily involved in the fighting at Nimegen in September 1944. He lost a lot of his friends in the battle.
In 1974 I hitch hiked through Holland and was given a lift by a Dutch farmer in the Hertogenbosch area. He had been forced into slave labour by the Germans in the war and spoke German, which I did too. He took me to his farmhouse where I met his family and was given a handsome meal before he drove me to a convenient spot on the main road where I went on my way. The generosity and warmth of the countryside people, who never forgot the sacrifices of our soldiers, was very touching. A stark contrast to the cocky attitudes I met with in Amsterdam.


Posted by Patrick

September 16th, 2010 at 13:42

That makes sense, even after many decades. I've just returned from a cycling trip to Holland and the people there are indeed the friendliest I've met anywhere. Another photo of Nijmegen bridge.


Posted by Albert Fellowes

December 5th, 2010 at 19:56

I am looking for information about my brother Sgt Charles Knight M M. He was awarded the medal for action on the Nijmegan Bridge. He was one of the four tanks to cross the bridge, I remember Sgt Robinson was in one of the others. A. Fellowes


Posted by Les Davies

April 12th, 2011 at 16:56

Hello Patrick.

I came across your father's war diary whilst researching my own father's time in Normandy in 1944 with the Somerset Light Infantry. Unfortunately, he did not make it through to Holland. He was killed in the crossing of the Seine at Vernon.

But it has been very informative reading of other actions going on in parallel with his experiences. And how their battalions met up in the battle at Mont Pinçon.


Posted by Patrick

April 13th, 2011 at 10:29

Hello Les. Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry to hear your father didn't make it to Holland but am pleased to hear the diary was of interest.


Posted by Wilfred Shaw

August 30th, 2011 at 21:17

I was in 6th Green Howards from December 1940 to my demob in 1946,
I can remember crossing the Waal but it wasn't over the bridge at Nijmegen
I was taken over by boat about 3 or 400 yards lower down towards the railway bridge, I was a signaller with 6th Green Howards and was with the Anti Tank Platoon of Support Company, I can remember being at Elst and Bemmel between Nijmegen and Arnhem, that was, as near as my almost 92 years can recall September to November 1944.

I've been back since and stayed with a lovely family at Horst, they took me to try and find a farm house where a
I shared a cellar with a lad from London (Fred Zilken), manning a field telephone (Don 5) when the line was broken by shell or mortar fire we had to go out and find both ends of the broken line and repair it sometimes in pitch darkness at night, Fred wrote to me for years after the war, he died a few years ago from Parkinsons, we had been together in North Africa in 1941/2 and Sicily 1943, all a long time ago, like reading the comments, hope someone might be interested,

Wilfred Shaw Ex 6th Green Howards 1940/46
XIX


Posted by Wilfred Shaw

September 1st, 2011 at 21:55

September 1st 2011

I've read the diary and personally knew all of those mentioned who were casualties; Peter John Mckenna was in C Company with me prior to Rommels break through when we were in the Gazala line in 1942, I was wounded and never saw Peter again until I rejoined the Signal Platoon just prior to the Wadi Akarit attack in April 1943. hope there's someone out there who knew Peter, maybe a relative, I would be so pleased to hear from them, as I would form anyone who knew any of the others like, Dagger Hall, Bill Lovett, Lindsay Smith, Tony Murray, Roddy McMillan, Tommy Callaghan, Gunnel, -I knew them all, I enjoyed reading the diary although I remember little about Kenneth Taylor as Signals Officer, The only Signals Officer I can remember were Capt Levine who was wounded in North Africa and Lt Hutchinson who I'm fairly sure was killed in North Africa, I would so love to hear from anyone who recognises any of those.
I live on my own in a flat in Oldham, am in quite good health despite my (almost) 92 years,

Wilf Shaw XIX


Posted by Patrick

September 3rd, 2011 at 19:06

Good to hear from you Wilf, and I'm pleased you enjoyed the diary. My father Kenneth Taylor died at 93 on 17th June this year.


Posted by Wilfred Shaw

September 9th, 2011 at 21:41

Thanks for the reply Patrick, sorry to hear your Dad passed away, I would have loved to see and speak to him about my days in the signal Platoon, so many of those I knew have departed this life.

