The Battle for Arnhem Bridge

" A Bridge to Far "
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On the 10th September 1944 the order was given for 'Operation Market Garden'.

'Market' being the code name for the airborne attacks, and 'Garden' was the name for the ground battle. The 1st Allied Airborne Corps was formed in August 1944 and was made-up of the American 18th Airborne Corps, which was the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions, and the British 1st Airborne Division. The Polish 1st Parachute Brigade was added later. The their task was to clear the way for the British XXX (30th) Corps.
The American 101st Airborne Division had its drop zone near Best, Eindhoven, Son, St-Oedenrode and Veghel. The 101st's task was to capture and secure the bridge over the Wilhelmina canal in Son, along with the bridge over the Dommel in St-Oedenrode and the bridges over the Aa and Zuid-Willemsvaart canal near Veghel. The bridges over the Maas at Grave and the Waal at Nijmegen were the targets of the American 82nd Airborne Division, they were drop zone was close to Groesbeek and Overasselt.

The British 1st Airborne Division was to capture and secure the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem. With all the bridges in the Allied hands, this then gave the British XXX Corps a small road corridor could make their advance towards Arnhem and then a crossing over the Rhine. The route was named 'Hell's Highway' due to the fact the road was very poor and in some places only the size for one vehicle to travel on!

When Montgomery revealed the plan to General Browning, Browning asked how long it would take for the tanks to reach Arnhem. "Two days" was Montgomery's answer. "We can hold it for four days" replied Browning, and then he added, "although I think we could go a bridge too far". Did he know something that no-one else did?

Arnhem Bridge 10 September 1944
This image was taken on the 10th September, (7 days before the attack),
This was one of the image used to plan the airborne attack on the bridge.
Side view of Arnhem Bridge People on Boats
Taken on the 6th September by an aircraft of 106 Group,
at very low level with the bridge under German control
Dutch workers watching the 'fly-pass'

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The Drop Zones (DZs)
Arnhem Drop Zones

The 'Pink' areas being the DZ's

Any airborne mission depends on the element of surprise, so the closer to the objective the troops land, the great the likelihood of success. Ideally the 1st Airborne should had landed near the Arnhem roadbridge. However, there were a number of factors that stopped this. The area around the bridge on the south side of the river had a number of irrigation ditches which would stop safe glider landings. Because of this and also the difficulties of moving troops and vehicles across the ditches, which were 2-3m wide and over 1m deep, it was decided not to risk landing there. The situation was further complicated by reports of heavy flak emplacements around the airfield of Deelen, just to the north of Arnhem. As a result of this, the DZs decided upon were over 7 miles northwest of the bridges, two hours marching distance away.

Gliders in a field Close up of Gliders in a field
Troops at a glider
Close-up of the gliders.

Details on this imagery are unknown at this time

" At the Bridge "

Landing on Sunday 17th, 2000 men of the 1st Airborne's 1st Para Brigade encountered very heavy opposition as they moved towards Arnhem bridge, only the 700 men of the 2nd Battalion, commanded by Colonel John Frost, succeeded in reaching it the bridge. The paratroopers were only able to secure the northern end, but reasoned that British tanks would arriving from the south soon. Col Frost ordered his men to fortify themselves inside buildings around the bridge for the battle that was to come.

The image below shows a graphic overlay on imagery flown on the 10th September.
 Its shows the locations of Col Frost's men on Sunday 17th and Monday 18th.
Location od Units All Units 2nd Battalion, unless stated

1. 1st Para Bridage HQ
2. 1st Para HQ, Aid Post and German POWs
3. Battalion HQ
4. Mortar Platoon
5. 250 Light Composite RASC
5a. Mortuary
6,7,8,9. Battalion HQ and Supply Company, Glider pilots, 9th Field Company RE.
10. 1st Airborne Anti-Tank Battery HQ
11. Various Units
12. B Company
13. No.1 Platoon
14. No.1 Platoon Machine-gun Platoon
15. 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery HQ and 9th Field Company HQ
16. A Company, replaced by 9th Field Company RE
17. No2 Platoon. replaced by 9th Field Company RE.
18. B Company platoon, reinforced by No. 2 Platoon.
19,20,21,22. No.3 platoon.
23,24. No.8 Platoon, 3rd Battalion, part of 1st Para Brigade HQ
25. Part of 1st Para Brigade HQ (position lost on Monday)
26. (The School) RAOC and Signals, HQ Troop 1st Para Squadron RE, Signals Parts A and B Troop of 1st Para Squadron RE, C Company HQ and No.9 Platoon of 3rd Battalion.
27. Parts of A Troop of 1st Para Squadron RE.

Arnhem bridge, looking from the north-west, on the morning of Sunday 17th September 1944, a few hours before the airborne landings began.
Copyright: IWM CL1201

Looking over the Bridge
Looking east across the bridge on Monday 18th September. 20 wrecked German armoured cars, destroyed during the attack on the British positions on Monday morning, strewn across the bridge. All the buildings in the photograph are occupied by British troops, mostly 2nd Battalion in this sector.

The positions began to fall until the entire defence collapsed early on Thursday 21st September morning. Almost all of the airborne troops were captured. Col John Frost and his men (only 700) had held on at the Bridge for a total of three days and four nights  (as long as it was believed that the 10,000 strong Division would have done). As night fell on Monday 25th September, the British High Command, accepted that 'Market Garden' would fail, the 1st Airborne were given the order to withdraw (across the river). Of the 10,600 Airborne soldiers who landed at Arnhem, only 2398 returned home, with 1500 had been killed and the rest were captured.

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