As part of our series of WW2 battle maps we look at one of the most ambitious plans of WW2 – Operation Market Garden
By September 1944 the German forces in Western Europe were reeling—France was liberated, and Allied armoured columns had driven into Benelux.
Hoping to cut the war shorter by 6 months, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery formed an ambitious plan. He sought to bypass the northern end of the Siegfried Line and plunge through the Netherlands into Germany. This involved capturing key bridges over the Meuse and Rhine rivers. Composed of two parts, Market involved 40,000 British, American and Polish paratroopers being dropped behind German lines in order to secure the bridges. Garden was to be the British XXX Corps, consisting of many tanks and trucks, racing along narrow roads from the allied frontlines to the bridges.
The American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, the British 1st Airborne Division and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade would have to be dropped over three days due to a lack of available aircraft.
The Americans were to secure the towns of Eindhoven and Nijmegen with the British and Polish securing the town furthest from allied lines, Arnhem. Several bridges were captured early in the operation but the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions were unable to capture key bridges until several days into the operation. Some were also demolished by the Germans. This stalled the planned rapid advance of the XXX Corps.
The British 1st Airborne, with Polish support, were dropped north of Arnhem. However, strong German resistance meant only the 745 men of the 1st Parachute Regiment got to the Arnhem Road Bridge.
The rest of the 1st Airborne were pinned down defending their landing zones. They were unable to come to the assistance of those on the bridge. The remnants of 9th and 10th SS Panzer divisions were able to reorganise and attack the lightly armed paratroops on the bridge but the fierce defence destroyed dozens of armoured vehicles and tanks.
After four days, the small force at the bridge was overwhelmed and the rest of the division became trapped north of the river. Where, despite heroic efforts of the Polish paratroops and the XXX Corps, after nine days the shattered remnants of the 1st Airborne were evacuated in Operation Berlin. Of the 10,095 men landed in Arnhem less than 2,500 were withdrawn to safety. The failure of Market Garden to establish a foothold over the Rhine ended hopes of victory by Christmas 1944 and the Rhine would remain a barrier to the allies until March 1945.
The events of Market Garden were immortalised in the book and subsequent film ‘A Bridge Too Far’