National Archives catalogue reference WO 171/1244

 

Abbreviations

706774

A/L

A/T

Bde

Bn

CO
Commdr

Coy

DZ

I/C

MG

O Group

NWE

Pdr

RV

SP

Map Reference

Airlanding

Anti-Tank

Brigade

Battalion

Commanding Officer

Commander

Company

Drop Zone

In Command

Machine Gun

Orders Group

North-West Europe

Pounder

Rendezvous

Self-Propelled

 

 

Month and year: September 1944

Commanding Officer : Lieut. Col. G.H. Lea

 

1st September 1944

Place: Melton Mowbray

 

Battalion confined to barracks - Standing to for Operation "COMET".

 

7th September 1944

Place: Melton Mowbray

 

Battalion allowed out of camp.

 

10th September 1944

Place: Melton Mowbray

 

Battalion confined to barracks - Briefing for Operation "COMET".

 

12th September 1944

Place: Melton Mowbray

 

Battalion allowed out of camp.

 

13th September 1944

Place: Melton Mowbray

 

Battalion proceeds on 48 hours leave.

 

15th September 1944

Place: Melton Mowbray

 

Glider borne party leave Battalion.

 

16th September 1944

Place: Melton Mowbray

 

Battalion confined to barracks.

 

17th September 1944

Place: Melton Mowbray

 

Advance party under Lt Bishop emplaned for NWE.

 

18th September 1944

Place: Melton Mowbray

 

Main body of Battalion emplaned at SALTBY airfield - Bn dropped at approx 1430.

 

18th to 26th September 1944

See Appendix "A".

 

26th September 1944

Battalion R.V.'d at NIJMEGEN and spent night in local convent.  Bomber raid by the Luftwaffe.

 

27th September 1944

Night at NIJMEGEN.

 

28th September 1944

Embussed Bn leave for BRUSSELS - shelled in corridor - Arrival at TERVNERIN (Brussels) at 2330 hrs.

 

29th September 1944

Night at TERVNERIN.

 

30th September 1944

Emplaned at BRUSSELS airfield - for UK - arrived at SALTBY airfield at 1330 hrs.

 

 

Appendix "A"

Account of Arnhem Battle

11th. Bn. The Parachute Regiment

 

Monday, 18th September 1944

Drop and assembly went according to plan.  Flak heavy, and several German MGs covering the D.Z.

 

Lay-up in woods at S.E. corner of D.Z. till about 1730 hrs.  Took several prisoners (snipers mostly).  Ordered to proceed to ARNHEM bridge and there come under Command 1st. Parachute Brigade.

 

Moved off in order "A" Coy., Bn HQ., "B" "HQ" "C" Coys.  Little opposition except spasmodic sniping.  Picked up our transport and A/T guns North of the railway and marched all night.

 

Tuesday, 19th September 1944

In front of a large hospital (Queen Elizabeths) on a hill over-looking the river in ARNHEM.  We met the S.STAFFS, who were apparently putting in an attack over the crest of the hill.  "A" Coy, on non-receipt of orders, pushed on through the other unit.  (I think all our Walkie-Talkies were by now defective or non-existent.) The C.O. established his HQ in front of the hospital, and "B" Coy dug in around the front at Eastern side of the building.  About 1000 hrs "B" Coy was withdrawn to the West of the Hospital and took up positions covering several of the main roads.  We were machine-gunned, but no tanks or infantry appeared.  There was a lot of gun-fire behind the Hospital, but the situation was not at all clear.

 

About 1200 hrs a message was received to the effect that the attack on the bridge had been repulsed, and that the German armour was sweeping round to the North to cut us off.  "B" Coy withdrew to a large cross-roads North-West of the Hospital, and occupied all buildings covering the crossing.  Orders of the Coy Commdr (Maj G.L. Blacklidge) were to grenade all enemy tanks and shoot up all infantry.  There was to be no withdrawal.  We accordingly prepared the houses for defence.

 

About 1330 hrs the C.O. (Lt-Col G. Lea) came along in a Jeep and ordered us to RV on a road running E-W, and almost due North of our present position.  We evacuated the buildings and moved up to the RV, where I think the majority of the Battalion was gathered.  I saw the C.O. holding his "O" Group, and have not seen him since.

 

While awaiting orders we were heavily mortared, and had to disperse in gardens of houses.  The Battalion was ordered to withdraw to OOSTERBEEK village and "B" Coy were ordered to dig in, meanwhile and deal with a threatened tank and infantry attack.  We accordingly took up a position at the road junction through which the Battalion had to pass.  We were again heavily mortared and attacked by the Luftwaffe.  Two tanks came along the road but the leader was brewed up by the 17 pdr A/T gun in our position and the attack did not develop.

