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Escape from the 'Airborne Military Hospital' in Apeldoorn



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The failed airborne operation Market - together with the ground operation Garden - in September 1944 resulted in many Allied casualties in German-occupied territory. In Apeldoorn, the Germans set up a temporary hospital in the barracks for the British wounded, but even here, they are ultimately not safe. A Scottish doctor decides to escape.

The airborne landings of British paratroopers are part of one of the largest Allied operations ever: Operation Market Garden (17-26 September 1944). The offensive proves to be overly ambitious. Fierce German resistance, combined with incorrectly landed paratroopers and issues with supply and medical aid, lead to the failure of the large-scale operation. The Allies lose a total of 17,000 personnel (killed, wounded, or missing), and on the German side, between 8,000 and 13,000 deaths occur. Thousands of civilians also perish.

Near Arnhem, 11,000 parachutists are dropped. Only 2,400 of them manage to cross the Rhine back to the Betuwe after fighting in Oosterbeek and Arnhem. The remaining troops either perish or are taken prisoner. The Allies have so many wounded that they cannot transport them to safer areas. It is decided to bring the wounded to the still-occupied Apeldoorn.

The temporary 'Airborne Military Hospital' is led by Colonel Doctor Graeme Matthew Warrack. He himself was dropped west of Arnhem on September 17 and, on September 24, requests a temporary ceasefire from the Germans. He is granted permission to transport 450 wounded from the battlefield to the British lines within two hours using German transportation. Warrack himself stays behind with the remaining wounded. After one more day of fighting in Oosterbeek, Warrack surrenders voluntarily. Warrack and nearly 1,800 wounded soldiers are transported by the Germans to the Willem III barracks in Apeldoorn.

The hospital is run by the British themselves. Warrack becomes the commander of the Airborne Hospital and, together with British and German doctors, tends to the wounded. After a few weeks, the captured Allied soldiers are sent to prisoner-of-war camps in Germany. When it becomes apparent that they are being deported from October 26 onwards, Warrack decides to attempt an escape. He hides for two weeks above the door of his office before attempting to escape. With the help of the resistance, he manages to return behind the Allied lines in February 1945. On April 17, 1945, the barracks and Apeldoorn are liberated by the Canadians. The barracks complex is subsequently used as an internment camp for collaborators and Germans.

In 1984, the former commander of the Airborne Hospital, Warrack, unveils a memorial plaque at building 24 of the barracks complex. The building was officially named the 'Graeme Warrack Building' in 2012. Inside the building is the 'Graeme Warrack Room,' Colonel Doctor Warrack's original workspace in 1944, furnished with books, utensils, and equipment from the 1st Airborne Division. A wreath-laying ceremony takes place annually in September.

Koning Willem III Kazerne Sportlaan 55 7312 TG Apeldoorn