Short walk to the Rhine to commemorate the withdrawal of British and Polish troops in September 1944. The walk goes through the floodplain behind the Old Church in Oosterbeek and is open from 4 to 25 September 2023.
White Ribbon Mile is more than a white ribbon. It is the Lifeline of Hope!
The short walk through the floodplains near the Old Church in Oosterbeek to the Rhine memorial commemorates the retreat of British, Dutch and Polish soldiers after the failure of the Battle of Arnhem. The route is not normally accessible, only from the first Monday after the Airborne march until 25 September and marked with a white ribbon.
The retreat in 1944
At General Urquhart's headquarters, in Hotel Hartenstein, today's Airborne Museum, the order came in that the troops had to retreat. This had to be done at night because that way the action would be hidden from enemy view as much as possible. The soldiers left a badly damaged village in which their wounded and killed friends were left behind. The Battle of Arnhem, with the aim of occupying the Rhine Bridge in Arnhem, had failed.
That night the weather was bad, it rained hard and it was pitch dark. Public lighting no longer functioned, making it extremely difficult for the soldiers to determine their direction. And of course the constant danger of shelling by the enemy. To still guide the soldiers in the right direction, white ribbons were stretched through the woods and in the floodplains, marking the route to the river.
On the night of 25-26 September 1944, nearly 2,400 men marched to the Rhine where they were ferried by boats. Canadian and British engineer troops manned those boats and, at the risk of their lives and under heavy enemy fire, put the exhausted and frightened men across the river.
Some soldiers even tried swimming to reach the other side and some of them did not make it and drowned. Others were made prisoners of war.
Around the spot where the soldiers crossed, stands the small monument that marks the spot of the crossing and recalls that crossing of the Rhine. A place where you reflect, also literally, on what happened then during that retreat.
During the remembrance period from 4 to 25 September each year, a route to the monument on the Rhine is created. The route is then freely accessible and, as then in 1944, is marked with a white ribbon. Information boards provide additional explanations about that arduous retreat back then and tell something about its significance for today.
The monument and the walk are also a place to reflect on the many refugees worldwide who, even today, are seeking refuge. People, young and old, men, women and children, who have to leave their homes or countries because it is unsafe.
Every year on 25 September, the White Ribbon Mile concludes with a silent march.
The silent march starts at 9pm at the Old Church with the showing of a film about the White Ribbon Mile, after which people walk to the monument on the Rhine. There, one flower from one's own garden can be laid at the monument. This is to symbolise the annual laying of flowers by schoolchildren at the Airborne Cemetery in Oosterbeek.
The silent march ends at the monument with the playing of the Last Post and is also the official conclusion of the Airborne commemorations within the municipality of Renkum.
Start at the Old Church on Benedendorpsweg 134 in Oosterbeek.
The walk can also be started on all Sundays in the month of September at Event Theatre Concertzaal Oosterbeek, Rozensteeg 3.
Opening hours are from 11am to 5pm.
A film about the White Ribbon Mile will be shown in the Old Church and Event Theatre Concert Hall. The film lasts about seven minutes and talks about the route the retreating troops had to take at the time and its significance for today.