National Archives catalogue reference WO 171/592
L of C
1400 hrs, 17th September
Advanced Dressing Station
Bridge / British
Casualty Collection Point
Casualty Clearing Station
Commander Royal Artillery
Commander Royal Engineers
Deputy Assistant and Quartermaster General
Division / Divisional
Forward Observation Officer
Field Security Officer
General Officer Commanding
Intelligence / Intention
Light Machine Gun
Line of Communication
Medium Machine Gun
Motor / Mortar
Observation Post / Operation (if lower case)
Regimental Aid Post
Royal Army Service Corps
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Self-Propelled / Support (if lower case)
Month and year: September 1944
Commanding Officer : Brig G.W. Lathbury
3rd September 1944
1100 - Bde Comd attended Div Comd's "O" Gp for new operation to take place within 36 hrs.
1630 - Bde Comd returned and called "O" Gp for 2000.
2000 - Orders given out for operation to take place in region of HASSELT - MAASTRICHT.
2130 - Operation cancelled.
5th September 1944
Maps drawn from Newbury Map Depot for new operation 'COMET'. Bde Comd attended Div Comd's 'O' Gp at HQ Airborne Tps.
6th September 1944
1800 - Bde Comd held 'O' Gp and gave out orders for operation 'COMET'. Confirmatory Notes issued. Confirmatory Adm Notes on Bde Comd's Orders also issued. Amendment No.1 to Bde Comd's Confirmatory Notes issued. Name of Op changed to COMET.
7th September 1944
Bde HQ personnel briefed for Operation COMET.
2300 - Operation COMET postponed 24 hrs owing to unfavourable weather.
1700 - Operation COMET postponed in view of increasing German resistance along line of Albert Canal. Alternative plan for COMET produced and cancelled.
10th September 1944
Operation COMET cancelled. Bde Comd to HQ Air Tps.
11th September 1944
Bde Comd returned from HQ Air Tps.
12th September 1944
Div Comd held 'O' Gp for Op MARKET.
13th September 1944
Bde Comd held 'O' Gp for Op MARKET 1 Para Bde OO No.1. Int Summary No.1 and Air Op Int No.1 for Op MARKET issued.
15th September 1944
I.O. went to Tarrant R and Keevil to brief Glider elts. Amdt No.1 to O.O. issued.
17th September 1944
1140 - Bde became airborne for OP MARKET.
1400 - Op MARKET commences.
Period 17th to 26th September 1944
'Operation MARKET' - a preliminary report is attached.
26th September 1944
0800 - Bde concentrated at NIJMEGEN joining up with Seaborne element. Approx strength of Airborne personnel:
Bde HQ 1 & 3
1 Bn 3 & 101
2 Bn Nil & 17
3 Bn Nil & 34
30th September 1944
Bde airborne element returned by air to billets in England. Diary of Seaborne element is attached at Appx H.
1 Para Bde O.O. No.1.
THIS ORDER WILL NOT BE TAKEN INTO THE AIR.
13th Sept, 44.
Ref Maps:- 1/25,000 GSGS 4427, GINKEL 388, EDE 387, RENEN 5 NE, ARNHEM 6 NW.
1/100,000 GSGS 2541 sheets 2 and 5. GSGS 4416 sheet P.1.
(a) Enemy is expected to stand with main def posn on R.RHINE, with covering posns on R.MAAS and res posns on LOWER RHINE.
(b) An increase of flak in area ARNHEM and NIJMEGEN 7377 can be expected. New flak posns are being prepared, but have NOT yet been occupied.
2. Own Tps.
(a) 30 Corps has est brheads over the ALBERT canal, and has now paused to refit before continuing the adv.
(b) The Airborne Corps is dropping on 'D' Day with the following tasks:-
(i) 101 (US) Airborne Div to drop in several combat teams to secure rd BEST 3726 to GRAVE 6253.
(ii) 82 (US) Airborne Div to secure brs over R. MAAS and R. RHINE at GRAVE and NIJMEGEN and the high ground between.
(iii) 1 (Br) Airborne Div, with under comd 1 POLISH Para Bde to secure ARNHEM and brs over LOWER RHINE.
3. Air Plan.
(a) Div lands three lifts:-
(i) First Lift. (Probably 1400 hrs 'D' Day). 1 Para Bde Para element. 20 Horsas 1 Para Bde. 3 Hamilcars 1 Para Bde. 1 AL Recce Sqn. 1 AL Bde (less certain sub-units). 1 Lt. Regt (less Bty). Tac Div HQ.
(ii) Second Lift. (Early morning D+1). 20 Horsas 1 Para Bde. 4 Para Bde. Balance 1 AL Bde. Balance Div Tps.
(iii) Third Lift. (Early morning D+2). 1 POLISH Para Bde Gp.
4. Gen Div Plan.
(a) 1 AL Bde Tasks.
(i) Lands DZ 'S'.
(ii) Secure LZs 'S' and 'Z' and DZ 'X' and cover unloading of 1st lift.
