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Two Airborne Parachutists and their last journey to Arnhem



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On Tuesday, 19th September 1944, the British paratroopers George Bowers and Robert Thompson were fatally hit by German fire when they attempted to cross from Lombok to Heijenoord. Local residents decided to bury the British soldiers in an allotment complex on the corner of Callunastraat.

This is the story of George Arthur Bowers (31) and Robert William Thompson (34), two British paratroopers who were part of the 11th Battalion. On Monday, 18th September 1944, one day after the start of Operation Market Garden, George and Robert boarded a Dakota at Saltby Air Base, England. At around three o'clock in the afternoon, they parachuted out of the plane above the Ginkelse Heide. From that moment onwards, their only goal was to advance as quickly as possible to the Rhine bridge.

On Tuesday, 19th September - one day after their landing - George and Robert found themselves on the west side of the city, near the Arnhem - Utrecht railway line. Their aim to advance to Arnhem as quickly as possible and break through to the Rhine bridge failed due to the strong German resistance. The unit was forced back to the Lombok district and became trapped. The 11th Battalion received orders to cross the railway in order to establish contact with the 10th Battalion, which was attempting to enter the north of Arnhem.

As soon as the first paratroopers attempted to cross the tracks, they came under fire. George Bowers crossed the railway with two men and managed to capture two German soldiers on the other side. However, he was shot from a higher position. Robert Thompson witnessed the event and decided to make the crossing with a group. He was successful, but at that moment, while trying to look over the edge because he thought he heard his friend, he was hit. Joe Berry, a witness from the same unit, saw him tumble down. It quickly became evident that Robert would not survive. The Germans continued to fire almost relentlessly. Joe sought shelter south of the railroad.

After the fighting, the German casualties were collected, while the bodies of Bowers and Thompson were left behind. Some residents from the neighborhood decided to bury the British soldiers on the edge of an allotment garden complex on Callunastraat. After the war, George Bowers and Robert Thompson were reburied at the Airborne War Cemetery in Oosterbeek, graves 28.C.9. and 28.C.10.

It is almost unimaginable to comprehend the life in September 1944 for the residents of Arnhem and the Lombok and Heijenoord districts. The extent of the fighting in this part of the city is evident from the photographs taken immediately after the war. Much of the neighborhood lay in ruins, and numerous houses had to be rebuilt brick by brick.

In memory of George A. Bowers and Robert W. Thompson, a memorial has been placed at this location, where the De Calluna playground now stands. This is to ensure that we never forget the great sacrifice made by George and Robert in 1944 in their fight for our freedom.

Callunastraat 54, 6813 EX Arnhem