What a coincidence that you are from Bolton, my mother was born there in 1900 at 5 Gilnow Grove and, for most of her working life was a mill operative, as were most of the rest of the family, (7 in all) but in the Oldham area.

I'm almost 92 now but I get out every day and I do get to Bolton from time to time, I like the market there, not been for quite a while now though.

I was in Support Company as signaller to the Anti Tank Platoon and my buddy Fred Zilken was also in Support Coy as signaller to the Mortar Platoon, Fred used to write to me regularly after the war, I've still got his letters, He succumbed to Parkinsons disease about 3 years ago, what a great lad he was but, in the end one by one we just pass on.

I'm off to bed now Patrick, nice of you to send me an Email maybe I'll hear from you again, ask me anything you like about those days, I will, to the best of my ability give you an answer.

Best wishes for now to you and yours,

Ex 4753850 Pte W Shaw Green Howards


Posted by Andrew Semple

September 19th, 2011 at 11:22

Patrick, thank you for this wonderful memorial to your late father. I have read Wilfred Shaw's comments. My uncle, Captain Alex Semple was killed on 26th September 1944 near Bemmel – mentioned in the diary. Uncle Alex was a Scot from Annan in Dumfriesshire and I know he too was in Egypt and Sicily with the 6th battalion. I am visiting Arnhem this weekend to honour my uncle's memory and pay tribute to all the brave men who fought there. I hope Wifred sees these comments as I'd like to tell him how much all he did then is appreciated today. My youngest son David is going to Arnhem with me. He is 70 years younger than Wilfred! But it's important that all future generations can honour what their forefathers did for us all.


Posted by Patrick

September 21st, 2011 at 12:17

Wilf, you are quite amazing. Thank you for your comments, and to Andrew Semple too – I hope your trip to Arnhem is rewarding. Our family has been to the D-Day beaches, including Gold Beach where my father landed, and we've seen the war graves in France. Very moving and, as you say, important to remember and honour both the brave and the not so brave.

It's a great shame the Green Howards doesn't exist any more. The Green Howards museum in Richmond Yorks is well worth a visit.


Posted by Major Ted Hunt MVO

November 4th, 2011 at 11:08

I have sent an e-mail to Peter Vrolijk.


Posted by Peter

December 30th, 2011 at 19:05

My late father Roland Mayer (from Staffordshire) was a sapper Royal Engineers, 14th Field Squadron Attachedd to Gurads Atmourded Dision. He was called up as a TA the day war was declared and was blown up on Nijemegan Bridge. He suffered extensive injuries inluding the loss of his left leg and shrapnel injuries to his head. He survived and went on to continue his working life with 40 years service to industry despite his severe injuries.


Posted by Paul Smith

January 13th, 2012 at 03:22

Hi Patrick, Just to add a comment to Peter's account of his late father Roland Mayer who was a Sapper, R.E., 14th Field Sqdn, Guards Armoured Div, 30 Corps. My late father, Ernest Smith was a Corporal in the same unit. If Peter would like to get in touch at ans.paul@xtra.co.nz I can help him out with quite a few photos.


Posted by Christine Terrell

March 14th, 2012 at 20:48

Hello Patrick, what an interesting website I accidently discovered…just when my son Jonathan is reading up on the battle of Nijmegen bridge….where his grandfather Major Basil Joseph Terrell (I do not know if he was Major at that point) was deployed with the Royal Engineers, during the battle for the bridge. In my father in laws case, it all turned out well in the end, as while he was there, he met and fell in love with a 'local girl', who's parents ran the church in nearby Veghel. After the war they married and returned to England where Basil continued with his work he had begun with Sir Frank Whittle, designing gas turbines . Basil and Jannie had four children, one of them my husband, but sadly my father in law died in 1957…as did several others in his design team. Before Nijmegen I believe he was in north Africa. How interesting to find others with connections to the battle. We travel that way often, but have not yet had time too visit the bridge, hopefully we will get there this year.


Posted by Patrick

March 14th, 2012 at 22:58

Things turned out well for my father too. His 'local girl' (who was from Brussels actually) became my mother.

Many thanks for the interesting comments.


