This article is concerned with the Arnhem Oosterbeek Military Cemetery and the nine war graves located in the Renkum (Oosterbeek) General Cemetery. Both of these cemeteries are located in Oosterbeek, which is a quiet village located in the Gelderland Province.
This article also mentions other points of interest in the area concerned with Operation Market Garden.
RENKUM (OOSTERBEEK) GENERAL CEMETERY
The cemetery is 1 kilometre north of the village facing Arnhem War Cemetery. The war graves are in the northern part. During the period 1940-43 several aircraft crashed in the area, outward to or returning from sorties into Germany. The nine graves in this cemetery contain the remains of crew members from these missions.
Sergeant Lax was a Flight Engineer with 15 Squadron RAF. On 3 February 1943, a Stirling I (R9274 LS-B) took off from Bourn at 18:47, for a mission to bomb Hamburg. The aircraft was shot down by a nightfighter, crashing on a football pitch near Nijmegen. Sergeant Lax was the only casualty; the other crew members becoming POWs.
Sergeant Alrdridge and Pilot Officer Smith were crew members aboard a Stirling I (W7509-Q) which was shot down, by night-fighter, during the night of 28 July 1942. The aircraft had taken off at 23:03 from Waterbeach for a raid on Hamburg. At 03:12 the plane crashed at Heelsum (12 km west of Arnhem). The other crew members survived the crash and became prisoners-of-war.
Sergeants Barnett, Biggin, Cole, Deacon, Harper and Rhodes were crew members aboard a Lancaster III (ED432 EA-N). The aircraft had taken off at 22:17 from Fiskerton for a raid on Oberhausen. The planes crashed at Oosterbeek after being damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Two of the crew survived the crash and became prisoners-of-war. The six deceased crew were buried in the cemetery on 26 June 1943. Sergeant Biggin was flying as a 2nd navigator.
ARNHEM OOSTERBEEK MILITARY CEMETERY
Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery contains the graves of most of those killed during the “Operation Market Garden” September 1944 landings, and many of those killed in later fighting in the area. There are now 1,679 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 246 of the burials are unidentified and two casualties are commemorated by special memorials. There are also 73 Polish burials and eight Dutch graves.
A total of five Victoria Cross awards were made for conduct during the period 17-25 September 1944: Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield, Captain Cain, Lieutenant Grayburn, Flight-Lieutenant Lord and Captain Queripel. Only Captain Cain survived his acts of gallantry, the other four being posthumous awards.
The Victoria Cross decorations awarded to Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield and Captain Cain are on public display at the Museum of the Staffordshire Regiment (Lichfield, Staffordshire).
The Victoria Cross medal award to Flight-Lieutenant Lord, the only such award to RAF’s Transport Command, is in The Ashcroft Collection, located in the Imperial War Museum.
The Victoria Cross medals awarded to Lieutenant Grayburn and Captain Queripel are on public display at the Airborne Forces Museum, which is located at the Imperial War Museum’s Duxford Museum.
For information about the award of the Victoria Cross to Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield, see my article: “Oosterbeek to Arnhem“
Captain (later T/Major) Robert Henry Cain was born on 2 January 1909 in Shanghai, China. At the time of the capaign, Cain was a member of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, attached South Staffordshire Regiment (1st Airborne Division).
The citation for his Victoria Cross is reproduced below (London Gazette 2 November 1944):
Major Cain was commanding a rifle company of the South Staffordshire Regiment during the battle of Arnhem when his company was cut off from the rest of the battalion and during the next six days was closely engaged with enemy tanks, self-propelled guns and infantry.
The Germans made repeated attempts to break into the company position by infiltration. and had they succeeded in doing so the whole situation of the Airborne Troops would have been jeopardised. Major Cain, with his outstanding devotion to duty and remarkable powers of leadership, was to a large extent personally responsible for saving a vital sector from falling into the hands of the enemy.
On 20th September a Tiger tank approached the area held by his company and Major Cain went out alone to deal with it armed with a Piat. Taking up a position he held his fire until the tank was only 20 yards away when he opened up. The tank immediately halted and turned its guns on him, shooting away a corner of the house near where this officer was lying. Although wounded by machine gun bullets and falling masonry, Major Cain continued firing until he had scored several direct hits, immobilised the tank and supervised the bringing up of a 7.5 mm. howitzer which completely destroyed it. Only then would he consent to have his wounds dressed.
The next morning this officer drove off three more tanks by the fearless use of his Piat, on each occasion leaving cover and taking up position in open ground with complete disregard for his personal safety. During the following days, Major Cain was everywhere where danger threatened, moving amongst his men and encouraging them by his fearless example to hold out. He refused rest and medical attention in spite of the fact that his hearing had been seriously impaired because of a perforated eardrum and he was suffering from multiple wounds.
