November 1944: Operation Pegasus 2 at Heidebloemplas
After the failed Battle of Arnhem in September 1944, around 400 airborne troops were hiding in the surroundings of Ede. The decision was taken to bring them back to their own troops, south of the Rhine. During Operation Pegasus 1 in October, about 139 people escaped.
A second escape operation was planned for November. The airborne troops assembled in a chicken shed in Meulunturen on November 16. On the first night, the group of about 90 advanced to the Wekeromse Zand, where they spent the following day.
On the second night, the group headed toward the Rhine via the Westerode farm meeting point. The original plan to meet up with all of the other groups there fell through. As a result, the men fell behind schedule. They continued via the Mosselse Veld in the direction of Planken Wambuis. Around ten o'clock on that Saturday evening, the British commander Major Maguire decided to take a shorter route. The Ede Resistance had advised against this. By deviating from the planned route, he lost half of his rear guard.
Near Hindekamp, the group, which was still over 80 strong at that point, ended up in the midst of German artillery positions. A German ‘halt’ caused part of the group to disperse into the bushes. Once they started moving again, half of the group stayed behind, unaware. By the time they reached Heidebloemlaan (Heath flower lane), only 40 of the men were still present. Commander Maguire returned with two guides to collect the rest.
When the stragglers set out again, they were stopped once more by the Germans. The leader of the stragglers, Major Coke, did not respond and the Germans replied with shots from their submachine guns. There were casualties and a number of allied airborne troops were taken as prisoners of war. Major Coke got lost during the escape and arrived at Schriek's farm during the night. A German artillery battery was stationed there. The sentry discovered him and opened fire. Coke died from his injuries.
Maguire and his group of allied soldiers heard this gun battle behind them as they were making their way to the Rijksweg national highway. As they crossed it, enemy machine gun fire erupted from all sides. There was hardly any effort to fight back on account of the lack of fire power. At this point, only 17 people from the advance guard remained, including Maguire and two Dutch guides.
They passed the Rijksweg, which was under construction, and stopped along the railway tracks, where they were captured and taken prisoner in the early morning of 18 November. Only a few small groups managed to eventually reach the Rhine. Out of the 116 participants in this operation, a mere seven people reached the liberated area.