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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Fred returns to the battlefield

A former Hendon Times sports editor who served at Arnhem in 1944 has returned to the scene of the battle 73 years later.

CIoJ member Fred Harris served in the Royal Engineers in WW2 and was with the 7th Armoured Division (better known as the “Desert Rats”) when he was dispatched to Holland as a reconnaissance driver to try to find ways to push the Germans back across Arnhem Bridge.

Although “Operation Market Garden” failed to achieve its ultimate goal of taking Arnhem Bridge, the battle, which lasted from September 17 to 25, 1944, is etched in many Dutch people’s memories. Locals still maintain the graves of the fallen and hold a week of commemorations in Arnhem and the surrounding area every year.

Fred’s military exploits also included participation in the Normandy campaign that preceded Op.Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge later the same year, but it is the Dutch campaign that he looks back on with real fondness.

Fred told The Journal: “I had no idea at the time that I was taking part in ‘Operation Market Garden’ but I do know that the Dutch came out and fed us with their meagre rations and billeted us in their homes. I still hold a photograph of two children pressed on me by their mother saying that we had given them back their freedom and she would always be grateful.

“I have shared the details and hope someone could find them as it would be wonderful to meet them again – although they would be old people now we could still share the memories. The Netherlanders were wonderful and would give us any help they could and 73 years later, the same welcome and love is there again with strangers shaking my hand and thanking me for allowing them to live free.”

Fred was one of 19 veterans, aged from 92 to 98, from Britain, Holland, Canada and the USA, invited by the Stichting Nederland-Amerika, the Dutch-American friendship organisation, to be part of the Market Garden commemorations. Unfortunately one of the veterans who was due to take part in the grip, veteran Albert Figg, aged 97, did not make it. Sadly he died on July 4.

Liz Justice