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Battle of Arnhem Area Today

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Battle of Arnhem summary

The Battle of Arnhem was fought in and around the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze, Driel and the surrounding countryside from 17 to 26 of September 1944. It was part of Operation Market Garden were paratroopers were dropped in the Netherlands to secure key bridges and towns along the Allied axis of advance to the Rhine.

  1. On Day 1 the first lift suffered only light losses. The Germans were unprepared for the landings and initially thrown into confusion.
  2. The 10th SS Division was sent south to respond to the American landings at Nijmegen. The 9th was tasked with the defence of Arnhem but it took time to assemble it's force.
  3. The Allied advance quickly ran into trouble but some forces reached Oosterbeek and others bypassed the German positions and reached the bridges. The railway bridge was blown by German engineers as the Allies approached it but the British were able to secure the undefended northern end of the road bridge.
  4. On Day 2, Monday September 18 the British attempted to reinforce their units in the city of Arnhem but their attacks were repulsed. At the road bridge, German forces of the 9th SS had quickly surrounded the British cutting them off from the rest of the division.
  5. At around 09:00, the 9th SS Reconnaissance Battalion headed back toward Arnhem from the south of the river and attempted to cross by force. In the resultant two-hour battle, it was beaten back with heavy losses. German attacks carried on around the British perimeter for the rest of the day but the British continued to hold.
  6. More British forces landed but their zones were now under attack. When the parachutists arrived they dropped under fire. Shortly after the second lift arrived, the first supply drop was made.
  7. On Day 3 Tuesday September 19, the British tried again to link with their men at the bridge.
  8. Trapped in open ground and under heavy fire from three sides the British retreated westwards with heavy losses.
  9. A new British attack in the North failed to advance while in Britain, ground fog delayed the Glider borne elements of the Polish Parachute Brigade. Heavy fighting ensued as the gliders arrived and Polish losses were heavy. Allied units retreated west and south. At the bridge, British forces continued to hold but without supply or reinforcement their position was becoming weaker. The Germans—realising that infantry attacks were unlikely to remove the stubborn defenders—began to systematically destroy the houses the British were in using tanks, artillery and mortars.
  10. On Day 4 Wednesday September 20 the British were too weak to attempt to reach their men at the bridge. They decided to form a defensive perimeter around Oosterbeek abandoning the 2nd Parachute Battalion trapped at the northern part of the bridge. By securing the Driel Ferry Crossing, the British hoped to hold out until XXX Corps could reach them from the south and establish a new bridgehead over the Rhine using the ferry crossing platforms.
  11. At the bridge, Frost commander of the 2nd battalion was finally able to make radio contact with his divisional commander and given the difficult news that reinforcement was doubtful. As fire took hold of many of the buildings in which the wounded were being treated, a two-hour truce was organised in the late afternoon. The wounded were taken into captivity. Overnight, a few units managed to hold out for a little longer and several groups tried to break out toward the Oosterbeek perimeter but by 05:00 on Thursday morning all resistance at the bridge had ceased. In the final hours of the struggle, a radio message was sent from the bridge. It was not picked up by the British but was heard by the German forces, who recalled that it ended with the sentences: Out of ammunition. God Save the King.
  12. On Day 5 Thursday September 21 the Germans mopped up British survivors and stragglers in hiding around Arnhem bridge. It took several hours to clear the bridge of debris allowing German armour to cross and reinforce Nijmegen. The British had held the bridge long enough to allow Nijmegen bridge to be captured by the 82nd Airborne and Guards' Armoured Division working together. With the resistance at the bridge crushed, the Germans had more troops available to commit to the Oosterbeek engagement, although this changed suddenly in the afternoon.
  13. Two days late, the parachute infantry battalions of Stanisław Sosabowski's 1st (Polish) Parachute Brigade were able to take off in England. They landed on the polder east of Driel where they should secure the Heveadorp ferry on the south bank of the Rhine. The Poles dropped under fire at 17:00 and sustained casualties but assembled in good order. Advancing to the river bank, they discovered that the ferry was gone; the ferryman had sunk it to deny its use to the Germans.
  14. The arrival of the Poles relieved the pressure on the British as the Germans were forced to send more forces south of the Rhine. Fearing an attack on the southern end of the road bridge or the Nijmegen road, a battalion of the 34th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Landstorm Nederland, Machine Gun Battalion 47 and other Kampfgruppes headed across the river overnight.
  15. At Oosterbeek, the biggest boost to the besieged British was being able to make contact with forward artillery units of XXX Corps. Radio contact was made with 64th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery who were able to drop heavy and accurate shellfire on German positions around the perimeter.
  16. On Day 6 Friday September 22 the Polish were well dug in at Driel and German armour was unable to manoeuvre off of the main roads to attack them. Hopes were raised when three armoured cars of XXX Corps' Household Cavalry managed to skirt the German defences on the island and link up with the Polish force. These were followed after dark by tanks of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and infantry of the 5th Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.
  17. In Oosterbeek, heavy fighting continued with the Germans attacking from east and west shortening the British enclave. Two British staff officers swam the Rhine during the day and made contact with the Polish. It was arranged that six rubber boats should be supplied on the northern bank to enable the Poles to cross the river and come into the Oosterbeek perimeter. That night, the plan was put into operation, but the cable designed to run the boats across broke and the small oars weren't enough to paddle across the fast flowing river. Only 55 Poles made it over before light and only 35 of these made it into the perimeter
  18. On Day 7 Saturday September 23 the Germans attacked again. They were unsuccessful, but the constant artillery and assaults continued to wear the British defences down further.
  19. After midnight, only 153 Polish men were able to cross the Rhine and reinforce the British.
  20. On Day 8 Sunday September 24 the situation in Oosterbeek was becoming more desperate. That night, the Allies on the south side of the river attempted another crossing. The small boats without skilled crews, the strong current and poor choice of landing site on the north bank meant that of the 315 men who embarked, only a handful reached the British lines on the other side.
  21. On Day 9 Monday September 25 at 10:00, the Germans began their most successful assault on the perimeter, attacking the southeastern end with infantry supported by newly arrived Tiger tanks. This assault pushed through the defenders' outer lines and threatened to isolate the bulk of the division from the river.
  22. Strong counterattacks from the mixed defenders and concentrated shellfire from south of the river eventually repelled the Germans.
  23. The British had by now decided to withdraw. By 21:00, heavy rain was falling which helped disguise the withdrawal. At 05:00, the operation was ceased lest the coming light enable the Germans to fire onto the boats more accurately. 2,163 Airborne men, 160 Poles, 75 Dorsets and several dozen mixed other men were evacuated but about 300 were left on the northern bank when the operation was ceased and 95 men were killed overnight.
  24. Throughout the morning of 26 September, the Germans pressed home their attacks and finally linked up from both sides at the river. It was not until about noon that they realised the British had actually withdrawn.