(iii) Est posts at - Rd EDE 5785 - ARNHEM in vicinity of PLANKEN WAMBOIS 6683. Rd WAGENINGEN 5876 - ARNHEM in vicinity of RENKUM 6276.
(iv) Protect arrival of second lift on DZs 'X' and 'Y' and LZs 'S' and 'Z'.
(v) After unloading of second lift to seize and occupy WEST sector of ARNHEM.
(b) 4 Para Bde Tasks.
(i) Land DZ 'Y' and LZ 'X'.
(ii) Move on rd EDE - ARNHEM to occupy NORTHERN sector of ARNHEM.
(c) 1 POLISH Para Bde Tasks.
(i) Land DZ 'K' and LZ 'L'.
(ii) Occupy EASTERN sector of ARNHEM.
5. Met - 17/18 Sept.
Last Light 1941
(New Moon 17 Sept, 44)
First Light 0519
6. 1 Para Bde will seize and hold the ARNHEM brs in the following priority:- (a) Main br at 746768. (b) pontoon br at 738774.
(a) 1 Para Bde lands DZ 'X' and LZ 'Z' and advances on ARNHEM brs on three routes:- RIGHT - 2 Para Bn. CENTRE - 3 Para Bn. LEFT - 1 Para Bn.
(b) 1 AL Recce Sqn, less one tp, seizes brs by a coup de main, advancing from WEST and NORTH on town.
(c) On arrival at ARNHEM bns carry out following tasks:-
(i) 1 Para Bn occupies high ground NORTH of town.
(ii) 2 Para Bn seizes brs and clears and holds WEST half of town.
(iii) 3 Para Bn clears and holds EAST half of town.
8. Grouping and Tasks.
(a) 2 Para Bn.
Comd - Lt. Col. J.D. FROST, DSO, MC.
with under comd - tp (6 pr) 1 AL A.Tk Bty, RA. tp 1 Para Sqn, RE (incl three flame-throwers). sec 16 (Para) Fd. Amb.
DZ - 'X'.
Tasks: (i) To seize ARNHEM brs in order of priority as above (OR relieve Recce Sqn on brs if brs already captured). (ii) Clear town within Bn perimeter, and est def posn facing NW and WEST. (iii) Send one Coy SOUTH of river to attack Main br and to est def posn SOUTH of river to incl MAIN br and PONTOON br. (iv) When est in town to push out covering patrols.
(b) 3 Para Bn.
Comd - Lt. Col. J.A.C. FITCH.
with under comd - tp (6 Pr) 1 AL A.Tk. Bty, RA. tp 1 Para Sqn, RE (incl three flame-throwers). sec 16 (Para) Fd. Amb.
DZ - 'X'.
Tasks: (i) Assist 2 Para Bn in capture of Main br. (ii) Clear ARNHEM within Bn perimeter, and est def posn facing NE and EAST. (iii) when est in town push out covering patrols.
(c) 1 Para Bn.
Comd - Lt. Col. D.T. DOBIE, DSO.
with under comd - tp (6 pr) 1 AL A.Tk Bty, RA. sec (17 pr) 1 AL A/Tk Bty, RA. Recce det 1 Para Sqn, RE. Sec 16 (Para) Fd. Amb.
DZ - 'X'.
Tasks: (i) Occupy high ground in squares 7580 and 7279 to deny enemy direct observation on to ARNHEM. (ii) to cover approaches to town within Bn bdys. (iii) To keep one Coy in res in area rd junc 746790 for use as Bde res. This Coy NOT to be committed without ref to Bde HQ.
9. LZs and DZs. See Trace 'P' att.
10. R.Vs. (See Trace "Q" att)
(a) Normal RV aids.
(b) 2 and 3 Para Bns move off as soon as possible.
(c) 1 Para Bn remains RV until ordered fwd by Bde HQ.
(d) Bns responsible for own protection at RVs and on move.
11. Routes. See Trace 'Q' att.
12. Bdys. Trace 'Q' att.
(a) 1 Para Bn. excl LEOPARD incl ELEPHANT.
(b) 3 Para Bn. excl ELEPHANT incl R. NEDER RIJN.
(c) 2 Para Bn. excl R. NEDER RIJN incl LEOPARD.
13. Gliderborne Element.
(a) Bde Glider elements land LZ 'Z'.
(b) Tpt will R.V. on SOUTH edge of wood facing WEST head of coln at corner of wood 659793.
(c) Bde T.O. with two Pro and two R.E.M.E. personnel, and with guides from Bns, will move from D.Z. to tpt R.V. to guide tpt to unit area.
(d) Signal at R.V. - succession green verey lights.
14. 21 Ind Para Coy.
(a) Responsible for marking DZ "X" and LZ "Z".
(b) Are marking Bde HQ RV with blue smoke.
(a) 1 AL Recce Sqn land DZ "X" and LZ "Z" and sqn less tp under comd 1 Para Bde.
(b) Sqn with Dets 9 Fd Coy RE will capture ARNHEM brs in priority as stated, by a coup de main. Axis of adv as shown trace "Q".
(c) Sqn will pass all available infm back to Bde HQ.
