A Bridge Too Far: Col Simon Vandeleur Blog, Day Six

Colonel Simon Vandeleur, Edinburgh Castle Garrison Commander, created a blog during the ‘A Bridge Too Far’ bike ride from London to Belgium. He rode with Baxterbear on his handlebars all the way there, and Baxterbear was TREEKLED to make a difference with him. To read a full round-up of events, click here. Here is his blog post from the sixth day: Nijmegan to Arnhem on Day 6 of our H4H charity bike ride. A very early start, like 0500 rise and 0600 on the bike and cycling through a cold and deserted Nijmegan. We crossed the famous bridge, captured by the US 82nd Airborne Division, in 1944 and as portrayed by Robert Redford in the film A Bridge Too Far. A very moving wreath laying ceremony with our US wounded veterans and our travelling Irish piper in his saffron kilt. Then on to Driel where the British Sappers have a memorial. They evacuated 2,500 members of 1st Airborne Division back across the Rhine when the operation was eventually called off by General Horrocks. At which point my green umbrella, which I have propelled, strapped on the crossbar of my bike, through 350 miles of Belgium, Germany and Holland, came into full use as the group was drenched in a torrential downpour of rain. I completed the remainder of the journey to the John Frost bridge in Arnhem with umbrella held aloft and remained mostly dry. A good umbrella beats Goretex any day! Another UK Ambassador popped up with his naval attach, to tell us that he would put H4H on his blog. A group photo beside the famous Arnhem bridge and then on to Ginkel Heath where 1st Airborne Division parachuted in Sep 44. We watched parachutists jumping from military aircraft for half an hour, with a very large Dutch and international crowd. It was nice to see so many veterans from 44 still attending. They are all in their late 80’s now and proud as punch with their WW2 medals and red berets. H4H have rather overdone the wreath laying, so repaired into the local hostelry with Baxterbear, Richard Cotton and Tom Helm, sitting in the sun and feeling pleased with ourselves having completed 5 hard days of cycling and raising much money for H4H. An overwhelming desire for a cigarette came upon us, so I cracked after 2 years of abstinence. Two cigarettes made me feel very dizzy, so let’s hope it will be another 2 years before such urges re-appear. Next stop, Oosterbeek church for another wreath laying ceremony and then on to the Airborne Forces museum, the site of the HQ of 1st Airborne Division in 44. It is amazing how friendly the local Dutch residents continue to be, having had their beautiful and peaceful village totally wrecked in the fighting with the German Army in 44. General Montgomery’s remark that Operation Market Garden was a 90% success, was a classic example of being factually correct, but utterly misleading. The strategic objective to seize a bridgehead over the Rhine and end the war by Christmas was a 100% failure. In footballing terms, it was a clear away loss to a German team that found their form after a shaky start. Then Baxterbear and I bicycled slowly back to our hotel, to wave goodbye to our bike as it went into a truck to re-appear tomorrow at St Pancras – let’s hope so anyway. That hot bath is looking inviting. Best wishes from a tired Simon and Baxterbear who hope to be back in Edinburgh Castle on Monday. And very many thanks to all the generous friends, relations and colleagues who have sponsored me on this ride and taken an interest, if you have read this far! It will be worth it. For the first day of Col Simon Vandeleur’s blog, click here. For the fourth day of Col Simon Vandeleur’s blog, click here. For the fifth day of Col Simon Vandeleur’s blog, click here. h4h 4