Belgium / Monument
It is on this spot that Operation Market Garden premiered on the morning of 16 September 1944. Today, the only reminder of Cinema Splendid in Leopoldsburg is a small plaque on the facade of some apartment buildings at 49 Nicolaylaan. The cinema building burned down in 1979 and the remains were subsequently demolished for new construction.
Although there is no footage of this event, it is easy to imagine what a crowd there must have been in the cinema hall. The scene in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far is iconic, and Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks' memoirs also reveal what a gathering this briefing meeting must have caused:
"The residents must have wondered what the hell was happening when they noticed that the British military police occupied their village early in the morning, and from about it 9:00am a colourful stream of officers in cars and jeeps of every description came in."
In the cinema hall, Horrocks revealed the plan to launch a rapid advance into the heart of Nazi Germany via a two-part operation. First, British and American airborne units would capture the bridges over the Meuse, Waal and Rhine rivers and occupy them. Soon afterwards, at the same time, the XXX Army Corps would advance from the Belgian border towards Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem, via a narrow corridor sometimes only a kilometre wide.
More than 50,000 soldiers of the XXX Corps and their thousands of vehicles had to laboriously make their way towards Arnhem. The legendary start of the briefing at Cinema Splendid was memorably portrayed by actor Edward Fox, who played the role of Brian Horrocks in A Bridge Too Far: "This is a story you will tell your grandchildren; and mightily bored they'll be".
Nicolaylaan 51, 3970 Leopoldsburg