Escape from Arnhem by Godfrey Freeman

Godfrey Freeman attempted to join the RAF several times, but was turned down for having a depressed sternum. Instead he enlisted in the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, and then fulfiled his flying ambition by volunteering for the Glider Pilot Regiment. The Glider Pilot Regiment gained a strong reputation, for not only were they fully trained pilots, but upon landing they also went into action as infantry.

Escape from Arnhem begins shortly after the fall of Arnhem Bridge, and follows Freeman into captivity. He feigned shell-shock, figuring that he would therefore be kept in Hospital rather than sent to a Stalag, and thus would have a much better chance of escape. He was initially sent to a makeshift hospital at the Royal Palace of Het Loo near Apeldoorn. My own Grandfather, who was also wounded and captured at Arnhem, may well have been in the same place. He eventually escaped, and took part in the daring Pegasus escape across the Rhine, along with 120 other refugees. The Pegasus Operation was featured in Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. One of the men who originally escaped with Freeman, Major John Coke, was killed in a later escape attempt.

Freeman’s account gives us a very good impression of the experience of the Airborne soldiers who were captured at Arnhem. On a personal level I find this very interesting, as my Granddad talked very little about what happened to him. To read about the conditions, the relations with their German Guards, the medical care and the rations, helps fill some gaps in my understanding. It is the crystal clear memories that Freeman imparts that make a book like this. Like his recollections of Major-General Urquhart being airsick in the back of his glider, and the hospitality afforded by Dutch people who sheltered the escapees.

I find it quite telling that Freeman had to be talked into compiling his memories by his friends and family – he feared sounding like a ‘big-I-am’. His style of writing is very humble and matter of fact, which is important – these stories need no embellishing or glossing, indeed to do so would discredit them. So many books have been written about Arnhem, but none with such humility.

Escape from Arnhem is published by Pen and Sword

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24 Comments

Filed under Airborne Warfare, Arnhem, Book of the Week, World War Two

24 responses to “Escape from Arnhem by Godfrey Freeman

  1. K Freeman

    Thank you for such a lovely review Godfrey was my Granddad and it is lovely to read that someone enjoyed his book so much.

  2. James Daly

    Hi K, its great to hear from you. I’m pleased you like the review. You should be very proud of your Granddad.

    James

  3. K Freeman

    Thank you!
    Katie

  4. Mark Freeman

    That is a much appreciated and clearly,heartfelt review James – Thank You. I am very pleased to hear that ‘Escape From Arnhem’ has filled in some of the ‘gaps’ that you would plainly have liked to have discussed with your own Grandfather – Dad would have been thrilled to hear that. Thank you very much and Katie too(my niece!)for her contribution.
    ‘Very best to you both, Mark Freeman.

  5. James Daly

    Hi Mark, many thanks for your very kind words. With this book more than any other I’m mindful that this is not just history, but real events that happened to real people. As they pass its up to us to keep their memories alive.

    Have any of you been to Arnhem? I’ve been three times, its quite an experience – especially during the anniversary events.

    Best wishes

    James

    • Mark Freeman

      Hi James, I have only just re visited this website after a long time, hence a much delayed reply! Yes, indeed I went to one of the Sept 17th anniversary events with Dad in 1997 and we visited the palace at Hetloo, which Dad, of course, remembered more as a German hospital prison! As his book clearly tells though, he had no complaint about the way he was treated there. The sacred war cemetry at Oosterbeek has such a unique and special ambience about it and is still, thankfully, lovingly maintained by the locals. I have returned again since by motorbike and was able to leave some flowers by Dad’s Pilot 1 Flt Lft Henry Cole’s grave. Henry Cole sadly never returned from the battle – Dad and he became separated for the fighting shortly after their landing.My memories of botht visits are extremely special and I know it meant a lot to Dad to be able to take one of his own ‘offspring’ there all those years later. Thank you again for your interest in all of this. Trusting you are well and enjoying life, Yours, Mark Freeman.

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