Maps

The 1st Para Brigade's attack plan

The actual progress made by the 1st Para Brigade

Pictures

Brigadier Gerald Lathbury

Sheriff Thompson (second left) helping to unload a damaged Horsa glider on LZ-Z

Men of Divisional Signals taking up defensive positions around DZ-X

Dutch civilians hand out water to troops leaving a landing zone

Two local women holding a Dutch flag with passing airborne troops

British soldiers share a brew with a civilian

German prisoners being searched by British troops, while Dutch civilians looking on

Lieutenant-Colonel Loder-Symonds on Sunday 17th September

Men of the 1st Battalion shelter in a bomb crater

The body of General Kussin

The body of General Kussin's driver, who were killed by the 3rd Battalion on the 17th September

German vehicles opposite the railway station in Arnhem

A self-propelled gun in Arnhem

A man of the 1st Airlanding Brigade using a compact radio transmitter

 

While the 1st Airlanding Brigade and Divisional units remained on the drop zones to await the arrival of the Second Lift on the following morning, Brigadier Lathbury's 1st Parachute Brigade was required to move off as soon as possible to capture Arnhem Bridge. The Brigade's three battalions and their attached units assembled very quickly and were able to begin the march to Arnhem at 15:00. The 2nd Parachute Battalion, with Lathbury's Brigade Headquarters in tow, began to move along the lower "Lion" Route, which followed the River, whilst the 3rd Battalion took the central "Tiger" Route along the Utrechtseweg. The ultimate objective of both units was Arnhem Bridge, with the 2nd Battalion due to arrive first.

 

If there was any particular weakness in the 1st Parachute Brigade's plan, then it was the lack of a reserve force in the event of something going wrong. Although this was no substitute, Brigadier Lathbury deliberately held back the 1st Battalion on the drop zone for half an hour so that they would, in effect, be able to act as a partial reserve. When finally given the order to move off, the Battalion proceeded along the "Leopard" Route, which would lead them towards Arnhem alongside the Railway line. Their objective, however, was the high ground to the north of the town, overlooking a main road along which German reinforcements were expected to come.

 

Major Gough's Reconnaissance Squadron, who were to race to Arnhem Bridge in their Jeeps and seize it by coup de main in advance of the paratroopers, should have set out along the "Leopard" Route at 15:00, however they experienced difficulties in unloading their Jeeps from the gliders and so slipped half an hour behind schedule. If this setback had not occurred, it is possible that they would have been able to proceed along the "Leopard" Route before Battalion Krafft could assemble their blocking line. As it was, loose units of the Squadron set off prematurely and ran straight into the German troops overlooking the road; an action which resulted in the loss of eight men and two Jeeps. The Reconnaissance Squadron had never been designed to fight its way through such opposition and so, with no means of bypassing them, they was forced to abandon the coup de main attempt on the Bridge and came to a halt to await fresh orders.

 

 

When word of this delay reached Brigadier Lathbury's HQ, he set out in his Jeep to inform all of his battalion commanders that they should press on with all speed as there would be no friendly force waiting for them at the Bridge. Major-General Urquhart had also heard about the failure of the coup de main force, but due to the radio blackout he did not know that Lathbury was already aware of this, and so he took the dangerous decision to leave Divisional Headquarters to personally inform him. Urquhart eventually caught up with Lathbury whilst he was visiting the 3rd Battalion.

 

Shortly after his arrival, the 3rd Battalion's "B" Company, who were in the lead, shot up a German staff car when it suddenly appeared in amongst them from off a side road. All the occupants of the vehicle were killed. The paratroopers were unaware of this at the time, but one of the dead was General Kussin, the town Kommandant of Arnhem. He had just visited Sturmbannführer Krafft and, unwisely under the circumstances, had decided to risk making his way back to his Headquarters when he ran into the 3rd Battalion.

 

Several hundred yards beyond this incident, "B" Company encountered Battalion Krafft in the form of a company of infantry supported by a Self-Propelled Gun. The paratroopers, not expecting to meet armoured resistance, were caught unawares and suffered some casualties in the brief exchange of heavy fire which followed, hampered in taking up positions by the high wire fencing on either side of the road. Having knocked out the only British anti-tank gun that was at the head of the 3rd Battalion's advance, the SP Gun and supporting infantry then withdrew, enabling "B" Company to press on.

