Holandia / Vector of Memory
The Vlagheide is a heathland between Sint Oedenrode and Schijndel. During Operation Market Garden, the area right behind the Koeveringsedijk was known as Drop Zone A. This is where the first allied forces landed on Brabant soil on 17 September 1944.
The Vlagheide was part of Drop Zone A. On 17 September 1944, American parachutists of the 101st Airborne Division set foot on Brabant soil for the very first time. This area played a crucial role during Operation Market Garden, when roads and bridges had to be captured to enable the allied army to advance on Arnhem. Despite the speedy liberation of the nearby village of Eerde, the operation did not proceed as planned. A bloody battle took place near the hamlet of Koevering. German troops cut through the corridor and held up the allied advance for forty hours. This appeared to be one of the determining factors in the failure of Operation Market Garden. One of the soldiers engaged in the fighting around the corridor area was Bobby Hunter.
Bobby Hunter's personal story
Bobby Hunter was one of the first parachutists who jumped out of his aircraft over Eerde on, 17 September, Sunday afternoon. The aircraft transporting the D Company that he was part of, were the first to appear above the marked drop zone. Once the light in the aircraft turned green, he exited the plane. The weather conditions for a jump were ideal, the sun was shining and there was hardly any wind. As they jumped from a relatively low height, there was little opportunity for any corrections. “I floated straight towards the only tree in the entire area. The field had recently been ploughed, and it felt as if I was landing on a cushion, ” Bobby said. After quickly removing his parachute, he wanted to run to the assembly point when he heard the voice of Francis McKeown calling out to him. Francis had jumped right after Bobby and had landed a bit further on. He had hit the ground with one leg in the soft field and the other on the paved road (Koeveringsedijk), severely spraining his ankle as a result. Bobby went to him and, in addition to his own equipment, also carried everything Francis had with him, while supporting him as he limped to the assembly point. Here Francis had to stay behind with the other wounded, to be moved at a later stage to the nuns in Veghel, who helped take care of them. Heavily packed, Bobby and his group set off on the quick march towards the road bridge across the canal in Veghel. Bobby took part in all the fighting around the Corridor area and on 24 September 1944, when his unit was sent to Eerde as reinforcement, his friend Francis, who had just re-joined the unit, fell in battle. This deeply affected Bobby and his comrades, as Francis was a well-liked person within the unit.
Bobby often returned to the place where his Market Garden “adventure” had begun and always made sure to pay a visit to the tree where he landed that day.
Hill/heuvel Vlagheide, Sint-Oedenrode