View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Operation Market Garden

Sixty-five years ago last Thursday, the airborne landings commenced just west of the city of Arnhem in eastern Holland. On 17 September 1944, the Allied forces had been on campaign through western Europe for 3 months, after the successful landings in Normandy on 6 June. Airborne troops were parachuted into the area between Ede and Arnhem to engage the German forces, which were occupying Holland at the time. Although the Allies managed to penetrate into Arnhem, they failed to seize the Rhine bridge there. Fierce fighting in the city dislodged them from forward positions. Poor communications as well as a stronger resistance than anticipated forced a withdrawal south across the River Rhine.

Arnhem and Oosterbeek were evacuated, and looted by the Germans. Holland north of the Rhine remained occupied until the early spring of 1945. In the wake of the failed action at Arnhem, the Netherlands' railway network in the occupied sectors went on indefinite strike. This caused major problems for the Nazi forces, but also for food supplies - by the spring of 1945, thousands of people in the major conurbations in western Holland had starved to death. Others survived by eating flower bulbs. The Allies finally managed to cross the river at Remagen, between Cologne and Koblenz, in February 1945.

Picture courtesy, credits Pouw Jongbloed

Today, veterans gathered on the Ginkelse Hei [Ginkel Heathland], some 15 miles west of Arnhem, to watch another parachute jump. Others laid wreaths at the War Cemetery at Oosterbeek. The German ambassador to the Netherlands also laid a wreath.

Saturday 19 September

A cold, cold Saturday, in spite of the intermittent glimpses of the sun. A paltry 12C / 54F shows on the thermometer, a strong southerly wind blows. Hope it'll warm up a bit later on. Another ship is in port: the Hanseatic Sailor, which was in before. It is here to collect products from the Fabrication Yard. She has visited Stornoway before: this picture shows Hanseatic Sailor on 30 July, coming in past the Arnish Lighthouse.

Talking of pictures, I have changed the front pic again to a more recent one. Two weeks ago, I went down to Harris, which is the mountainous end of the Long Island. The pic shows the hamlet of Maaruig / Maraig, situated some 6 miles north of Harris's main town, Tarbert. The road to Rhenigidale is new, it was only built in 1987. It is a crazy rollercoaster - starting at 500 feet above sealevel, it plunges down to sealevel in a mile, then rises steeply back up to 500 feet under the hill known as Toddun, only to dive back down to sealevel at the village of Rhenigidale. That's 2,000 feet of descent and ascent within about 4 miles. Before 1987, you'd take a boat out of Tarbert or Scalpay and take yourself to Rhenigidale across the water. If you felt fit, you'd walk from Tarbert (it's about 5 miles), but involves an equal amount of going up-and-down.

Yesterday, I completed the on-line memorial for Harris, and this includes references to two places that are no longer inhabited. The island of Scarp, located some 20 miles northwest of Tarbert, was abandoned in 1971. It is the final resting place of two casualties of the First World War. The village of Molinginish was abandoned in 1963, when the final two residents died. The remains of the township include two cottages which are still in use; Molinginish can be reached on foot by branching off from the track that links Rhenigidale to Tarbert. The Arnish Lighthouse blog did a write-up on this village in December 2005.

On the subject of abandoned villages, the district of Eishken in southeast Lewis was cleared in 1820. It is a large area, with some large mountains on it (by Hebridean standards). Beinn Mhor rears up to more than 1,700 feet. Eishken had 36 townships in it at the start of the 19th century. I've managed to trace 27:

1 Bhalamos Beag
2 Bhalamos Mor
3 Caolas an Eilean
4 Bagh Ciarach
5 Ceannamhor
6 Scaladale Beag
7 Scaladale Mor
8 Stromas
9 Brinigil
10 Bagh Reimsabhaigh
11 Smosivig
12 Glean Claidh
13 Brollum
14 Ceann Chrionaig
15 Mol Truis
16 Mol Chadha Ghearraidh
17 Ailtenish
18 Budhanais
19 Ceann Loch Shealg
20 Eilean Iubhard
21 Isginn [Eishken]
22 Steimreway
23 Cuiriseal
24 Gearraidh Riasaidh
25 Bun Chorcabhig
26 Gilmhicphaic
27 Ceann Sifiord