(d) If unable to penetrate to brs, Sqn will take up posn from which it can best support adv of Bde on brs, by fire and observation.
(e) On relief Sqn reverts Bde control in area NORTH of br, until Bde firmly est in town. Sqn will then revert Div control.
16. Glider Pilots.
(a) Glider Pilots remain with units until they reach ARNHEM. Then report to Report Centre on NORTH end of main br and will come into Bde res.
(a) 3 Bty 1 AL Lt Regt in sp from approx one hr after landing of Para element of 1 Para Bde.
(b) 1 Bty 1 AL Lt Regt at call from same time.
(c) Gun areas see Trace "Q" att.
(d) Allotment OPs -
(i) 1 Para Bn - one FOO (68 set) one OP (Mobile) (22 and 68 set)
(ii) 2 Para Bn - two FOOs (each 68 set) tp comd (Mob OP) (22 and 68 set)
(iii) 3 Para Bn - two FOOs (each 68 set) tp comd (Mob OP) (22 and 68 set)
(iv) Recce Sqn - one OP (Mob) (NOT confirmed)
(e) 2 Bty 1 AL Lt Regt at call after landing 2nd lift.
18. A Tk.
(a) Tp (6 pr) under comd each Bn.
(b) Sec (17 pr) under comd 1 Para Bn.
(c) Sec (17 pr) remains in res; moves with 1 Para Bde HQ and is available for engaging flak barges and flak posns as required.
(d) 1 AL A Tk Bty comes under comd CRA after ldg 3rd lift but remains in sp 1 Para Bde.
(a) Tp under comd each 2 and 3 Para Bns.
(b) Recce party RE accompanies 1 Para Bn.
(c) Main RE task as follows -
(i) Remove demolition charges from all brs in following priority (i) Main Br 746768 (ii) Pontoon Br 738774 (iii) Rly Br 706763 (iv) Rly Br 779762.
(ii) Assist Bns in putting buildings in state of def.
(iii) Collect all available craft on NORTH bank of river for purpose of transporting 1 Para Bn or 1 POLISH Para Bde across river should brs be destroyed at any stage of op.
(d) On arrival second lift 1 Para Sqn (less tp remaining under comd 1 Para Bde) revert comd CRE and RV POWER STATION 753768.
20. Jedburgh Teams.
(a) One Jedburgh team drops with Bde HQ and will carry out following tasks -
(i) Assist OC 1 Para Pl RASC to requisition tpt in HEELSUM.
(ii) Requisition all available tpt in ARNHEM.
(iii) Contact Resistance Movement.
(iv) Obtain all infm about enemy.
(v) Effect round-up of all pro-Nazis and Germans in area.
(vi) Prevent any mov of civilians in battle area in early stages.
(vii) Come under comd Town Commandant (Col. Barlow) when ARNHEM fully occupied.
21. Subsequent Action 1 Para Bde Gp.
(a) On landing Div 2nd lift.
(i) 1 Para Bn will be relieved by 4 Para Bde and will take up def posn SOUTH of the river facing SOUTH and will be in Bde res.
(ii) 2 Para Bn will withdraw outpost posns when relieved by 1 AL Bde.
(iii) 3 Para Bn will withdraw outposts in 4 Para Bde area only.
(b) On landing Div 3rd lift. 1 Para Bn will protect DZ "K" and, if brs over river are demolished, will marshal sufficient craft on SOUTH bank of river to tpt POLISH Para Bde to NORTH bank, and will cover embarkation and disembarkation from SOUTH BANK. Before ldg 1 POLISH PARA BDE 1 Para Bn will cut or disconnect overhead power lines running from 755760 to 752730 and from 745760 to 733730.
(c) 16 Para Fd Amb will est temporary CCP at X rds 743763 to deal with POLISH DZ cas.
(d) After ldg POLISH Para Bde, one bn, to be detailed later, will be earmarked as Div res.
22. Air Sp.
(a) Air sp on fly-in on max scale.
(b) Bomb line
(i) As from H hr till second lift + 6 hrs 785855 - 768852 - 750846 - 737845 - 730844 - 715845 - 708845 - 695852 - 676853 - 659853 - 639853 - 628853 - 613855.
(ii) As from second lift + 6 hrs (i.e. NOT before 1100 hrs D+1) 629852 - 629842 - 630821 - 628807 - 623788 - 616772 - 614759.
23. Adm order issued separately.
24. Mov and Location HQs.
(a) Bde HQ opens RV 644785, thence via LION to CONCERT HALL 748777.
(b) Tac Div lands LZ "Z". RVs track junc 657797, thence via main rd WAGENINGEN - ARNHEM opens ARTILLERIE PARK 7378.
(c) Final location HQs
(i) 4 Para Bde - MONASTERY 747792.
(ii) 1 AL Bde - initially WOLFHEZEN 6680 then KOEPEL 7179.
