Operation Pegasus 1

The group of paratroopers, which was gathered in Ede, would be taken to the rallying point near Renkum by bicycle, in groups of five and under the supervision of guides. On October 22nd, 1944 at half past ten in the morning, the first groups left and around twelve the last five paratroopers. Albert Horstman kept a tight schedule for his part in Operation Pegasus 1, namely the transport of sixty paratroopers in two small Red Cross trucks. On that same day, at quarter past five in the evening, the generators were started in order to warm up and at half past five, these trucks would leave. From six oíclock the paratroopers were to be ready and waiting, armed and dressed in uniform, at the cabin in Oud Reemst in order to get in the trucks as quickly as possible.

When around half past seven, the two trucks drove along the refuge in Oud Reemst, they were "attacked" by two members of the resistance. The two drivers who had not been informed about the operation, were not convinced immediately, whether they could join the transport of the armed paratroopers. This was, as mentioned, contrary to the Geneva Conventions. After some discussion with Horstman, the two drivers decided to participate. During a possible arrest by the Germans, the two drivers could state that they were attacked by the resistance group.

Meanwhile, the sixty paratroopers from the shelter at Oud Reemst arrived at the trucks. The men had to lie upon each other in two layers, due to the limited loading space. Also they all had to keep their weapons at hand in order to defend themselves in case of an emergency. It took quite some effort to get everyone into the trucks, but after fifteen minutes both trucks, with their heavy human load, came into motion. The trucks could not drive too hard, because the gas generators had a limited power output.

Horstman had decided to take a detour with the trucks, through Otterlo. Actually, doing so, they would get into the flow of evacuees from Bennekom and thus would be less noticeable. From Otterlo they would be assisted by the female couriers, who were standing along the road, every few miles, with their bikes in the longitudinal direction. Everything went well until just before the end of the ride. Here they ran the greatest risk, because the rallying place was at a few hundred meters from a German artillery position. A few hundred meters before the rally at Renkum, two German soldiers ordered the trucks to stop. At the command of Horstman, the two drivers ignored the German order and drove on. Luckily the Germans took no action. The reason for this has never been known, but if the Germans would have investigated this, Operation Pegasus 1 would, most likely, have failed. At nine o'clock the long procession of 148 men (130 soldiers and 18 civilians) headed for the Rhine. The guide, the resistance member Maarten van den Bent, who knew the South Veluwe very well, led the way. It was pitch dark, which made the procession to proceed at a slow pace. One kept in touch by putting the hand on the shoulder of the predecessor. Major Digby Tatham-Warter and Maarten van den Bent had calculated that, under these circumstances, the group would need three hours to reach the Rhine. At twelve o'clock sharp, the storm boat team had to be contacted.

Around eleven Maarten van den Bent stepped out of the dense forest and stopped at the large barn of resistance member Jan Peelen. From here the paratroopers took over the leadership from the resistance and the situation turned into a military operation with scouts in front and flank and rear security. The most dangerous part of the journey then had to be made: the paratroopers had to crawl in between two German positions. Every half hour, the Germans sent out a patrol unit into the field, to make contact with the two posts. Preceded by guide Jan Peelen, the escapees, crawled very cautiously between the two German positions and fortunately they were not discovered. About twelve oíclock, the 148 man safely reached the banks of the Rhine. After waiting some time, a large outburst of artillery took place at the opposite side of the river. In the west, tracer ammunition went into the air with a big arch to extinguish shortly afterwards . That was the prearranged signal from the U.S. 101st Airborne Division. In Morse code, major Tatham-Warter quickly telegraphed three times the letter K and he repeated this every few minutes. Within twenty minutes, all 130 allied soldiers and 18 civilians with ties to the resistance, were transferred by means of storm boats. Operation Pegasus 1, one of the most spectacular and successful mass escapes in the Second World War, came to an end.

Pagina navigatie


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

Under the guidance of resistance fighters, the paratroopers crossed these woods near Renkum, on theri way to the Rhine
(Source: www.saak.nl)

This barn was the last stop before the river Rhine was reached
(Source: www.saak.nl)

The paratroopers had to cross this open area, where the Germans patrolled regularly, for the last hundred meters, to reach the Rhine
(Source: www.saak.nl)


Translated by:
Chrit Houben
Article by:
David Izelaar
Published on:
Last edit on:
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