When I saw the announcement of a Battlefield Tour in nearby Best I didn't hesitate and made sure I could join. And it sure didn't disappoint!
The tour started with a short introduction of Market Garden, a subject that still gives sufficient room for debate and opinions, even 75 years later. Edwin, our tour guide then zoomed in on the events that lead to the Battle at Best. He explained how a group of about 200 men, led by Captain Jones got the objective to move west from the main groups to seize the bridges south of Best. This alternative plan would eventually lead to a major battle and we would walk the trail of Captain Jones' H Company 502 PIR to see how the events evolved.
After a short walk we found ourselves at the dropzone. Here Edwin explained about the procedures in the aircraft and how the lessons learned from the earlier drops at Normandy lead to the usage of specially trained Pathfinders. Captain Jones and his men now set off in Westerly direction towards the bridges.
After a while we stopped at the point where Captain Jones suddenly turned in a more North-West direction. According to his report because he got desoriented in the forest, but as Edwin showed, there is no forest at all. Jones' company skirted the forest on a dirt road and could hardly be desoriented by it. A different explanation might be that Captain Jones got distracted by some German fire from Best or a nearby patrol.
We followed in the same direction and ended up at the crossroads at the outskirts of Best, where some intense firefights broke out that led the Germans to believe that Best was a target, reinforcements were called in from both sides.
Captain Jones retreated to the Sonse Bossen and as we walked down the road it wasn't difficult to imagine how vulnerable the Americans must have felt in this open area.
At the edge of the forest Edwin talked about the confusion of battle, how groups got separated and with the Germans infiltrating the forest chaos was complete.
Reinforcements arrived via the Zonsche Dijk and dug in. Edwin showed a few of the remaining foxholes and the nearby shell holes.
The story of Lt. Col. Cole is impressive, but sadly too much to repeat here. But as the events escalated into a full scale battle, the shock that went through his soldiers upon hearing about the death of this hero must have been huge. Lt. Col. Cole was shot while placing orange panels in the field to guide a much needed air strike. The Americans now were almost overrun, but thanks to the support of British tanks the allies got the upper hand.
Near the bridge, another heroic story is that of Joe Mann. At his memorial Edwin gave us some background information about Joe and told us in the pouring rain about his heroism. That his sacrifice is rewarded with a Medal of Honour is no surprise.