25. Code words. As for Op COMET. Only 30 Corps list of code names for places to be used between Bde and Div.
H hr until 2359 hrs D day
2359 hrs D day - 2359 hrs D+1
2359 hrs D+1 - 2359 hrs D+2
2359 hrs D+2 - 2359 hrs D+3
2359 hrs D+3 - 2359 hrs D+4
2359 hrs D+4 - 2359 hrs D+5
27. Recognition Signs.
(a) Ground to air: yellow smoke or flares and yellow fluorescent panels if available.
(b) Ground to ground: yellow celanese triangles.
(c) Own tps to show themselves as often as possible to own a/c to identify themselves.
28. Comns. No tel wires may be cut (except German Fd. Cable).
29. Report Centre. On capture of br Report Centre will be est NORTH end WATERLOO Br, with Pro rep and unit guide.
Coy Comds - 15 Sep.
ORs - 16 Sep.
(a) Zone "A" time (one hr in adv GMT) comes into force 0300 hrs 17 Sep.
(b) H hr now 171300.
(c) Hr of ldg of second lift on D+1 known as X hr.
(d) Hr of ldg of third lift on D+2 known as Z hr.
(e) Probable times of ldg of 2nd and 3rd lifts 0900A each day.
(f) Postponement, if necessary, will be for 24 hrs or multiples to be notified NOT later than 0800A hrs D day.
[Signed J.A. Hibbert] Major,
1 Parachute Brigade.
APPX 'A' to 1 Para Bde O.O. No.1 dated 13 Sept, 44.
Main Br 746768
Pontoon Br. 738744
Rly Br. 706763
ARNHEM - ZEVENAAR 8671
ARNHEM - ELST 7070
ARNHEM via HEVEADORP 6877 to HEELSUM
ARNHEM - HEELSUM 6477
ARNHEM - PLANKEN WAMBUIS 6683
ARNHEM - TERLET 7786
ARNHEM - VELP 7978
CHARING X Br.
1 Para Bde Intelligence Summary No.1 dated 13 Sep 44.
1. GENERAL. As much as possible of the information available about defences is shown on the defence overprints. There is no doubt that the whole MARKET area, particularly the WAAL, the MAAS-WAAL Canal, and the hill South of NIJMEGEN, are being feverishly prepared for defence. Appx "A" gives detailed information of the Div Area.
(a) The line marked 'under construction' running EAST-WEST at the bottom of the ARNHEM and EDE map sheets is an autobahn, which is not yet ready to take traffic.
(b) The railway in the same area is double track, electrified, with the electric cables overhead; it runs in a cutting for a considerable part of its length.
(c) The large building South of Ede at 5882 is the ENKA artificial silk factory.
(d) In the proposed landing area, which lies on the sand and gravel beds to the North of the RHINE, the soil is dark earth and peat and cross-country movement for all vehs is easy; this heath country, with a military training area in the middle of it (East of EDE), is comparable with the ALDERSHOT training area at LAFFIN'S PLAIN and LONG VALLEY.
3. DEELEN AIRFIELD. The total of personnel of the airfield was estimated at 2,000 in July. It is the main radar and fighter control centre for HOLLAND, and though it was bombed on 3 Sep and rendered unusable for a time there is no evidence to show that it is being abandoned. Full details and sketch plans have been issued to all concerned.
4. ENEMY FORCES. There is little information about forces actually in the area at present, but some estimate can be made from previous figures and the probabilities of the situation. Before last June, the area ARNHEM - ZWOLLE - AMERSFOORT was an important training area, particularly for armoured and motorised troops, including SS and Hermann Goering reinforcements units. The HQ for Pz training was at ZWOLLE, which was also the location of 20 Mobile Bde controlling seven mob bns. The whole area might contain 15,000 troops, of which perhaps 8,000 would be concentrated in EDE 5785 and ARNHEM: these break down as follows (figures are maxima):
EDE Inf Bks - 1900 Inf (one regt)
Arty Bks - ?2000 men (one regt) (There have been SS mot arty in these bks)
Labour Camp - ?1000 men (at LANGENBERG 5984)
ARNHEM: William III Bks (745778) - 700 tps
Mormo van Coohoorn Bks (757786) - 1400 tps
Laranstein Bks, Velp (780785) - 1400 tps (Two fwd bns of SS tps were here in Mar)
Saxon Weimar Bks (758799) - 700 tps (SS Junior Leader's School)
Arnhem garrison - 700 tps (lorry borne) of Inf Reinforcements "germania" (?SS)
The major part of the above information is from Dutch official sources and reflects the situation as it existed prior to June. Since June, however, it is likely that the training programmes have been thrown out of gear, and there has been considerable reshuffling of troops. Train movements in the last week or two have been running mainly West to East and NW to SE, indicating that some, at least, of the troops in North HOLLAND have moved into GERMANY, while others have come down to the ARNHEM - NIJMEGEN area, if not further. Of the formation known to have been in the area, 347 Div from the Northern tip has gone to the battle, in part at least, 70 Div is in the GHENT area, 719 Div is on the ALBERT Canal; the SS and HG units which were between them on the coast were reinforced by a further SS intake, with a Div HQ, which however immediately went off again to the SE; the bulk of the other units seem to have gone in the same direction some apparently staying in NIJMEGEN or possibly ARNHEM, while the identifications of SS Landsturm Regts, LANGEMARCK and NEDERLAND in the battle gives a possible handle for others. Meanwhile a reported concentration of 10,000 troops SW of ZWOLLE on 1 Sep may represent a battle scarred Pz Div or two reforming, or alternatively the result of emptying the ARNHEM and EDE barracks to make room for fighting troops; though a likely role for the training units would appear to be digging the WAAL line.
