Honoring our Veterans
|"Our objective is the rail bridge at Nijmegen. Take that, and we cut off the German supply route. It will be heavily guarded, but it is imperative that the bridge is destroyed," the Colonel informed the group of officers. Written orders were delivered to each commanding officer by a bespectacled clerk, and the Colonel sat back to enjoy his glass of cognac.
Captain Carstairs gathered his Lieutenants. As they poured over the map of Nijmegen, decisions were made, orders were issued, positions and weaponry allocated. Then a steward brought in a tray. As the Captain tucked into his dinner, the Lieutenants gathered their men.
As the sun was setting behind the rail bridge at Nijmegen, hell came to the Netherlands. As aircraft circled, the ack-ack exploded, illuminating the faces of the men, working their way towards the bridge.
"Robins, Walker, clear that house."
"Yes, Serge," the two men whispered in response. The house overlooked the bridge, and was partially demolished from previous attacks. Gunfire rang out, a grenade exploded, and a body flew from an upper window. Seconds later Robins appeared at the window and gave a thumbs up.
As the men moved on, bullets flew past, and they ducked for cover.
"Machine gun nest, ten o'clock."
"Got it, Serge," Wilkins said, drawing a grenade. "Cover me." Each man aimed at the machine gunners and set up a rain of fire as Wilkins slithered on his belly off to the left of the nest. He jumped to his feet, pulled the pin, and threw the explosive into the sandbagged emplacement. As he did so, a single shot took him down.
The grenade hit its mark. As they ran to take it over, Robins grabbed the legs of the injured Wilkins and pulled him into the nest. There was nothing he could do; as the sun finally disappeared, the life of his comrade slipped away.
"Got the explosives?" Three men pointed to their backpacks, another held up the fuse reel. "You need to blow that bridge. I reckon we got about ten minutes of light left. We'll set up covering fire but we don't know what defenses they got over there." The four young men were anxious but determined. When the order was given they climbed down into the iron work.
They worked in silence. It was impossible to see who might be watching from the German side. The explosives were positioned and connected to the fuse. It was as they headed back that a shot rang out and Cook fell to his certain death.
As the final rays of the sun disappeared, the sky lit up as the bridge exploded into a ball of fire.