Soesterberg Airbase, 20th and 21st of September 2008

Report and photos by Stacey Kort

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On the 17th of September 1944, Operation Market Garden was launched. Main goal of this operation was to occupy Arnhem, from which the Allied forces would then press on into Nazi-Germany. Sadly though the operation wasn't a succes and the Allied forces had to retreat. To commemorate this tragic event, several aircraft from the former Allied countries would drop paratroopers above various places in The Netherlands. Due to the closure of Soesterberg Airbase this would be the very last time that the aircraft would operate from Soesterberg.

The two American Hercules aircraft which were to participate arrived at Soesterberg around one week before the commemoration to maintain their operational capabilities. One aircraft broke down and had to be replaced by another Hercules. Together with fellow photographer Robbin Stalma I had to bike to Soesterberg early in the morning so that we could catch the RAF Hercules which would arrive then. We stood on the spottershill (beginning of runway 27), but the Hercules came in on runway 09, so it was too far away for good photos. We weren't the only ones there so we chatted around for a while and we met up with Erwin Doornkamp. But this also meant that runway 09 would most likely be the active runway, so the aircraft would take off in our direction. When the first aircraft checked in it became evident that indeed runway 09 was still in use, so everybody tried to get a spot as good as possible since the hill was filling up rapidly with people (well, it was weekend). Since I was there very early I got one of the best seats in the house, but this didn't take away the problem that all aircraft were backlit...



All aircraft took off for their sorties over The Netherlands and returned in an hour or two. The American Herculesses made a missed approach which made it possible for people to catch if they weren't able to catch them when they took off. After the scheduled flights we went to the Military Aviation Museum in Soesterberg to take some shots there. After that we returned to the hill again for the last flight, a single Dakota. We started to get pretty hungry though, so we decided to order a pizza. None of us expected the pizza to arrive at the right place, but it did, proving that it is possible to order a pizza to the spottershill ;-) While I was eating the Dakota took off, I didn't take any pictures because of the low light, so I decided to enjoy the sight with my MK.I eyeball... This would be the end of day 1...


For day 2 we didn't have to get up early. We went by bike again and met up with Erwin Doornkamp again. This time I decided not to go to the hill, but to stay near the approach lights. For a while I was the only one there, but somehow word spread that it could indeed be a pretty good spot because you didin't have the backlighting problem, so after a while more and more people came. After their sorties all aircraft returned back to Soesterberg again, but the American Herculesses decided to bash the circuit all day long, so I could experiment with low shutterspeeds. Most came out pretty bad, but luckily I had some keepers and it was good for my panning skills. All in all, two days well spent at Soesterberg Airbase!