To sum up: There is no direct, recent evidence on which to base an estimate of the troops in the immediate divisional area. The capacity of the normal barracks in ARNHEM, VELP and EDE is nearly 10,000, and billeting possibilities are considerable; moreover ARNHEM itself, if the enemy's main defensive line is on the WAAL, will be a vital centre on his L of C, and will inevitably contain a number of troops which are out of the line: it will be strongly defended as soon as the line is manned, but at present may be emptier while the available troops are digging trenches or conducting their fighting withdrawal from the ALBERT Canal.
(Sgd) W.A. Taylor Capt,
I.O., 1 Parachute Brigade.
13 Sep 44.
Outline of Events - 1st Parachute Bde.
(Ref Maps HOLLAND 1/25,000 sheets 388 6NW)
This outline is built up from the stories of a few hurriedly questioned survivors; a more accurate and complete account will be prepared in due course.
1 Para Bde Gp was to drop on D.Z. 'X' commencing approx 171400 and to advance on ARNHEM on three routes :-
2 Para Bn plus Bde HQ Gp - HEELSUM 64477 - OOSTERBEEK 6977 - ARNHEM
3 Para Bn - UTRECHTSCHE WEG
1 Para Bn - AMSTERDAMSCHE WEG
With the intention of seizing and holding the two road bridges.
1 AL Recce Sqn (less one tp) which was under comd was to seize the bridges by a coup de main.
NARRATIVE (It is proposed to deal with units individually taking Bde HQ Gp with 2 Para Bn, as owing to the breakdown of communications no co-ordinated action was possible)
1 AL Recce Sqn:- Great difficulty was experienced in assembling the transport and the 'Coup de Main' plan had to be abandoned: the Sqn subsequently reverted to Div control.
2 Para Bn & Bde HQ Gp
171500 : 2 Para Bn moved off with 95% of their personnel.
171530 : Bde HQ moved off with 98% of their personnel. Slight opposition was met along the route but it was successfully dealt with by A Coy, which was leading.
171800 (1) : C Coy was detached to capture the rly bridge 707764 but the southern span was blown by the enemy: the company resumed the advance into the town well in rear of the rest of the Bn and was ambushed in one of the parks. It was forced into a hotel for the night 17/18. On the morning of the 18 Sep the enemy surrounded the hotel with tanks and S.P. guns and started to blast it to pieces. C Coy was forced to make a dash for it in sections and did not become a formed body again.
171800 (2) : The remainder of the Bn plus Bde HQ moved into the town with B Coy leading.
172000 : The main bridge was reported by R/T to have been reached by the leading Coy.
172300 : The main bridge was captured intact.
18-19 Sep : The enemy counter attacked the bridge with ever increasing violence bringing in Tiger tanks and S.P. guns.
By the evening of 19 Sep all fighting had ceased in the area of the bridge.
3 Para Bn
171500 : The Bn moved off with 95% personnel.
171600 : Strong opposition encountered in square 6878 where the Bn was forced to spend the night.
171800 : C Coy was detached to do a left flanking movement along the line of the railway. Ten men of this Coy subsequently reached the bridge but apart from this nothing else is known of the Coy.
180400 : The remainder of the Bn disengaged to the South, with B Coy leading, and entered ARNHEM on the southern Route. There was slight resistance on the road in.
180800 : The Bn bumped into stiff opposition at 719779 and was forced into houses. Enemy fire increased in intensity during the day.
181600 : The Commanding Officer ordered the Bn to advance to the bridge under a left flanking movement along the line of the railway. The enemy fire plan in the area of the rly did not allow this and the Bn gradually disintegrated into small groups. 60 all ranks subsequently reached 706774 during the afternoon of 19 Sep and were absorbed into LONSDALE force.
1 Para Bn
171600 : The Bn moved off with 95% personnel.
171700 : Resistance was met on the line of the railway 66585 which the Bn by-passed to the North.
171800 : R Coy bumped a strong enemy position with tanks and S.P. guns at 676818 and was immediately fully committed. The remainder of the Bn broke off and endeavoured to reach the Main Road East of this position.
171900 : S Coy now in the lead encountered strong opposition at 692811.
Night 17/18 : S Coy broke off the engagement and led the Bn SOUTH to the 3 Bn Route.
180530 : S Coy ambushed at 698785 and suffered heavy casualties.
181600 : Strong opposition encountered at 725777 and T Coy was split up.
181700 : The Bn was regrouped and ordered to get through to the bridge at all costs, in small parties if necessary.
181730 : Enemy fire power prevented a break through and the remnants were ordered back to 725777. A further advance was tried but failed.