 

We followed on as a Battalion (with the remnants of 1st and 3rd Bns and of the S. STAFFS), and were allotted a row of houses about Map Ref 706774 (Sheet 388 GINKEL).  As far as I could make out we were holding the North of a small perimeter, with 3rd. Bn on the S.E. and S.STAFFS on the S.W. (my maps had been destroyed by the mortar fire).  We dug-in in the gardens, and prepared the houses for defence but about 1800 hrs a salvo of shells destroyed two of the five houses allotted to "B" Coy, and killed several men.  Otherwise there was no enemy activity that night.

 

Wednesday, 20th September 1944

About 0330 hrs a patrol went down to the road-railway junction 712774 established that an enemy mobile patrol was holding it.  Just after dawn, and throughout the morning we were mortared incessantly, and machine-gunned by enemy aircraft.  At about 1200 hrs Major Lonsdale's force took over Command of the sector which contained 1 and 3 Bns., S. STAFFS and 11 Bn.  We now became part of "Lonsdale Force" with which we remained for the rest of the operation.  We dealt with several tank attacks from the East, by about 1500 hrs an S.P. Gun got into position over the ridge to the East and knocked down most of the remaining houses, making the position untenable.  On cessation of fire we re-occupied the gardens of the houses at the Eastern end of the road, overlooking the cross-roads, while "A" Coy was firmly established in a farmyard at the Western end.

 

About 1800 hrs the enemy attacked "A" Coy strongly from the West and by setting ablaze to some of the haystacks forced "A" Coy to deploy in a nearby field.  "B" Coy sat tight, but no attack came in.  At dusk we were withdrawn to the KLINGELBEEK WEG, (immediately South of the position) covered by "A" Coy.  We then gave covering fire to "A" Coy, who joined us.  We were ordered to move towards the Church at OOSTERBEEK and this we did without casualties.

 

The remnants of the Bn were now thoroughly mixed; the majority held the Eastern sector Map Ref 697774 of the perimeter of what now seemed to be the Divisional positions.  The MGs and some of the mortars were on the S.W. sector, (facing the enemy held gas-works) at about 693773.

 

Thursday, 21st September 1944

An interesting day.  We were mortared and shelled continuously, and drove off several tank attacks.  Major Carr of the S. STAFFS distinguished himself by the use of the piat.  Capt. Douglas and Lieut. Speke of "B" Coy were killed.

 

At dusk a Polish A/T gun joined us.  Most of our own weapons were either damaged or crewless.

 

Lieut. Atkinson of "HQ" Coy put up an inspiring show in directing A/T fire.  At least one Tiger was brewed up.

 

Friday, 22nd September 1944

Heavy mortaring in the morning.  At about 0900 hrs the Bn was withdrawn to the Church for a much needed rest, clean-up and food.

 

1100 hrs moved out to thicken up the defence of the West sector South of the OOSTERBEEK WEG, and to aid our MGs.  The BORDERS were in position here and in this sector, though superior in numbers, we were under Command of Brig i/c A/L Bde.  The mortaring here was the heaviest we had yet experienced.  The enemy held the gas-works and buildings about five hundred yards across an open field.  He made several abortive attacks which were adequately dealt with by our automatic weapons.  Lieut. J.E. Blackwood "B" Coy was ordered at 1500 hrs by Brig A/L Bde to attack with all his platoon the enemy opposite his position and clear the buildings and the orchard beyond, clear part of the village beyond that, advance to consolidate about 690773.  This order was countermanded by Major Lonsdale, DSO., MC., to whom he sent for requisite wire-cutters.  The attack was eventually postponed owing to difficulty of arranging fire-plan.

 

A quiet night.

 

Saturday, 23rd September 1944

About 1100 hrs we were relieved, after a mornings mortaring by some Poles who had crossed the river during the night.  We withdrew to the Church for food and cleaning of weapons.  Church shelled by 88s, and Major Blacklidge killed.  We established ourselves in an area stretching from the Church to the Western perimeter.  "B" Coy was ordered to form a protection unit for the 75s which were occupying a position about 795774.  This was done.

 

Night quiet except for routine patrols.

 

Sunday, 24th September 1944

Heavily mortared all day, and machine-gunned from the East.  We cleared snipers from houses North of the Church.

 

Monday, 25th September 1944

More mortaring.

 

In the afternoon a tank and infantry attack was launched from the East, with the intention of splitting the Div sector in two.  We had no PIATs or A/T Guns, but engaged the infantry with bren and rifles, and handled them severely.

 

1800 hrs.  Warned that we would withdraw across the river that night.

 

2330 hrs.  RVd by the Church.

 

Tuesday, 26th September 1944

I cannot say how 11 Bn fared.  I was blind with blood and field dressing and lost touch with my men in the darkness, crossing the river myself with 1st Bn personnel.

 

Lt. J.E. Blackwood