The Beatles at Arnhem-Oosterbeek Cemetery

Discussion in 'War Cemeteries & War Memorial Research' started by Mark Hone, Nov 18, 2013.

  1. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    There is a fascinating snippet in Philip Norman's famous biography of the Beatles: 'Shout!', concerning a stop on their journey by van from Liverpool to Hamburg in 1960. The-then Fab Five (Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Best and Sutcliffe) travelled with a motley crew consisting of their manager Allan Williams, his Chinese wife Beryl, her brother Billy Chang, Williams's West Indian business partner 'Lord' Woodbine and a German waiter called Herr Steiner! On the way they stopped at Arnhem.
    Norman writes: ' The halt is commemorated by a snapshot that Barry Chang , Williams's Chinese brother-in-law, took at the Arnhem Memorial to the dead of World War Two. Paul McCartney, in turned-up lumberjack collar, sits with Pete Best and George Harrison in front of a marble plinth inscribed with the epitaph 'Their Names Liveth For Ever More. John is missing from the group; he refused to get out of the van'. (Page 78 of 1993 Penguin edition).
    Has anyone ever seen this photograph of these early battlefield tourists? It is not reproduced in the edition of Norman's book which I have. The 'marble plinth' is clearly a Stone of Remembrance and presumably the group are actually at Arnhem-Oosterbeek Cemetery. Given the location of Arnhem-Oosterbeek it is unlikely that they just drove past it so this would indicate that they made a deliberate diversion to see the cemetery. Did one of the party have a personal connection with the battle or someone buried at the cemetery?
    dbf likes this.
  2. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    It didn't take me long to track down the photo. It is indeed at Arnhem-Oosterbeek. Apparently taken on 16th August 1960 , it shows (from left to right) Allan and Beryl Williams, Lord Woodbine, Stuart Sutcliffe, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best. What is Paul holding?

    Attached Files:

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  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

  4. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    Thanks. There's a nice quote from Pete Best (later replaced as drummer by Ringo) on that link:
    'At Arnhem there was time to get out and walk around and stretch our legs. We also went to see the Arnhem war memorial. There are photographs of us sitting in front of it. Seeing the war graves and all the rest of it was quite moving, to me anyway.
    It quietened us down a bit. I think it was the aura of the place, the peace and tranquility that came through to us.
    We didn't stay together as a party so while Allan went off to do what he wanted to do, we broke up and did our own thing and had a walkabout.'

    I'm still interested as to how they ended up at the cemetery. Given its location, not actually in Arnhem itself and a reasonable walk even from the centre of Oosterbeek, they would presumably have had to make a deliberate decision to go there, or maybe Allan Williams took a really wrong turn!
  5. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    According to the Phillip Norman biography of John Lennon it was Allan Williams who insisted on the detour to the Arnhem memorial. So it was a planned excursion and not accidental.

    "In Holland, Williams insisted on making a patriotic detour to Arnhem, scene of the Allies’ disastrous Operation Market Garden airborne landings in 1944. There Barry Chang took what would become a famous snapshot of Paul, George, Pete, Stu, Williams, Beryl, and Lord Woodbine around the casket-shaped memorial with its partially prophetic inscription THEIR NAMES LIVETH FOR EVERMORE. John, however, refused to leave the van. One can picture the scene in the bleary Dutch dawn—the big side door sliding back; the hunched and sleepy figure disinclined to move; the attempts to rouse him answered by a torrent of swear words."

    Was it the stolen Arnhem harmonica that was used to such good effect in "Love Me Do " ...?

    Regards ...
  6. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    Interesting: as I suspected. I wonder if he did have a personal connection?
  7. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Cee, I wondered about the harmonica too. Seems a tad large for it to be that, but it could well be still in the box I suppose.
  8. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Thanks! That was more of a hand off with hopes someone would post the music video ... :lol:

    While searching for a deeper Beatle connection to Arnhem (Paras) I was surprised to discover that there is someone in the Arnhem Memorial photo who enlisted in WW2.

    "Phillips, Harold Adolphus [known as Lord Woodbine] (1929–2000), calypsonian and music promoter, was born on 15 January 1929 in Laventille, Trinidad, the fifth of the seven children of James Phillips, a Venezuelan-born butcher, and his wife, Edna, who was originally from Grenada. Phillips was raised and educated in Laventille but with few available opportunities he lied about his age and enlisted in the RAF in 1943, aged just fourteen. After training at Burtonwood, Lancashire, Phillips returned to Trinidad in 1947."

    James McGrath, ‘Phillips, Harold Adolphus (1929–2000)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

    Also an interesting article here on Lord Woodbine in which he attends an event in 1992 where the Arnhem photo was on display only to discover he was airbrushed out. Sad that.

    Lord Woodbine: The Forgotten Sixth Beatle - The Independent

    Alan Williams was born in 1930 and would have been 14 years old at the time of the great drops on June 6th and at Arnhem. I'm sure the events of the war would have made a deep impression on him.

    Regards ...
  9. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    I never cease to be amazed at what information is unearthed by enquiries like this! A quick search on the 'net indicates that Macca has played a few gigs in Arnhem in recent years. I wonder if he's ever been back to the cemetery?
  10. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    I'll ask my brother who is a big Beatles fan if he has anything else he can add to this discussion.
  11. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Apparently you can buy a special edition replica of the "stolen one" from the Arnhem store Lennon pinched it from originally. A bit of a story there too.


    The Beatle's first big hit played using the stolen mouth organ?

    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017
  12. kopite

    kopite Member

    Speaking of The Beatles, although not really related to the post. I'm in Las Vegas at the moment and went to see The Beatles LOVE show on Saturday night, performed by the Cirque du Soleil. A great show, especially for Beatles fans.
  13. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    I shall restage the photograph the next time I take a group to Arnhem. As stated above I wonder if Paul has ever revisited the cemetery on one of his various visits to the area?
  14. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Mark a few more bits ...

    There is quite a bit of variation in the story of how the Beatles ended up at Arnhem and also if Lennon remained in the van or not. In one he wasn't present for the photo because he was off wandering among the graves himself. On the trip to Germany the van was actually carrying 10 passengers and not 9 as commonly assumed. From a photo showing the van being off loaded from the ferry baggage and equipment was packed on a roof rack - still it would have been a tight ride. One timeline has it that after the visit to the cemetery the group later went into downtown Arnhem.

    Both Allan Williams and and Lord Woodbine were airbrushed out of the 1992 event photo. So it seems more a case of the Beatles publicity machine removing evidence of the managers that preceded them.

    I couldn't find any information on Lord Woodbine's time with the RAF, nor could a site devoted to Caribbean aircrews in WW2. RAF Burtonwood was under control of the USAAF from 1943 to June of 1946, although there may have been some kind of RAF presence there.

    Regards ...

    Beatles Van.jpg
  15. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    Thanks for that. Who was the 'tenth man in the van'?
  16. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    According to the Norman book it was George Steiner, a German waiter, in the employ of Bruno Koschmider. Koschmider was the Hamburg club owner who signed the Beatles to play at his Kaiserkeller spot. I think that may have been Herr Steiner's only brush with history as he doesn't show up afterwards.
  17. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    The photo has been used to illustrate the obituary of Allan Williams in today's 'Times'. He died on Friday aged 86.
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