On the 25th September the enemy made a concerted attack on Major Cain’s position, using self-propelled guns, flame throwers and infantry. By this time the last Piat had been put out of action and Major Cain was armed with only a light 2-inch mortar. However, by a skilful use of this weapon and his daring leadership of the few men still under his command, he completely demoralized the enemy who, after an engagement lasting more than three hours, withdrew in disorder.
Throughout the whole course of the Battle of Arnhem, Major Cain showed superb gallantry. His powers of endurance and leadership were the admiration of all his fellow officers and stories of his valour were being constantly exchanged amongst the troops. His coolness and courage under incessant fire could not be surpassed.London Gazette 2 November 1944.
Following the war’s end, Major Cain returned to his occupation with the Shell Company. He worked in the Far East and West Africa before retiring in 1965 to live on the Isle of Man. Major Cain died on 2 May 1974 at Crowborough, Sussex.
Lieutenant John Hollington Grayburn was born on 30 January 1918 in Manora, India. At the time of the campaign, Grayburn was a member of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (1st Airborne Division).
The citation for his Victoria Cross is reproduced below (London Gazette 25 January 1945):
Lieutenant Grayburn was a platoon commander of the Parachute Battalion which was dropped on 17 September, 1944, with the task of seizing and holding the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem. The North end of the bridge was captured and, early in the night, Lieutenant Grayburn was ordered to assault and capture the Southern end with his platoon. He led his platoon on to the bridge and began the attack with the utmost determination, but the platoon was met by a hail of fire from two 20 mm. quick firing guns, and from the machine guns of an armoured car. Almost at once Lieutenant Grayburn was shot through the shoulder. Although there was no cover on the bridge, and in spite of his wound, Lieutenant Grayburn continued to press forward with the greatest dash and bravery until casualties became so heavy that he was ordered to withdraw. He directed the withdrawal from the bridge personally and was himself the last man to come off the embankment into comparative cover.
Later, his platoon was ordered to occupy a house which was vital to the defence of the bridge and he personally organised the occupation of the house. Throughout the next day and night the enemy made ceaseless attacks on the house, using not only infantry with mortars and machine guns but also tanks and self-propelled guns. The house was very exposed and difficult to defend and the fact that it did not fall to the enemy must be attributed to Lieutenant Grayburn’s great courage and inspiring leadership. He constantly exposed himself to the enemy’s fire while moving among, and encouraging, his platoon, and seemed completely oblivious to danger.
On 19th September, 1944, the enemy renewed his attacks, which increased in intensity, as the house was vital to the defence of the bridge. All attacks were repulsed, due to Lieutenant Grayburn’s valour and skill in organising and encouraging his men, until eventually the house was set on fire and had to be evacuated. Lieutenant Grayburn then took command of elements of all arms, including the remainder of his own company, and re-formed them into a fighting force. He spent the night organising a defensive position to cover the approaches to the bridge.
On 20th September, 1944, he extended his defence by a series of fighting patrols which prevented the enemy gaining access to the houses in the vicinity, the occupation of which would have prejudiced the defence of the bridge. This forced the enemy to bring up tanks which brought Lieutenant Grayburn’s positions under such heavy fire that he was forced to withdraw to an area farther North. The enemy now attempted to lay demolition charges under the bridge and the situation was critical. Realising this, Lieutenant Grayburn organised and led a fighting patrol which drove the enemy off temporarily, and gave time for the fuses to be removed. He was again wounded, this time in the back, but refused to be evacuated. Finally, an enemy tank, against which Lieutenant Grayburn had no defence, approached so close to his position that it became untenable. He then stood up in full view of the tank and personally directed the withdrawal of his men to the main defensive perimeter to which he had been ordered. He was killed that night.
From the evening of September 17th until the night of September 20th, 1944, a period of over three days, Lieutenant Grayburn led his men with supreme gallantry and determination. Although in pain and weakened by his wounds, short of food and without sleep, his courage never flagged. There is no doubt that, had it not been for this officer’s inspiring leadership and personal bravery, the Arnhem bridge could never have been held for this time.London Gazette 25 January 1945
Flight-Lieutenant David Samuel Anthony Lord was born on 18 October 1913 in Cork, Eire. At the time of the campaign, Lord was a member of No. 271 Squadron, Transport Command, Royal Air Force.
The citation for his Victoria Cross is reproduced below (London Gazette 13 November 1945):
Flight Lieutenant Lord was pilot and captain of a Dakota aircraft [KG374 YS-DM] detailed to drop supplies at Arnhem on the afternoon of the 19th September, 1944. Our airborne troops had been surrounded and were being pressed into a small area defended by a large number of anti-aircraft guns. Air crews were warned that intense opposition would be met over the dropping zone. To ensure accuracy they were ordered to fly at 900 feet when dropping their containers.
