Operation Market Garden, which inspired the 1977 blockbuster film A Bridge Too Far, was an audacious attempt by the Western Allies to seize a crossing over the Rhine into Germany between 17-25 September 1944.
Yet despite the deployment of thousands of American, British and Polish airborne troops, in conjunction with the efforts of ground forces to link up with them, ultimately at Arnhem in the Netherlands, the plan failed spectacularly and the war continued well into 1945.
The University will host a conference on 10-11 September 2014 to mark the 70th anniversary of Market Garden, featuring veterans who took part in the operation.
Highway to the Reich: Operation Market Garden and the Battle for the Low Countries 1944: Seventy Years On will feature a question and answer session with the veterans, panel discussions and expert keynote speakers.
The veterans’ panel is due to include Staff Sergeant Peter Clarke, who flew a Horsa glider to Arnhem on 17 September 1944 and was taken prisoner by the Germans on 26 September. He escaped four days later but was recaptured shortly afterwards, and remained a Prisoner of War (PoW) until he was liberated by the Americans in April 1945.
Military parachutist Sergeant Luis DiMarco is also set to attend the event. In September 1944, the then Private DiMarco was serving with the 1st Parachute Battalion, and deployed for Operation Market Garden to take part in the Battle of Arnhem. He was one of a small number from the 1st Battalion who made it back across the river to the safety of allied lines after the nine day battle.
Also hoping to attend are Lieutenant Stephen King, from Wolverhampton, who was in the 44th Royal Tank Regiment which reached Holland in October after the battle, and Private Eric Tipping and Sergeant Tommy Dutton, who were members of the infantry who were trying to get Arnhem and carried on fighting in Holland for a number of months after the Operation.
The conference has been organised by Professor John Buckley and Dr Peter Preston-Hough from the University’s Department of History, Politics and War Studies
Professor Buckley said: “Market Garden has attained iconic status and is the subject of countless books, documentaries and articles, and is subjected to more speculation than almost any other Allied operation of the war.
“After 70 years it is time to re-evaluate the importance, impact and outcome of Market Garden.
“We’ll be looking at why the operation took place, why it failed and what were the consequences. We’ll also be considering how it has been depicted, studied and commemorated in the years since 1944.
“We’re delighted to be welcoming a panel of veterans who took part in the operation to discuss the implications of this major event in world history.”
The keynote speakers include James Holland, author and BBC TV historian, Sebastian Ritchie author of Arnhem: Myth and Reality, Robert Kershaw author of It Never Snows in September and Peter Caddick Adams author of Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives.