Operation Pegasus 1

Plan for mass escape

Most soldiers, which went into hiding, were intercepted by the Dutch resistance and housed in the triangle Apeldoorn-Arnhem-Ede. Consequently, the resistance was suddenly facing an enormous task, which required courage, determination and a great ability to improvise, to be executed.

However, Pieter de Kruijff, leader of the "Arnhemse Knokploeg (KP)", a sort of gang fighters, and one of his closest associates, Albert (nickname Wolff) Horstman, had more often faced such challenges in their resistance work. Engineer Pieter de Kruijff worked as a chemist at the "Algemene Kunstzijde Unie" in Arnhem and Albert Horstman worked as an architectural expert at the same company. De Kruijff had gathered eight reliable people around him, who each also managed eight people. This construction minimized the risk of betrayal or mopping up the resistance group.

Each group of the Arnhem KP had a special task. That's how one team was more concerned with helping pilots, while another group was primarily concerned with obtaining and distributing ration cards. Albert Horstman had a special cover for his resistance work, he had founded a transport company with five small trucks. This transport company was allowed by the Germans, because Horstman and his men frequently performed tasks for the Red Cross.

The resistance groups of Pieter de Kruijff from Arnhem and A. (nickname Bill) Wildeboer from Ede were constantly busy providing shelter for fleeing paratroopers, arranging ration cards, food and clothing and manufacturing false identity papers for them.

In the meantime, de Kruijff and his men were already aware of nearly all the addresses where the officers of the staff of the British Brigadier General Lathbury (commander 1st Parachute Brigade of the 1st British Airborne Division) were in hiding. The former staff officers of Lathbury were in hiding not far away from him and every morning they held a staff meeting in the house where the General had found shelter. This was of course dangerous, because the Germans were still were keen on searching for stray and fugitive paratroopers.

Yet this risk had to be accepted, because the paratroopers, who were in hiding everywhere, had to be taken to safety across the river Rhine as soon as possible. The risk of discovery of the various hiding places they used, increased by the hour. Therefore, plans had to be made to take 140 men across the German lines to the banks of the Rhine, as quickly as possible. This dangerous operation could only be performed with the help of the local resistance.

Not all officers agreed upon the resistance group to take the lead in the mass escape, but other officers realized that they would not get far without the support of the resistance. A compromise had to be found because the resistance group was not sufficiently trained to fight against a seasoned enemy. Daily hour-long negotiations took place, often in the presence of the leaders of the local resistance. On topographic maps, suitable places for crossing the Rhine were searched. It was of high importance that, close to each crossing, a rallying point would be available, where the paratroopers would be able to hide during a greater part of the day, in anticipation of the crossing. Finally, it was very important that good agreements were made about accessing the rallying points.

The plan for the mass escape was as follows: the resistance would take the lead in the transportation and take care of the accompaniment of the paratroopers from their hiding places to the rallying point. Also eighteen citizens, with ties to the resistance (Job en Maarten van Bent, Charles Douw van der Krap, Loek Gerards, Thijs den Hertog, Jan Hesseling, Anne Hilbrink, Steef van Keulen, Jan Kooijman, Jan Koster, Rob van der Linden, Bob Mebius, Gerrit Jan Nijhof, Jan de Nooij, Dick Polman, Henk Wienke, Henk van Silfhout en Jan Verschoor), would join them on the way to the liberated south on the other side of the Rhine. The resistance had access to a small arsenal of vehicles, including bicycles, carts and a few small trucks, for the transportation of the paratroopers. Also a large number of guides would be available, to guide the groups of paratroopers through various paths, which could lead to the rallying point. As rallying point, a very dense forest was chosen, in the neighbourhood of Renkum. This forest had been discovered by Maarten van den Bent, a fanatical young resistance fighter, who had a vast knowledge of the terrain of the Veluwe forests.

Then, after days of consultations, the plans were finished, still the approval from the commander of the British Second Army in Nijmegen was needed. By means of a telephone line of the resistance, daily contact with some officers of the staff of the British Second Army was already realized. Also lieutenant colonel David Dobie Theodore swam across the Rhine towards Nijmegen, to have a personal consultation with lieutenant general Sir Miles Dempsey of the British Second Army, in order to secure a successful escape plan. The British Second Army would be responsible for support by means of cover fire, flank protection, sufficient storm boats to transfer the paratroopers and for transportation after the troopers had reached the south side of the river. After extensive discussion, lieutenant general Dempsey approved the plan.

Definitielijst

Brigade
Consisted mostly of two or more regiments. Could operate independently or as part of a division. Sometimes they were part of a corps instead of a division. In theory a brigade consisted of 5,000 to 7,000 men.
Division
Military unit, usually consisting of one upto four regiments and usually making up a corps. In theory a division consists of 10,000 to 20,000 men.
paratroopers
Airborne Division. Military specialized in parachute landings.
resistance
Resistance against the enemy. Often also with armed resources.

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Afbeeldingen


Brigadier general Gerald Lathbury, commander of the 1st Parachute Brigade of the 1st British Airborne Division. He was the highest ranking soldier who participated in Operation Pegasus 1
(Source: British Army)


Survey of a part of the escape route form the meeting point to the crossing point
(Source: www.saak.nl)

Informatie

Translated by:
Chrit Houben
Article by:
David Izelaar
Published on:
17-10-2012
Last edit on:
29-06-2017
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