Maps

Map of the Second Lift drop and landing zones

Pictures

Men of the Reconnaissance Squadron with Dutch civilians

C Troop of the Recce Squadron, dug in around Wolfheze

A dressing station

A surgical team of the 181 Field Ambulance in Wolfheze

Fires on DZ-Y, moments before the 4th Para Brigade jumped

German infantry fires on the 4th Para Brigade as they drop

German machine-gunners fire on paratroopers as they jump

A paratrooper makes a bad landing

A supply canister being emptied as parachutists descend in the background

A paratrooper killed on the drop zone

The path along which B Company, 1st Border, withdrew from Renkum on Monday 18th September

 

Back on the drop zones, Divisional HQ was starting to grow concerned. No word had been received from the 1st Parachute Brigade, yet it was clear that all was not well with them and enemy resistance was increasing. Furthermore, Major-General Urquhart was still missing and German public radio broadcasts were boasting that he had been killed. Lieutenant-Colonel Mackenzie, Urquhart's Chief-of-Staff, placed Brigadier Hicks in temporary command of the Division and recommended that he dispatch reinforcements into Arnhem as soon as possible.

 

There was, however, little that could be done at this stage because the only front-line infantry available was the 1st Airlanding Brigade, who were fully committed to the defence of the drop zones. Nevertheless, Hicks decided to release the 2nd South Staffordshires from their positions around LZ-S, to the north of Wolfheze. This was a risk as the zone was left dangerously exposed to enemy attack, covered only by a Troop of the Reconnaissance Squadron and fifty Glider Pilots. The commander of the 2nd South Staffords, Lieutenant-Colonel McCardie, was ordered to make his way in to Arnhem to support the 1st Parachute Brigade. Only half of the Battalion had been brought in on the first day, but the remainder, consisting of "A", "C" and half of Support Company, were to be dispatched after them as soon as they arrived with the Second Lift, which was expected in only a few hours time. Hicks and Mackenzie also agreed that as soon as the 4th Parachute Brigade landed, the 11th Battalion would be removed from their command and sent to Arnhem as well.

 

The 1st Airlanding Brigade had several encounters with the enemy during the morning. At Heelsum, on the southern edge of LZs X and Z, "D" Company of the 1st Border, with the help of the guns of the 1st Airlanding Light Regiment, fought off several probing attacks by S.S Battalion Schulz and the Soesterberg Fliegerhorst Battalion of Kampfgruppe von Tettau. Further north, men of "A" Company ran out of their positions to greet several fighters passing overhead; they had believed them to be friendly but, much to everyone's surprise given the unquestioned Allied air superiority of September 1944, they turned out to be German Me109's, and the Company lost seven dead and fourteen wounded in the subsequent strafing. Thirty such aircraft strafed the landing zones during the morning, however the damage inflicted was otherwise minimal.

 

Over a mile away from the three companies of the 1st Border defending the zone, "B" Company were fortified within the brickworks at Renkum overlooking the Utrechtseweg, along which enemy reinforcements were likely to pass. At 07:00, German soldiers of Naval Manning Battalion 10 arrived in the village but were completely unaware of the British presence. "B" Company waited for an opportunity to make themselves known, and when three Germans on a motorcycle and sidecar pulled up in full view of the Company, and others gathered around them from out of a nearby building, they opened fire on this surprised group and accounted for many of them. Later, a force of infantry were observed hesitantly making their way towards the British positions but were broken up at two hundred yards by fire from one of the Battalion's Vickers machine-guns. A further group of infantry were similarly dealt with by Vickers and mortar crews. The failure of attacks such as these resulted in the Germans surrounding "B" Company and subjecting them to a continuous mortar bombardment. Despite this, they were able to slip away unnoticed along the riverbank after 14:00, and they safely made their way back to the rest of the 1st Border. Owing to damaged Jeeps, however, they had been forced to abandon their mortars and anti-tank guns, the latter constituting two of the Battalion's eight.

 

The 7th King's Own Scottish Borderers had experienced a lively morning too. "D" Company's No.16 Platoon had been ordered to hold a series of huts on the north-eastern corner of DZ-Y, at some distance from the remainder of the Company. During the morning they were attacked by No.5 Company of S.S Wach Battalion 3 and, without any support, manning a position not at all suited to defence and hampered by the presence of Dutch civilians inside the huts, the Platoon suffered seven dead and was forced to surrender. The German troops proceeded to occupy this position, affording them a clear view of the drop zone, and to make matters worse then prevented the remainder of "D" Company from counterattacking other German troops who had been reported in the woods on the northern edge of the zone.

