<<< Anje van Maanen <<<Ann Pelster Caspers
Anje van Maanen and Ann Pelster Caspers, whose bravery during the Battle of Arnhem is deserving of the highest recognition
Reg Curtis describes the scene at the Tafelberg Hotel, where he spent six days and nights after being wounded: "There were so many shells landing in, on, and around the building, plus the occasional burst of machine gun fire spattering the inner walls, that I imagined we must be slap bang in the front line or somewhere in no-man’s land. The Dutch doctor Gerrit van Maanen and his 17-year-old daughter Anje and son Paul were doing an extraordinary job in what were now the ruins of this once-quiet hotel. There was a sudden flurry of activity as Anje and Paul, together with Ann Pelster Caspers and two medics, made a dash down the stairs to receive two Jeeps packed with walking wounded from the perimeter area. There were hundreds of wounded, enemy included, as well as Dutch people caught up in the fight—so many that some got moved to the hotel’s annexe across the driveway—and any man with flesh wounds or injuries that did not hinder the use of a firearm was ordered outside to fight."
And after the Battle:
"Outside was a ghastly sight, with the dead of both sides still lying where they had fallen. British and German medical orderlies were putting the wounded into Jeeps and various other vehicles, including two small vans improvised as makeshift ambulances. Three of us stretcher cases were loaded on to a small open German lorry with shallow sides, which would prevent us bouncing off in transit. There was just enough room also for five walking wounded. Anje Maanen, Ann Pelster Caspers and Atie Schultz were still there, working to the end and trying their best to make things more bearable for everyone." With the greatest respect and love for Anje van Maanen and Ann Pelster Caspers and every angel of Arnhem.
Reg Curtis took off from Barkston Heath in a C47 Dakota with 1st Para. He was no. 13 in the 93rd aircraft in the third wave to take off on 17 September.
Corporal Curtis, No. 2 Commando, 11th SAS Battalion, 1941
Corporal Curtis, 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment, 1942
Reg Curtis with Mr Rutgers outside his home at 92 Klingelbeekseweg in 1994 Mr Rutgers had taken in many Airborne wounded during the Battle of Arnhem in 1944 and Reg had been brought here. But the house was full so Reg lay outside, later recalling the scene vividly:
"...something flashed from an upper window only twenty yards ahead and bullets splattered the wall above us. The medics set me down to wait for an opportune moment to get across the road and I saw four Paras press themselves into the wall of the building opposite as they worked their way towards that flash. When under the window, the leading Para kicked the door and out of the window came a ‘potato masher’, which he immediately picked up and threw back in, accompanied by a Mills bomb thrown by another man. There was quite some explosion, following which the four Paras entered the building, spraying Sten gun fire in the room and up through the floorboards, a trick we had learned in training. A Schmeisser automatic fell from the top window, closely followed by an SS man. The medics grabbed my stretcher and crossed the road"
I was more than relieved to get out of the line of fire and was carried to the relative safety of a garden wall. As I lay helpless behind the wall I had a clear view of the clatter and confusion of battle through the demolished gateway. I saw four of our men in a Jeep, who thought they would run the gauntlet and belted by, accelerating and swerving wildly, guns blazing. They must have been doing 40 miles per hour and the driver was fighting with the wheel as he dodged shell bursts and potholes in the road, veering from one side to the other and bouncing over obstacles. Hurtling around a dead Para spread-eagled in the road, the Jeep came to a halt so vigorously that the four occupants literally flew out. Unscathed, they picked themselves up and disappeared into the brick and concrete jungle, leaving a now hissing Jeep with a broken front wheel pinion. A few moments later a mortar volley descended around the vehicle, instantaneously enveloping it in flames."
The badge of No 2 Commando, 11th SAS, Ist Para, produced by Reg Curtis. Above the badge, Battalion COs 1940-45.
Many thanks to Geoffrey Holland and the family of Reg Curtis
Five hundred men in all, almost all of them Guardsmen like Reg. As I understand it only about 80 survived the war and since then their numbers gradually reduced until I believe Reg was the last. For this reason I think Reg's passing must have special significance to 1st Para and the Regiment. Reg and that dwindling number of mates maintained their little fraternity over the years and wore their unique insignia which Reg in fact designed.
From Geoffrey Holland contact via email
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© Reg Curtis 2014 - Pilots Publishing
<< Reg Curtis Crossing the Arnhem Bridge, September 2004