While flying at 1,500 feet near Arnhem the starboard wing of Flight Lieutenant Lord’s aircraft was twice hit by anti-aircraft fire. The starboard engine was set on fire. He would have been justified in leaving the main stream of supply aircraft and continuing at the same height or even abandoning his aircraft. But on learning that his crew were uninjured and that the dropping zone would be reached in three minutes he said he would complete his mission, as the troops were in dire need of supplies.
By now the starboard engine was burning furiously. Flight Lieutenant Lord came down to 900 feet, where he was singled out for the concentrated fire of all the anti-aircraft guns. On reaching the dropping zone he kept the aircraft on a straight, and level course while supplies were dropped. At the end of the run, he was told that two containers remained. Although he must have known that the collapse of the starboard wing could not be long delayed, Flight Lieutenant Lord circled, re-joined the stream of aircraft and made a second run to drop the remaining supplies.
These manoeuvres took eight minutes in all, the aircraft being continuously under heavy anti-aircraft fire. His task completed, Flight Lieutenant Lord ordered his crew to abandon the Dakota, making no attempt himself to leave the aircraft, which was down to 500 feet. A few seconds later, the starboard wing collapsed and the aircraft fell in flames. There was only one survivor, who was flung out while assisting other members of the crew to put on their parachutes.
By continuing his mission in a damaged and burning aircraft, descending to drop the supplies accurately, returning to the dropping zone a second time and, finally, remaining at the controls to give his crew a chance of escape, Flight Lieutenant Lord displayed supreme valour and self-sacrifice.London Gazette 13 November 1945.
Flight-Lieutenant Lord’s Victoria Cross is the only one awarded to a member of the RAF’s Transport Command.
Captain Lionel Ernest Queripel was born on 13 July 1920 in Winterbourne Monkton, Dorset. At the time of the campaign, Queripel was a member of The Royal Sussex Regiment attached The Parachute Regiment (1st Airborne Division).
The citation for his Victoria Cross is reproduced below (London Gazette 1 February 1945):
In Holland on the 19th September, 1944, Captain Queripel was acting as Company Commander of a composite Company composed of three Parachute Battalions. At 14.00 hours on that day, his Company was advancing along a main road which ran on an embankment towards Arnhem. The advance was conducted under continuous medium machine-gun fire which, at one period, became so heavy that the Company became split up on either side of the road and suffered considerable losses. Captain Queripel at once proceeded to reorganize his force, crossing and re-crossing the road whilst doing so, under extremely heavy and accurate fire. During this period he carried a wounded Sergeant to the Regimental Aid Post under fire and was himself wounded in the face.
Having reorganized his force, Captain Queripel personally led a party of men against the strong point holding up the advance. This strong point consisted of a captured British anti-tank gun and two machine-guns. Despite the extremely heavy fire directed at him, Captain Queripel succeeded in killing the crews of the machine-guns and recapturing the anti-tank gun. As a result of this, the advance was able to continue.
Later in the same day, Captain Queripel found himself cut off with a small party of men and took up a position in a ditch. By this time he had received further wounds in both arms. Regardless of his wounds and of the very heavy mortar and spandau fire, he continued to inspire his men to resist with hand grenades, pistols and the few remaining rifles. As, however, the enemy pressure increased, Captain Queripel decided that it was impossible to hold the position any longer and ordered his men to withdraw. Despite their protests, he insisted on remaining behind to cover their withdrawal with his automatic pistol and a few remaining hand grenades. This is the last occasion on which he was seen.
During the whole of a period of nine hours of confused and bitter fighting Captain Queripel displayed the highest standard of gallantry under most difficult and trying circumstances. His courage, leadership and devotion to duty were magnificent, and an inspiration to all.London Gazette 1 February 1945.
HARTENSTEIN AIRBOURNE MUSEUM
The Hartenstein, formerly a hotel, became the HQ of Major-General Urquhart, the commander of the British 1st Airborne Division. It was established on 18 September 1944 when it became clear that the planned HQ in Arnhem Barracks would not be reached. A maintenance area was set up in the park, together with a Regimental Aid Post. Soon the cellar of the former hotel would be full of the wounded.
As the battle around the area, known as the Cauldron with the hotel at its heart, slit trenches were dug and the dead buried in the hotel grounds. The troops, including the Canadian BBC journalist Stanley Maxted (who made his famous broadcasts from the grounds), could just watch as the supply planes made their determined efforts to drop much needed supplies. However only a few of the supplies reached the troops as the Germans had overran the drop-zones.
Today, the former hotel has been converted into the Airborne Museum. The museum contains various items and memorials associated with the battle, in a pleasant park area which still has deer roaming around the park area.
The museum is well recommended and their web site is located at www.airbornemuseum.com