Not many people know it, but a small number of South Africans participated in Operation Market Garden during World War 2. Today we remember one of them.
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation pioneered by Field Marshall Montgomery to end the war by Christmas 1944, it was fought in the Netherlands and involved taking bridges ending with the prize bridge over the Rhein at Arnhem and then on into Germany. This key bridge was to be taken and held by British paratroopers from the 1st Airborne Division and they were due to be relived by XXX Corps an Allied ground force rushing up through the Netherlands taking key strategic points as it went.
But largely due to intelligence failures, delays crossing rivers, logistics issues and communication breakdowns the relief never arrived leaving the British paratroopers in a desperate and un-winnable fight. Operation Market Garden was the largest airborne operation up to that time and it was an unmitigated Allied failure with severe loss of life.
The air re-supply of the British airborne forces in the Arnhem area was particularly hazardous as they became isolated and surrounded.
This image taken on 19 September 1944 shows a burned-out Douglas Dakota Mark III, KG401, of No. 48 Squadron RAF based at Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, which crash-landed in a field near Kessel, Holland, after parachuting supplies over Arnhem.
The aircraft had just dropped its supplies from 700 feet when it was met with intense anti-aircraft fire. Sixteen aircraft of 48 Squadron participated in MARKET III, flying through intense flak with no fighter escort.
Many aircraft were hit and two, (KG401 and KG428), failed to return. Over the following four days the Squadron lost another six Dakotas on re-supply missions to Arnhem.
One of these was piloted by Captain C.H Campbell, a South African Air Force (SAAF) officer seconded to 48 Squadron RAF and was lost in his RAF C47 Douglas Dakota on 21st September 1944.
Some additional information courtesy Sandy Evan Hanes
CAMPBELL, C.H, Colin Herbert, 25
48 RAF Sqn C-47 Dakota Mk.III, KG-346
KIA Runnymede Memorial, Panel 264, United Kingdom
Son of John W. and Hilda M. Campbell, of Claremont, Cape Town, South Africa
May he rest in eternal peace, his sacrifice to the freedom of Europe as we know it today remembered with honour.
Image copyright – Imperial War MuseumSouth