The intentions to document this information are long standing in that they go back some two decades to the early/mid 1990’s, just a few years before the subject of this site, James Kitchener Heath passed away.

As is the case in so many families in which a generation experienced war and all its traumas, certain aspects of service are known, but all too often the details are sketchy and disjointed. Add into this mix the passage of time and the result is invariably a collection of stories and fragments of memories accompanied by a handful of fragile and faded documents (if you are lucky) that represent the sum of information relating to the most extraordinary period in a soldier’s life. This was certainly the case in our family..... and it’s not much to go on.

In February 1995, my Father and I struggled to put together a potted service history to be read by the cleric presiding over my Grandfather’s funeral. At this point I decided to take steps to fill in some of the gaps as best I could.... sadly now without the benefit of first hand testimony.

A well known turn of phrase, ‘written on the back of a fag packet’ is defined by the Collins on-Line dictionary as something ‘composed or formed quickly and without detailed analysis or research’. As far as first hand source material for this history is concerned, no better a description could be made. The details gleaned from my Grandfather in brief (and often emotional) discussions in the 1990’s are summarised as a list of place names written in an old man’s shaky handwriting on the back of a standard envelope! (this will feature later). On the upside, a standard envelope is approximately twice the size of a cigarette packet, which immediately doubles the amount of information to work with!

By my own admission, this site is a little self-indulgent, being of primary interest to myself, my mother, my children and a handful of relatives still living in Staffordshire. In addition, it may be that the information presented here will be read by others outside of the family who have a passing interest in military or family history.

I would welcome any comments/suggestions or dare I say it relevant information to contact me.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Haalderen, Holland 16th May 2015

The idea was that we would have an easier day on the Saturday with less driving planned for Owen. In the evening we were due to attend a part of Eurorock Festival near to Eindhoven. The band that we had travelled to see were the headline act and were not due to take the stage until after midnight that evening. The schedule we drew up was to drive up to Nijmegen and onto the Island before heading further north to Arnhem.

Within Nijmegen I had a specific task to fulfil, retracing the family’s 1973 visit to the town with my Grandfather, but more of that in the pages that follow. For now the plan was to stop off in Haalderen as we progressed towards Arnhem. We deliberately took a route to the brigdes similar to that taken by XXX Corps on ‘Hell’s Highway’ as the Allies struggled to reach the British 1st Airborne who were pinned down in Oosterbeek. In the early morning spring sunshine it was difficult to relate to that desperate journey seventy-one years earlier for the roads were clear and the fields on either side of the road were nothing but picturesque. Crossing the Maas at Grave, we passed through Nijmegen and crossed Waal to access ‘The Island’.

Passing through Lent before turning off the N325 in the direction of Bemmel where the men of ‘D’ Company 11th R.S.F. were formed up as the counter-attack company on 4th December 1944. It was only after driving through a near deserted Bemmel that our navigational problems started. Never mind the proverbial ‘All Roads Lead To Rome’, on this Saturday morning it was more a case of ‘All Roads Lead to Bemmel’ as try as we might to reach the neighbouring village of Haalderen, after several circuits of the area it was nowhere to be found, but we found ourselves driving back through Bemmel from each of the four compass points. Were it not for the assistance of a helpful jogger with a better grasp of the local geography, Haalderen may have never have been reached!

Our approach to Haalderen was from the same direction from which the Fusiliers entered the village that December. Turning right onto the N839, Van der Mondeweg, we headed south east down the road toeards the Church (the original of which is shown at the head of this chapter). The Church, now rebuilt, houses a memorial to the fighing in the village that occurred between September and December 1944.

Never Forget
Never Repeat


Our time here was limited and with no disrespect to Haalderen, there was not so much to photograph easily with the exception of a view down the main street. The direction from which the German 16th Parachute Regiment Companies advanced and the direction that the Fusilier’s took to reach the forward positions of the beleaguered Companies of the 7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.

The reconstructed Church in Haalderen.

The main road through Haalderen (Van der Mondeweg) looking in a south easterly direction (facing the German assault).

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