Prince blasts Monty over Arnhem battle
15 September 2004, AMSTERDAM — Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands has launched a blistering attack on Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery on the eve of the 60th commemoration of the costly failure of the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.
15 September 2004
AMSTERDAM — Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands has launched a blistering attack on Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery on the eve of the 60th commemoration of the costly failure of the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.
Speaking on Dutch television on Tuesday, the 93-year-old German-born father of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands said Montgomery had ignored warnings that his plan, Operation Market Garden, was doomed to failure.
Bernhard also said the British had tried to pin the blame on the commander of the Polish forces who took part in the operation. He said he was convinced the British exerted pressure on the Dutch government after the war not to award medals to the 1,700 Polish soldiers.
The prince called on the Dutch government to honour the Polish contribution now. "Complete with medal, because the Netherlands has been unbelievably negligent in not rewarding these people," he said.
In reaction, Dutch Defence Minister Henk Kamp has said that a mark of honour should be awarded to the Polish, but said an actual medal could not be given 60 years after the fact.
"I think that it is very appropriate that the military attaché in Poland presents them (the veterans) with a token of appreciation," Kamp said.
Meanwhile, Bernard's comments are bound to cause embarrassment as Britain's Prince Charles will attend a special service at the British Military Cemetery in Oosterbeek near Arnhem on Sunday 19 September.
Thousands of veterans are also expected to attend a series of events, including mass parachute drops, in and around Arnhem to commemorate the battle which ran from 17 to 23 September.
Montgomery's plan was to use the largest airborne drop ever to overwhelm the light German forces guarding bridges leading to Germany and end the war in Europe by Christmas 1944.
A force of 10,000 lightly-armed troops was assigned to Arnhem, but the assault was plagued by bad luck and poor communications. Instead of the light resistance anticipated, the Germans were able to call upon two Panzer divisions that were in the area to re-equip.
An estimated 1,130 Allied paratroopers were killed and a further 6,450 captured during the failed attempt to capture the key bridge at Arnhem.
Bernhard said the Polish commander, Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski, had expressed his misgivings during the planning stage.
"That is the reason he (Sosabowski) was blamed by the British after the war for the failure of the battle. It is a typical trait of the British military brass that they find it totally unacceptable when someone shows they have got it wrong."
Bernhard was a member of the Nazi SS before he married the future Dutch Queen Juliana in 1937.
Armed with a machinegun, he helped lead the Dutch Royal Family to safety in London after the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940.
He was appointed commander of the Dutch military in 1944, but has been plagued by rumours that he tipped off the Germans about Market Garden.
Bernhard again denied the allegation and several others about his character in an open letter in February of this year.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news