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Operation Market Garden

On September the 17th 1944 the Operation Market Garden started, which was a plan of the British Field marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. Although it was the largest airborne operation ever it became an unsuccessful allied militairy operation.

Montgomery's goal was to force an entry into Germany over the river Lower Rhine. He wanted to cercumvent the northern end of the Siegfried Line and this required the operation to seize the bridges across the rivers Maas, Waal and Lower Rhine as well as several smaller canals. Crossing the Lower Rhine would allow the Allies to encircle Germany's industrial heartland from the north. It made large-scale use of Airborne forces, whose tactical objectives were to secure the bridges and allow a rapid advance by armored units into Northern Germany.

Photograph: The three leading figures, left to right: Lieutenant-General Horrocks, Field marshal Montgomery, and Major-General 'Tiny' Barber, 15th Scottish Division. Source;

Several bridges between the city Eindhoven (in the south of The Neterlands) and Nijmegen were captured at the beginning of the operation, but General Horrocks' XXX Corps ground force advance was delayed by the demolition of a bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal, an extremely overstretched supply line at the village Son, and failure to capture the main road bridge over the Waal befor the 20th of September.

The battle of Arnhem.

At Arnhem, the First British Airborne Division encountered far stronger resistance than anticipated. Due to plane-shortages the division had to land in three parts, two brigades could land on the 17th of September.

These were the 1st Parachute - and the 1st Airlanding Brigade. These two brigade consisted of several units:

1st Airlanding Brigade consisted of:
* 7th King's Own Scottish Borderers
* 2 South Staffords
* 1 Border

1st Parachute Brigade consisted of:
* 1st Battalion
* 2nd Battalion
* 3rd Battalion

It was decided that the Parachute Brigade would go to Arnhem. But the Reconnaissance Squadron had to go first, because they had fast jeeps. Unfortunately most Jeeps were hit by enemy-fire near a tunnel under the Railway Arnhem-Ede. The Bridge was not reached. 1st Battalion would go to Arnhem on the Amsterdamseweg, 3rd Battalion would go on the Utrechtseweg an 2nd Battalion would go on the Benedendorpsweg. The Germans noticed that the British troops were to capture the Arnhem Bridge.

picture of the Arnhem bridgeBut Sepp Krafft, the German General of Battalion Krafft had less soldiers to defend all of the roads to Arnhem. He had to choose two of them. He choosed the main roads: the Amsterdamseweg and the Utrechtseweg. That's why 2nd Battalion only reached the Brigde after the Railway Bridge was down. 1st Battalion was forced near the Johannahoeve and passed the night there. Also the 3rd Battalion was forced to stop. The enemy was too strong.

On September the 18th 4th Parabrigade arrived. The Kings Own Scottish Borderers were forced to retreat from some parts of Ginkel Heath, so 4th Parabrigade had casualties at the landing zone. 7th KOSB was commanded to go to the Johannahoeve to defend the landingszone there, because Polish Gliders would land on this landing zone.

Meanwhile 1st- en 3rd Battalion arrived at Arnhem. But in Arnhem there was much resistance. The troops could not go any farther than the St. Elisabeth's Hospital only one kilometer from the bridge.

The General Urquhart of the 1st Airborne Division went to Arnhem with the soldiers. But in the Alexanderstraat a fight started so he and general Lathbury went into a house at the Zwarteweg. Divisional Headquarters thought Urquhart was dead, so they had to find another commander. This was Hicks.

2nd Battalion needed help at the bridge. That's why Hicks decided 11th Battalion were to help them. This was a part of the 4th Brigade but they would get 7th KOSB as a replacement. Together with the South Staffords they would go to the Bridge on the Benedendorpsweg. In the morning of September 18 4th Brigade would capture the hills in the north of Arnhem. Because of a delay they could leave the Dropzone at Ginkel Heath in the evening. 10th Battalion went on the Amsterdamseweg, but they were forced to stop near the Dreijenseweg.

156 Battalion tried to attack the Germans, but they also failed. Both were forced to retreat to the Johannahoeve. They had to cross the Railway, which was a hill. The Germans could hit them easily. But they found a small tunnel below the railway. (also Recce Squadron was forced to stop there). They went through this tunnel safely, Jeeps included.

The South Staffords, 1st, 3rd and 11th Battalion tried to reach the bridge. But they failed near the railway and Den Brink: some hills. They Germans were on these hills and controlled the Railway and fired form the other side of the river. Nowadays the KEMA-buildings are on Den Brink. The South Staffords almost succeeded, but they were sent back by German tanks. Urquhart returned to his Headquarters and examined the situation.

Photo: Men of the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment entering Oosterbeek along the Utrechtsweg on their way towards Arnhem, 18-9-1944. Source: Wikipedia.

Urquhart commanded the British troops to return to Oosterbeek. In Oosterbeek a perimeter was founded around the ferry to Driel. The westside of Oosterbeek was controlled by 1st Border to the Rhine. 7th KOSB occupied the North of Oosterbeek. The British troops fought as brave soldiers, but they had not heavy weapons. The Germans were too strong and 2nd Army had not arrived. The Polish Troops landed at Driel, but only 200 reached Oosterbeek. 2nd Army reached the Rhine at last and the Dorsets were to help the British and Polish troops. But this failed. The Division had to retreat to the other side in the night of September 25.

2400 men returned safely. All of the others were dead, injured or taken prisoner. The British Airborne troops accomplished their mission.

In the ensuing battle, only a small force of 600 men managed to hold one end of the Arnhem road bridge for almost 4 days. Unfortunately the ground forces, 2nd Army, arrived too late and they were overrun on 21 September.


From Wikipedia and:
Author Peter Krans, September 1997, Sources:

* 'De Slag om Arnhem' by C. Bauer, 1963
* 'Arnhem' by M. Middlebook, 1994
* 'Samenvatting Slag om Arnhem' by Lt. Kol. Th. A. Boeree