published on: 20/09/2021
The Battle of Arnhem was a battle of the Second World War at the vanguard of the Allied Operation Market Garden. It was fought in and around the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze and Driel and the vicinity from 17 to 26 September 1944. The Allies were poised to enter the Netherlands after sweeping through France and Belgium in the summer of 1944, after the Battle of Normandy. Market Garden was proposed by Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, who favoured a single thrust north over the branches of the Lower Rhine River, allowing the British Second Army to bypass the Siegfried Line and attack the Ruhr. US Airborne troops were dropped in the Netherlands to secure bridges and towns along the line of the Allied advance. Farthest north, the British 1st Airborne Division landed at Arnhem to capture bridges across the Nederrijn (Lower Rhine), supported by men of the Glider Pilot Regiment and the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade. The British XXX Corps were expected to reach the British airborne forces in two to three days.
The 1st Airborne Division landed some distance from its objectives and was hampered by unexpected resistance, especially from elements of the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions. Only a small force was able to reach the Arnhem road bridge while the main body of the division was halted on the outskirts of the town. XXX Corps was unable to advance north as quickly as planned and the British airborne troops were not relieved according to schedule. After four days, the small British force at the bridge was overwhelmed and the rest of the division trapped in a small pocket north of the river. The British could not be sufficiently reinforced by the Poles or XXX Corps when they arrived on the southern bank, nor by Royal Air Force supply flights. After nine days of fighting, the remnants of the division were withdrawn in Operation Berlin. The Allies were unable to advance further with no secure bridges over the Nederrijn, and the front line stabilised south of Arnhem. The British 1st Airborne Division lost nearly three quarters of its strength and did not see combat again.
On this day in 1944, British paratroopers holding Arnhem Bridge are overrun. Their last radio transmission simply says: "Out of ammunition. God save the King."