Official Letters

 

Winston Churchill

The Prime Minister, speaking in the House of Commons, 28th September 1944.

 

"... Finally, by the largest airborne operation ever conceived or executed, a further all-important forward bound in the north has been achieved. Here I must pay a tribute, which the House will consider due, to the superb feat of arms performed by our First Airborne Division..."

 

"The cost has been heavy; the casualties in a single Division have been grievous; but for those who mourn there is at least the consolation that the sacrifice was not needlessly demanded nor given without results. The delay caused to the enemy's advance upon Nijmegen enabled their British and American comrades in the other two Airborne Divisions, and the 2nd British Army, to secure intact the vitally important bridges and to form a strong bridgehead over the main stream of the Rhine at Nijmegen. "Not in vain" may be the pride of those who have survived and the epitaph of those who fell."

 

 

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Forces, to Major-General Urquhart, October 1944.

 

In this war there has been no single performance by any unit that has more greatly inspired me or more highly excited my admiration, than the nine days action of your Division between September 17 and 26.

 

There is no question that these sentiments are shared by every soldier, sailor, and airman, of the entire Allied Expeditionary Force now battling against the Western boundaries of Germany.

 

Before the world the proud record that your Division has established needs no embellishment from me, but I should like every survivor of that gallant band to realise, not only how deeply this whole Command appreciates his example of courage, fortitude and skill, but that the Division's great battle contributed effectively to the success of operations to the southward of its own battleground.

 

Your officers and men were magnificent. Pressed from every side, without relief, reinforcements or respite, they inflicted such losses on the Nazi that his infantry dared not close with them, in an unremitting hail of steel from German snipers, machine guns, mortars, rockets, cannon of all calibers and self propelled and tank artillery, they never flinched, never wavered. They held steadfastly.

 

For nine days they checked the fury of the Hun and when, on 26th September, they were ordered to withdraw across the river, they came out a proud haughty band--paratroopers, air-landing men, glider pilots, clerks, cooks and batmen, soldiers all--two thousand strong out of seven thousand five hundred that entered the battle.

 

The Allied Expeditionary Forces salute them.

 

 

Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery KCB DSO

Commander 21st Army Group, to Major-General Urquhart, 28th September 1944.

 

I want to express to you personally, and to every officer and man in your Division, my appreciation of what you all did at Arnhem for the Allied cause.

 

I also want to express to you my own admiration, and the admiration of us in 21 Army Group, for the magnificent fighting spirit that your Division displayed in battle against great odds on the North bank of the lower Rhine in Holland.

 

There is no shadow of doubt that, had you failed, operations elsewhere would have been greatly compromised. You did not fail, and all is well elsewhere.

 

I would like all Britain to know that in your final message from the ARNHEM area you said:-

 

"All will be ordered to break out rather than surrender. We have attempted our best, and we will continue to do our best as long as possible."

 

And all Britain will say to you:-

 

"You did your best; you all did your duty; and we are proud of you."

 

In the annals of the British Army there are many glorious deeds. In our Army we have always drawn great strength and inspiration from past traditions and endeavoured to live up to the high standards of those who have gone before. But there can be few episodes more glorious than the epic of ARNHEM and those that follow after will find it hard to live up to the standards that you have set.

 

So long as we have in the Armies of the British Empire officers and men who will do as you have done, then we can indeed look forward with complete confidence to the future.

 

In the years to come, it will be a great thing for a man to be able to say:-

 

"I fought at ARNHEM."

 

Please give my best wishes and my grateful thanks to every officer and man in your Division.

 

 

General Miles Dempsey CB DSO MC

Commander 2nd British Army, to Major-General Urquhart, 28th September 1944.

 

Before you leave 2nd Army, I want to tell you how much I appreciate the great action fought by your Division at ARNHEM.

 

From the moment that you came under my command on September 17th, until the day on which you were ordered to withdraw, you were fighting ceaselessly against odds which increased as days went by.

 

I want all ranks in your splendid Division to know that this action of yours played a vital part in the whole 2nd Army operation.

 

Thanks to the way in which you contained the enemy at ARNHEM, we were able to secure the bridges at Nijmegen intact.

 

Please convey to them all my admiration and gratitude for their great work.

 

 

Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks CB DSO MC

Commander XXX Corps, to Major-General Urquhart, 26th September 1944.

 

I want to congratulate you and all ranks of your Division on their tremendous achievements during the last eight days of fighting. We realise that, had it not been for you, we should have had no chance whatever of securing the Nijmegen bridges intact.

 

I am afraid that your losses have been very heavy, but in your fighting north of the Neder Rijn you contained a large number of German reserves, and while your Parachute Brigade was holding the North end of the bridge at ARNHEM, you prevented any reinforcements from moving down towards Nijmegen. This just gave us time to secure these vital bridges.

 

There is no doubt that this may quite likely have a decisive influence on the war and will, at any rate, I am certain, shorten the period of the war by several weeks.

 

Well done First Airborne Division.

 

On behalf of 2nd Army--many thanks.

 

 

Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning CB DSO

Deputy Commander 1st Allied Airborne Army, Deputy Commander 1st British Airborne Corps, to Major-General Urquhart, 26th September 1944.

 

Commander, 30 Corps is sending you a letter from himself and his Corps expressing their unstinted admiration and gratitude for the gallant part played by the 1st Airborne Division in the 2nd Army's drive to cross the Rhine.

 

He will explain to you, and in his expression of opinion I absolutely concur, that without the action of the 1st Airborne Division in tying up, pinning down, and destroying in large numbers the German forces in the ARNHEM area, the crossing of the Waal, the capture of the bridges at Nijmegen and, above all, the advance from the bridgehead would have been quite impossible.

 

I am intensely proud of the magnificent fight put up by your Division. With you, I deeply regret the sacrifice that has been entailed in the Division which I had the honour to raise originally.

 

I do not hesitate to say that the operation, taken as a whole, has done more to speed up the war and further disrupt the already disorganised Germany Army than any other action up to date. In fact, none other than an Airborne Operation could possibly have achieved the result.

 

 

Telegram from 6th British Airborne Division

Magnificent achievement. All ranks thrilled with your epic battle. Good luck to you.