 

At about 18:30, Major Dennison's "A" Company, at the rear of the Battalion's column, came under consistent and effective machine-gun and mortar fire from nearby woodland, and for the following two hours they were locked in battle with the Germans in this area. It was clear that the enemy were intending to employ these delaying tactics all the way along the "Tiger" Route to Arnhem, and so the Battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Fitch, made the shrewd decision to detach Major Lewis's "C" Company with orders to move north, off the road, and attempt to flank German resistance by proceeding along the railway line.

 

By now the 3rd Battalion had become fragmented. "C" Company was detached, "A" Company were still fighting in the rear, and so for the time being the only unit which was free to advance was the leading "B" Company. It was unsafe, however, for them to press on alone and so increase the gap between themselves and "A" Company, and so the decision was taken for the Battalion to halt at the Hartenstein Hotel, in Oosterbeek, until those in the rear had caught up. In the event, however, the 3rd Battalion did not move from this position until just before dawn on the following morning, seven hours after "A" Company had arrived. It is believed that Lieutenant-Colonel Fitch was keen to press on during the night and follow "C" Company along the railway line, but unfortunately his ability to exercise free command was hindered by the presence of his immediate superiors, Major-General Urquhart and Brigadier Lathbury, who both agreed that the Battalion should rest overnight.

 

Both of these men were in a difficult position as they were now trapped with the 3rd Battalion. Urquhart desperately wanted to return to his Headquarters, as the Division was leaderless without him, whilst Lathbury needed to rejoin his own HQ, which was on its way to the Bridge with the 2nd Battalion. The area around them was so unsafe at the time, however, that neither men could risk leaving, and so they were obliged to remain with the 3rd Battalion until such a time as they could get away. As a consequence, the 1st Airborne Division became cut off from both its Commander and his acknowledged deputy.

 

 

The 1st Battalion, making its way along the "Leopard" route fared little better than the 3rd Battalion. Lieutenant-Colonel Dobie met the Reconnaissance Squadron on the way and, upon learning of the opposition that lay ahead, he decided to outflank it by heading north and onto the Amsterdamseweg main road. This new route led the Battalion through woodland, and it was here that "R" Company encountered some German infantry, but quickly swept them aside. As they reached the Amsterdamseweg, however, they ran into a more substantial enemy in the form of Luftwaffe signallers of Kampfgruppe Weber, supported by armoured vehicles. This barely trained, hastily organised, yet enthusiastic unit had been ordered to attack the Landing Zones from the north, but in the event they halted "R" Company's progress and kept them fighting in the woods until dusk.

 

While this was going on, "T" Company took over the lead and attempted to gain the main road further to the east, but they continued to encounter enemy armour and it was clear that the Battalion's light armaments were of limited effectiveness against them. Not wishing to play the German game and become further delayed by small pockets of resistance, Dobie decided to abandon the Amsterdamseweg and ordered "T" Company to press on through the woods to the south of the road instead. They carried on through the night but continued to encounter enemy patrols. "R" Company were far behind at this point and so, in the absence of radio contact, guides were left to ensure that they did not become lost when they were finally able to disengage. In all, the 1st Battalion suffered twelve dead and ninety casualties during the first twenty-four hours of Market Garden.

 

 

At 21:30, Sturmbannführer Krafft became aware that his blocking line was in danger of being outflanked, and so he ordered his men to withdraw to an assembly area to the north-east. He had, in fact, already been flanked, as both "B" and "C" Companies of the 3rd Battalion had bypassed his positions in the south, whilst the 1st Battalion, far to the north, were edging their way behind him, yet his men were able to pull-back safely. The post-battle report that Krafft later wrote was full of exaggerations as it had been written to impress Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, head of the S.S., to whom it was personally submitted. Nevertheless, his men had performed very well to sufficiently delay the 1st Parachute Brigade, which ought to have been in Arnhem by nightfall but had instead covered only half of the distance to the Bridge. Krafft also achieved his object because, by the time that he withdrew, the 9th S.S. Panzer Division was beginning to establish more substantial defences closer to Arnhem.