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BRITISH MILITARY HISTORY - WORLD WAR 2 - OPERATION MARKET GARDEN.

Campaign - World War 2.      

Date – 1944.    

Locations – Belgium and Holland.

 

In late 1944 as part of "Operation Market Garden" Field Marshall Montgomery’s plan, the Parachute Regiment and American 82nd Airborne and 101st were dropped deep behind German enemy lines with 4 objectives to capture and hold, these include - Grave, Eindhoven, Nijmegen and the Last and deepest of them was the Bridge at Arnhem. This was the largest airborne drop ever (up to that point) and was followed by a second wave including the Staffordshire regiment (now Mercian) and Polish Brigade.

The idea was to hold and secure all of the Bridges with a defensive line in the 4 sectors listed above.

Each bridge and road had to be held (for 48 hours) along the whole route to allow XXX Corps (30 Corps) Allied Tanks and infantry to pass through them.

The 1st Bridge being Grave was secured by the American 82nd Airborne and allowed the Allied armour led by the Guards Armoured Brigade and Spearheaded by the Irish Guards in mainly Sherman Tanks  (Lt Col Vanderlier) and including Grenadier and Coldstream Guards to punch a hole through and link up with each unit along the route.

3 of the 4 Objectives areas and bridges were held and secured but the tanks could not break through and reach the Para’s at Arnhem the last of the 4 Bridges.

The Para’s were dropped close to an Elite SS Panzer unit that were re-fitting their heavy panzers including the New King Tiger Tanks and held one end of the Bridge at Arnhem despite having no armour or proper anti-tank weapons (only the light PIAT) they held out for 5 days before being ordered to withdraw.

A Series of events led to the Operation partially failing even though 3 of the 4 objectives were completed.

 

The Parachute regiment took the brunt of it and suffered very high fatalities and casualties with no way of withdraw or reinforcement and re-supply.

 

Some of the events causing the failure to hold and secure the last Bridge at Arnhem include The Crystal radios were not effective at long range and the units could not contact each other than by the old fashioned runner. This was partly due to the amount of water in the lowlands which interfered with radio frequency. Intelligence had not picked up on the fact the SS Panzers were close refitting, although the Dutch Resistance had identified the presence of heavy enemy armour and that a German high ranking Panzer General was in the area. The Germans also flooded the grounds either side of the roads and set up a very effective 88mm anti-tank system in Holland south of Arnhem which could not be broken and picked off tanks and blocked road movement. Bad weather meant that the second wave of airborne troops (Including the Polish Brigade) could not be dropped when they were planned. When the weather cleared they did finally drop but the LZ's and DZ'S (Landing Zone & Drop Zones) had already been overrun and captured meaning the Airborne and Glider forces landing were mainly killed or captured.

 

The last bridge at Arnhem become known as the "Bridge to Far" and the Parachute Regiment (PARAS) made a reputation that they were a tough outfit capable of unbelievable acts of courage and determination. To this day the Parachute regiment has a Nijmegen Company.

The regiments name was made and they had made their mark as one of the Elite regiments.

 

On a light note - On the 4th day of fighting the Germans approached the Bridge waving a White flag and offered to accept the Surrender of the Para's. The Company Commanders 2ic of the Para's told the Germans "We can’t accept your surrender as there are too many of you and we have no way to accommodate you all".  Even amongst the death and destruction and sheer hopelessness of the situation the Para’s still had a sense of humour.

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