190700 : The Bn in conjunction with elements from other units of the Div advanced to the area of the CCS, 729780 but was again forced back to 725777.
191700 : 120 all ranks of the Bn reached 706774 and were later absorbed into LONSDALE force.
STORY OF 1 PARACHUTE BRIGADE.
OUTLINE GROUND PLAN.
1. TASK. The task of 1 Para Bde was to seize the main Rhine Br at ARNHEM and to hold it until the arrival of the remainder of 1 Airborne Div expected in the afternoon or evening of D+1. The Bde would then continue to hold the inner perimeter of the bridge with one Bn as Div reserve. Relief by 30 Corps was expected any time after 24 hrs. In the event of the main bridge being blown, the Bde was to seize the Rly Br intact.
2. TROOPS. 1 Para Bde with under comd -
1 Para Sqn R.E.
16 Para Fd Amb.
1 Airlanding A/Tk Bty (12 6-prs and 4 17 prs).
1 Airlanding Recce Sqn (less one Tp).
In Support -
3 Air Landing Lt Bty (8 75 m.m.)
D.Z. and L.Z. NORTH of HEELSUM.
Time of landings. Gliders 1330 hrs. Paratps 1350-1410 hrs.
In general terms the plan was for 2 Para Bn to capture the Bridge moving by HEELSUM and thence along the rd running close to the North bank of the RHINE. This Bn then to hold the South end of the Br and the NORTH end facing WEST and N.W. 3 Para Bn to move at the same time by the main HEELSUM - ARNHEM Rd and to assist 2 Para Bn by approaching the Br from the NORTH, then to hold the NORTH end of the Br facing N.E. and EAST. 1 Para Bn to move on orders of Bde H.Q., when it was clear that 2 and 3 Para Bns were satisfactorily launched, and to occupy the high ground just NORTH of ARNHEM to deny the enemy observation of the inner defensive perimeter and to control the approaches to the town from NORTH and N.W. from APELDOORN and EDE. This Bn to retain One coy in Bde res about 753793. Each Bn had under comd -
One Tp A/Tk guns.
Tp or Det R.E.
Sec. Fd Amb.
Bde H.Q. and remaining attached troops to follow 2 Para Bn. 16 Para Fd Amb to set up D.S. at ELIZABETH HOSP 727779. 1 Airlanding Recce Sqn less one tp was to land first and attempt a "coup de main" against the Bridge. 2 Para Bn route to be called 'LION'. 3 Para Bn route to be called 'TIGER'. Rd EDE - ARNHEM to be called 'LEOPARD'. 1 Para Bn to move N.E. from D.Z. over Rly and then follow LEOPARD to edge of town. 1 Air Landing Bde would remain to protect DZ & LZ area for 2nd lift on D+1 and would deny approaches from WEST between LION and LEOPARD.
STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED.
4. The flight was excellent. No flak until just before the drop which was perfect; dead accurate both for time and place.
5. R.V. arrangements worked satisfactorily and coloured smokes showed up well. Bns were in touch with Bde H.Q. by wireless and L.O. within ½ hr. Bns were about 100 per cent strength except for a few 3" mortars and P.I.A.Ts. OC. A/Tk Bty reported 11 out of 12 6-prs. I do not know how many 17-prs arrived but the majority of Bren carriers landed safely. There was no opposition on D.Z. or L.Z. but 2 Bn ambushed a number of German vehicles at HEELSUM - their R.V. - and took about 20 prisoners. Dutch contacted on D.Z. said that there were very few Germans in ARNHEM. 2 and 3 Bns moved off soon after 1500 hours by which time they had their A/Tk guns and most of their tpt. Slight delay in arrival of Bde HQ tpt. In view of satisfactory drop and reports, I ordered 1 Bn to move about 1530 hrs. My wireless Jeep arrived about then and I moved off via 'LION' with my I.O., - Capt Taylor, telling B.M. to follow along with Bde H.Q. directly tpt arrived. Before moving I heard that Recce Sqn had lost most of their tpt. This meant that they could not carry out "coup de main" task and I ordered 2 and 3 Bns to move with all speed and, if necessary or possible, not to hesitate to send one Coy forward in Jeeps in view of probable light opposition.
6. About 1600 hrs I met C.O. 2 Bn about 666770. His leading Coy 'A' - Major Tatham-Warter - was in contact 673772. I told C.O. to by-pass opposition to avoid delay. He said he thought it could be cleared quite easily.
7. Owing to reports of enemy in woods between LION and TIGER I returned via HEELSUM thence along TIGER. There were a number of destroyed German cars on both routes and several dead Germans.
8. I contacted C.O. 3 Para Bn about 683785 at about 1630 hrs. His leading Coy was also in contact just EAST of that point - B Coy, Major Waddy. The Bn was rather strung out as the heavy weapons could not keep up. Soon after I arrived two armd cars caused some trouble coming in from a side rd and knocking out two jeeps. The 6-pr could not get into action quick enough. The ground was excellent for delaying, with thick woods, well rided, and solid houses.