Posted by Michael Birchall

February 10th, 2013 at 23:54

With reference to John White and Paul Smith's comments, my father Michael Birchall GG 1938/46 was at Nijmegen Bridge. I believe he could have been in the armored scout with Capt Jones. I have several photographs that may be of interest one of which is of the wedding day of Captain Jones with my father in the background.


Posted by Professor Eric Shepherd

July 2nd, 2013 at 00:58

I had the very great privilege of being a young major working for Major General Tony Jones at the Regular Commissions Board between 1977 and 1980. He was a quite extraordinary person: modest, encompassing, and quite the best officer that it was my personal and professional pleasure to work with. All these years later I still have Tony to the fore of my mind when I work with very senior people in the private and public sector. I had not realised, with my origins of working within special forces, just how much tbe 'person' matters. We just did what we thought was right. It took me many years to the point when I met Tony. He was no different to the man who exhibited the quiet bravery in that most critical time in the Second World War. I remain humbled, and guided, by a man who probably never knew just how much he impacted upon the young fellow that he took a chance with and brought on his staff. I would just want his family to know that one, now very elderly latter day academic and clinician, loved the man so much. For it was Tony Jones who said that I should face my own Waterloo, leave the Army, and be brave in taking a different course – cross the bridge – and start another life. I cannot find the words to describe how his courage infected me: he was quite simply a landmark, a watershed, a benchmark in my life. Eric Shepherd.


Posted by Alanna Fraser

October 18th, 2013 at 18:19

I just happened to Google my grandfather and stumbled across this website. He was Tony Jones, of whom so many of you, including my uncle – Alan Westcob – and Eric Shepherd have written. I feel very moved that so many people have memories of the man I knew as 'Papa' as wonderful and powerful as my own. He was above all else in his later life, a family man, and was the greatest father figure that I could ever have wished for, when my own father was not a part of my life.

I feel desperately proud that he touched other lives, as well as mine and those of my family. Please do pass this onto Eric – whose kind words have meant so much today!


Posted by Alanna Fraser

October 18th, 2013 at 18:22

PS If Michael Birchall still has a photo of my grandparents' wedding day, then I would love to see it.


Posted by Paul Smith

March 8th, 2014 at 20:59

All these stories from family members of soldiers who were at Nijmegen have been most interesting. I mentioned that my father Cprl Ernest Smith fought alongside Cpt Tony Jones since D Day +17. My father was also at Tony Jones' wedding and I have his old address book with his name and address in it. Would Michael Birchall be so kind as to send me a copy of his wedding photo? I'd be really gratefull. If possible please send to ans.paul@xtra.co.nz


Posted by Michael Birchall

December 6th, 2015

To Alanna Fraser,

Alanna;
I have just come across this Site again, I never thought anyone had replied. if you send me your email address I shall send you a copy of the photograph along with a copy of the letter sent to me by Lord Peter Carrington.

Sincerely

mikedibirchall1@bigpond.com.au


Posted by Mike Stubbs-Egginton

October 19th, 2016

I set about rewatching a Bridge too Far, having visited it and Arnhem bridge some years ago en route to Germany. In stumbling upon your site I was drawn to the comments by Eric Shepherd and others ref Lt Tony Jones, who was head of the Regular Commissions Board in Westbury, and who actually interviewed me when I passed through there as a hopeful 18 year old in 1977. I was incredibly impressed to discover his wartime record, and being interviewed by somebody with such an illustrious military career has stayed with me through the years.


Posted by Charles Wood

January 25th, 2017

In 1972/73 I was the MA to the German Chief of Staff of HQ Northern Army Group. The then Brigadier Tony Jones was both the Assistant Chief of Staff in the multi-national NATO HQ and also the senior British officer. I had a large number of dealings with him, particularly in regard to relationships in the HQ. He was very highly regarded by all, and his humour and understanding of the situation were particularly effective in maintaining good relationships all-round. His relationship with the German Chief of Staff resulted in the latter talking publicly for the first time about his extraordinary war-time experience as as a prisoner of the Soviets. I shall always remember the example that he set all of us.

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The art of Françoise Taylor:
paintings & drawings by my mother, vécue 1920-2007