This September I will be with other Polish family members at the Polish Paratrooper Statue at Manchester Airport. My grandfather was a paratrooper, he trained both British and Polish paratroopers, and he was at Arnhem. He was one of the lucky ones, he managed to escape back to Britain.
Dilip Sarkar MBE has researched and written a highly emotional insight into the tragedy that was Arnhem. Yes, there have been many histories of this subject written over the years, but this one is different, and a very welcome addition to the canon. This is one of the most uniquely special books and is a tribute to those killed and to those who survived. These were young men, in the prime of their lives, willing to lay down their lives, and too many did.
If my grandfather was still alive, he would have known Lance-Corporal Czeslaw Gajewnik of the Polish Battalion of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. These men were close, they were family, they had come together after escaping the Germans and had shared experiences. These men were brave and were willing to give their lives so they could go home. In the end, most could not go back to Poland unless they wanted to be shot by the Russians.
This is an excellent journey back into the history of Arnhem via the soldier’s stories, as well as the Airborne Cemetery which contains 1,744 graves of these 244 are ‘Known unto God’. This book is more than about facts and figures but about the people that took part in the battle, those who paid the ultimate prince and those left behind.
My grandfather died in 1998. The number of other survivors and witnesses to the Battle of Arnhem grows ever fewer, and the ability to hear the story from those who were there becomes less. What this book does well is contextualise the story and the soldiers who took part. This is not just about facts and figures from official documents, this is the real story from those who had boots on the ground.
This fresh approach to the Battle of Arnhem is a welcome addition.
Paul Diggett 5/5
Arnhem 1944 by Dilip Sarkar
Frontline Books 9781526732736 hbk Jun 2019