9. I decided to wait and watch events here and soon after my B.M. came up on the set and said the G.O.C. was not satisfied with the speed of our progress. I, myself, was determined that we should not be delayed by minor opposition on the roads; I had already spoken to C.O. 2 Bn and now did so to C.O. 3 Bn in person and to Adjt 1 Bn on wireless. I learned from Adjt 1 Bn that they were in contact with enemy forces estimated a Bn with four tanks about 675920 where their tanks had just reached LEOPARD.
10. Communications with 1 Para Bn were bad and from this time I had practically no more information from them. In fact, their leading Coy "R" - Major Timothy - had run into very stiff opposition about this point and had suffered about 50 per cent casualties. The remainder of the Bn had by-passed moving SOUTH and parallel to 'LEOPARD' and by 1900 hrs had reached Rd junc 690809. They were about to push NORTH on to LEOPARD when 5 tanks and 15 half-track vehicles passed X-rd 691811 moving WEST, while infantry were located digging in Wood 694809.
11. It was obvious that the enemy were now in the process of occupying the high ground astride LEOPARD in strength and Lt. Col. Dobie sent back for R Coy before bypassing to SOUTH again. As 'R' Coy did not appear and were out of wireless touch, the 2 i/c was sent back while the Bn occupied a posn of all-round defence.
12. From now till 2200 hrs, spasmodic fighting went on and at that time 2 i/c returned to say that R Coy had 50 per cent casualties and could not get them out. The C.O. sent all available tpt to help and 2 i/c was ordered to bring R Coy along. At 0100 hrs R Coy still had not arrived and we will leave 1 Para Bn for the moment.
13. Meanwhile about 1730 hrs with 3 Para Bn, I had decided to return to my H.Q. when the enemy opened automatic fire on the road from the woods about BILDERBERG 679786. C Coy - Major Lewis - was just moving up with orders to by-pass the enemy frontal opposition to the NORTH, moving to the railway and thence back to the main TIGER route further EAST. The enemy appeared to be withdrawing in front of 'B' Coy while the rest of the Bn closed up to about 682787.
14. The enemy were still firing on a portion of the road about here from the NORTH and 'A' Coy - who had arrived about 1800 hrs, were ordered to send a patrol to investigate the thick country just NORTH of the rd. About this time, the Div Comd appeared in a jeep and was shot at at the same point. He said he was expecting Major Gough and part of the Recce Sqn to move up that rd and it was decided we should both wait till he arrived. The enemy was still troublesome from NORTH of the rd and eventually about 1830 hrs Major Dennison took two Pls of 'A' Coy to deal with the opposition.
15. About 1800 hrs the enemy brought some heavy and most accurate mortar fire on the remains of 3 Para Bn in this area 680785. There were a number of casualties and I decided to move this party - consisting of 'A' Coy less two pls, Tp R.E. and part of H.Q. Coy - out of this area and close up on the rest of the Bn who had moved East down the road. At the same time Major Dennison and his two pls were ordered to rejoin us. It was obvious that the enemy had an O.P. in the house or trees near the road and shortly after we left the area, very heavy mortar and Nebelwerfer fire came down. We closed up on Bn HQ ¼ mile down the rd. Among the casualties were Capt. Thesiger 2 i/c A Coy and the G.O.C's driver and operator.
16. It was now about 1930 hrs and dusk. I decided with the C.O. that the Bn less C Coy should take up an all-round defensive position where they were about 690784. C Coy to do the same wherever they were. The G.O.C. was not in touch with Div H.Q. but I spoke to the B.M. on my set and told him that the Div Comd and myself would remain with 3 Bn for the night. He told me that 2 Bn were progressing well and had reached the Rly Br 707765. Their route - "LION" appeared to be the best approach to the Bridge. Both of us were out of touch with 1 Bn, last heard of about 691811. I ordered Bde H.Q. to follow on after 2 Para Bn.
17. At last light on D. Day I was not worried about the situation. The enemy had certainly reacted quickly and were holding the two main rds from the WEST, TIGER AND LEOPARD, but 2 Bn were now making good progress after overcoming early opposition. Owing to bad communications with 1 Bn I had not got a true picture of the scale of opposition confronting them.
18. Soon after dark, Major Dennison returned with two pls of A Coy; they had encountered a strong enemy position of about one bn in the area of the BILDERBERG. Before receiving orders to withdraw they had overrun three M.G. posts killing about 9 Germans and taking 20 prisoners. They had had about 20 wounded themselves. 3 Bn casualties now amounted to 4 killed and 35 wounded - several seriously. The serious cases required immediate evacuation but, as patrols sent out later in the night found enemy both East and West of us on TIGER, it was impossible to evacuate them either back to 1 Air Landing Bde D.S. and WOLFHEZEN or forward to the ELIZABETH HOSP 726779 where the Bde D.S. was established. This latter was, incidentally, confirmed by the Bn M.O. Capt. Rutherford, who telephoned the hospital on the civil line. All casualties had, therefore, to be kept.