 

To the west of DZ-Y, "B" Company, who were under-strength after No.7 Platoon had cast-off over England, were repeatedly challenged by the mostly Dutch volunteers of S.S Wach Battalion 3. In the first instance, a convoy of vehicles moving towards Arnhem from the direction of Ede was halted by fire from an anti-tank gun, and as the troops in these vehicles baled-out they were gunned down by the Company's fire; it is possible that none survived. Later skirmishes developed all around the "B" Company's position, but using a combination of patrols, mortars and artillery support, all of these were decisively driven back.

 

"A" Company held an isolated position several miles to the east, but their No.4 Platoon was quite alone, overlooking the Amsterdamseweg to the north-east of DZ-Y. During the night they had attracted the attention of two German patrols by ambushing and causing heavy casualties amongst them. As a consequence they were subjected to repeated attacks by enemy infantry and were overwhelmed shortly after dawn; only a few men managed to make their way back to the main "A" Company position.

 

 

It had been planned that the Second Lift would begin to arrive at 10:00, however fog had descended upon the airfields in Britain and so the Airborne Armada was delayed in taking off for four hours. The German commanders knew that for an airborne operation to succeed it needed to be supplied from the air, and so they had made the effort to line the likely air-routes to Arnhem with anti-aircraft weapons. Due to the short range of transport aircraft and the great distance between Britain and Holland, it was obvious that such supplies could only be delivered from the south or west. The Luftwaffe also put ninety of its fighters in the sky to intercept and wreak havoc amongst the vulnerable transport aircraft, however Allied air support was so complete that none of these aircraft came anywhere near the Armada.

 

As the Second Lift finally drew near to Arnhem, the 7th King's Own Scottish Borderers on DZ-Y came under fierce attack. Headquarters, Support and "C" Companies were busily engaged in dampening German thrusts from the south and south-east, whilst "D" Company tried to attack those troops that had infiltrated the eastern edge of the zone during the morning. The woods to the north, however, remained unchecked and in enemy hands.

 

The 4th Parachute Brigade, numbering one thousand nine hundred and fourteen men, had been told that by the time they arrived, their drop zone would be both secure and peaceful. Needless to say, as they waited for the order to jump, they were a little surprised to discover that they were about to drop on top of a battlefield. German flak gunners poured their fire up at the aircraft and claimed several victories. A few wounded aircraft lost height and made ready to ditch as the paratroopers inside made premature jumps, but there was one incident of a C-47 receiving a direct hit and crashing to the ground in flames; killing all three flight crew and nineteen paratroopers of the 156th Battalion's Machine Gun Platoon.

 

Despite the confusion and the fires around the zone, caused by both German and British mortaring which had set the heathland alight, the American aircrews of the 314th and 315th Troop Carrier Groups flew their aircraft true and steady and dropped the 4th Parachute Brigade on target; the first troops landing at 15:09. Due to the nature of the opposition, the aircraft of the Second Lift had closed up into a tight formation and so it was that the parachute drop was over in a mere nine minutes. There were isolated incidents of sticks of parachutists overshooting the zone to come down in the woodland to the east of DZ-Y, in some cases this prompted any Germans on the ground to panic and run, but several helpless paratroopers were shot as they struggled to release themselves from the trees in which they had become ensnared. Despite German machine-gunners and riflemen firing upon the Brigade as they dropped, most were able to land safely and quickly got off the zone to assemble in the comparative safety of the surrounding woodland. It is estimated that the 4th Parachute Brigade lost thirty-two men killed on the drop, not including those losses incurred on the fly-in.

 

 

Shortly afterwards, two hundred and seventy-three gliders approached Landing Zones S and X. The sixty-nine gliders bound for the former, mostly carrying the remainder of the 1st Airlanding Brigade, were forced to take evasive action due to heavy flak bursting around them, and so many entered steep dives to pick up as much speed as possible for their final approach. The gliders came down precariously amongst the abandoned gliders that had been used on the First Lift, but despite this there were no serious crashes and the troops were able to go about their business without much difficulty. The north-east of the zone, which had been left largely unprotected in the absence of the 2nd South Staffordshires, was not detected by the Germans.

 

The two hundred and four gliders that landed on LZ-X, carrying the remainder of the Divisional units, came under sporadic fire from a group of Germans who had infiltrated between "A" and "D" Companies of the 1st Border on the western side of the zone. Several gliders were hit, but luckily there were few fatalities and injuries as a result of this action, mainly due to the skill of the mortar crews of the Battalion who brought their bombs down on the German positions whenever a glider approached within their sight; they timed the release of their mortars so that they narrowly missed the glider on the way up and landed amongst the Germans at the point when they were preparing to open fire.

 

On LZ-L, thirty-three RAF Stirlings dropped eighty-six tons of supplies, but unfortunately the Germans had already overrun much of this area and only an estimated twelve tons found their way into British hands. Despite this setback, the 1st Airborne Division was now complete, and all of its units were free to advance on Arnhem Bridge.