The startpoint of operation (Market) Garden
The trip back and forth took approximately six hours. In that time I drove a bit more than a hundred kilometres.
Leopoldsbrug is a small city in the North of Belgium. The Irish Guards followed by the Grenadier Guards would lead the breakthrough into Holland towards Eindhoven. In advance of the operation these troops gathered in the city of Leopoldsbrug.
Driving from Lommel you drive towards the city center. This road leads you towards the Railway station. You will see the railway station on your right hand. In front of the station is a Sherman tank. The tank commemorates the liberation of the town by the Belgian Piron Brigade and the buildup of the armoured forces in the town prior to operation Market Garden. You can park in the street right across the road from the station.
Continue the road and turn left at the crossing (follow the sign towards Lommel). At the end of the road you can see the first sign indicating Leopold War Cemetary, turing right at the end of the road. Follow the sign towards the cemetary.
Just before you arrive at the Commonwealth War Cemetary you will see the Belgian War Cemetary.
The Belgian Cemetary is a WW1 cemetary for the most part but at the end of the cemetary you can find graves from WW2. You can find the graves of soldiers of the Piron Brigade, the unit that liberated Leopoldsbrug.
Not only Belgian soldiers are buried on this cemetary there are also graves of Belgian resitance fighthers that where fussilated and graves of Russian POW's who died in the area.
Right next to the Belgian war cemetary you can find the Commonwealth Leopoldbrug War cemetary. Most of the men that are buried in this cemetary lost their lives during the fighting in Holland, some of them in the early breakthrough towards Eindhoven on the first days of operation Market Garden. Some of the soldiers that are buried here are from the Dutch princess Irene Brigade.
The cemetary was being renovated when I was there.
From the military terrain you can take the road back towards the center of Leopoldsbrug and from there take the road to Lommel. On the road to Lommel you will see Military Dump Store. This might be of your interest. I haven't looked inside since the store is closed on monday's and that was the day I was there.
You can easily regognize the store by the jet - fuel tanks in front of the store.
Coming towards Lommel look out for the sign Deutsches Friedhof (a white sign on the right side of the road). The cemetary is located near the road to Lommel some five kilometres before you arrive at Lommel.
Continue the road towards Lommel Barrier. You will now arrive at Joe's bridge. You are coming from the same roads as the British soldiers took when they captured the bridge. The bridge looks nothing like the wooded footbridge that stood on this position during the war. The original bridge had been blown during the German invasion of Belgium in 1940. The allies had thought that the bridge could not support the weight of tanks but it was stronger than they had expected.
It were the Irish guards unde the command of Joe Vandeleur who captured the bridge. General Horrocks named the bridge Joe's bridge. On the other side of the river you can find a monument next to the bridge explaining the name of the bridge. In the woods you can see a house. This house is also clearly visible in the photo's of the bridge that where taken in 1944. The capturing of the bridge gave the Allies a good starting point to start their advance towards Eindhoven.
Continue the road across the bridge and drive towards Valkenswaard. You are finding yourself now on the first part of the so called hell's highway. When you cross the Belgian - Dutch border you can park at the old GWK office (there is not much left of it). In the area you can find a market garden related monument. Nearer towards Valkenswaard you can see a restaurant on the right side of the street. A few hundred meters past a roundabout. Next to the restaurant stands a monument. The statue is a tribute to the liberators of Valkenswaard and a remembrance of their first contact with the people of Valkenswaard.
A few hundred meters down the road on the left side you can cleary see a commonwealth war cemetary. It is on this cemetary that you can find several graves of the men that lost their lives in the German ambush on this road during the initial attack on September 17.
Once you are in the centre of Valkenswaard you will see a big square that is now a parking lot in front of the church. The church and the square are an easily recognizable then and now location. When you turn right at the traffic light you will drive past the Resistance monument of Valkenswaard, a small statue in the park on the right side of the street. Turn around and return to the traffic lights to continue the road towards Eindhoven.
Einhoven was hit hard during German bombardments on the night after the Allies had liberated the city. During the war it had suffered from the allied bombardments. In the city you can find the monuments and signs of world war two on several places in the centre as well as in other parts of the city. I have visited the monuments in the north part of Eindhoven. Once you are in the city of Eindhoven you can continue the ring road towards 's Hertogenbosch. On the Airbornelaan (see the sign) you will find the Monument for the 101st Airborne Division.
Not to far from this monument you can see the signs that will direct you to the Allied war cemetary. This cemetary is mainly for air personnel that lost their life during the air battle. Several of them died of their wounds while they were treated in the nearby hospital.
On the cemetary Fellenoord you can find a monument for the people that were killed during a bombardment of the Phillips factory.
This is the end of the battlefield tour around the starting point of operation Garden. A day with many very interesting historical sites.
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