19. From now onwards, for the rest of the night, wireless ceased to function. The 2 i/c Major Bush was sent to contact 'C' Coy, this he was unable to do, though he found a number of dead Germans and burnt and burning German ammunition lorries in their wake just short of the railway. In fact this coy moved via the railway to the Bridge where it came under command 2 Para Bn.
20. About 2130 hrs, just before wireless finally failed, information came from the B.M. that 2 Bn were on the main Br which was intact.
21. The C.O. and I agreed during the night and as a result of patrolling, to disengage the Bn before first light and move South through OOSTERBEEK and thence via 'LION' to the bridge.
22. Meanwhile 2 Para Bn followed by Bde H.Q. and some attached tps including 16 Fd Amb, had progressed well. The initial opposition had soon been outflanked. An armoured car had caused some delay and casualties from the railway onwards. C Coy moved South to the Rly Br, but it was blown before they could cross. The C.O. expected opposition from DEN BRINK 7178 which overlooked the road and B Coy were ordered to occupy it - this they did in face of considerable opposition and after suffering casualties.
23. 'A' Coy were able to move South of this feature and entered the town keeping close to the river. Small parties of enemy were quickly dealt with and about 40 prisoners taken. About 2000 hrs they arrived at the North end of the Br to find enemy tpt crossing from South North. At 2045 an assault to seize the South end by one Pl of 'A' Coy - Lieut. Grayburn - was launched, but had to be abandoned in face of fire from a flak gun in a pillbox on the Br and from an armd car.
24. Meanwhile, wireless comn between Bn HQ and 'B' and 'C' Coys had broken down and the North end of the Br was consolidated by 'A' Coy, Bn H.Q. & H.Q. Coy & Bde H.Q.
25. A patrol was dispatched to contact 'B' Coy who had been ordered to the Pontoon Br 738775 to order them to cross the river by barge and seize the South end of the Br. No contact was made and R.E. recce revealed the fact that there were no barges. Actually, B Coy - less one platoon lost - arrived about 0500 hrs D+1 having met strong resistance at the Pontoon Br and suffered casualties.
26. During the night also, about one half 'C' Coy 3 Bn arrived. It is not clear what happened to the rest of the Coy, but it is believed that the leading platoon were ambushed whilst approaching the bridge from the North in the dark.
27. The situation with 2 Para Bn at first light D+1 was that they were holding the North end of the bridge with a mixed force of approximately Para Bn strength and including one of their 6-pr A/Tk guns. They were finally established in the strong buildings round the bridge and had already repulsed a determined counter-attack from the South of the bridge.
28. At 0430 D+1 3 Para Bn was successfully disengaged and moved S.E. through OOSTERBEEK to route 'LION'. Considerable firing was heard to the North and N.W. but no resistance was encountered until after crossing the railway where there was some sniping from the South. Finally 'B' Coy leading reached a point about 300 yards West of ELIZABETH Hospital 729779 before coming under fire from the A.A. positions South of the river and an armoured car on the road.
29. At this point - about 0630 hrs - the unwelcome discovery was made that the Bn had become split in half and that 'A' Coy, H.Q. Coy and all the transport including three out of four A/Tk guns and the G.O.C's. and my own wireless jeeps, were not following. The reason for this serious mistake was that the move had begun in pitch darkness and that the C.O. had led the Bn very fast and by a somewhat circuitous route. His Bn staff were very blameworthy that this occurred as I had personally sent several messages forward during the move to find out whether my jeep was following.
30. There was no wireless touch with the straying Coys and an effort was made to push on. The A.A. fire was, to a certain extent, neutralized by 3" mortar and L.M.G. fire, though the only 6 Pr was lost by a direct hit from a 88 m.m. Flak gun. 'B' Coy infiltrated forward and by about 0830 hrs reported contact with some men from 2 Bn about 400 yards East of ELIZABETH Hospital. This was probably their lost Coy - 'C' Coy. My I.O. had, with the aid of a friendly Dutchman, spoken to the Div F.S.O. on the bridge. He reported it held by one Coy of 2 Para Bn but was vague as to how much of 2 Bn was there. Soon afterwards, an enemy counter-attack was reported coming from the town and consisting of infantry with one or two tanks. As a result of this, 'B' Coy was concentrated and the Bn, consisting of Bn H.Q., 'B' Coy, Tp R.E. occupied some strong houses each side of the main rd just West of ELIZABETH Hosp. Here we will leave them for the moment and return to 1 Para Bn.
31. At 0100 hrs D+1, since 'R' Coy had not arrived, guides were left and the Bn moved South with the object of reaching their objective via the town; they had heard that the bridge was in our hands, but had no comns to Bde H.Q. Going through the woods was very difficult with A/Tk guns and transport. An enemy post at X tracks about 697797 was driven out with casualties and at 0430 hrs, the Bn reached Rd junc 709783 and the leading Coy 'S' - Major Stark - encountered strong enemy resistance from astride the road 713782. It will be remembered that at this time, 3 Para Bn was moving South from this same rd - route 'TIGER' - only about 1½ miles to the West.
32. Enemy resistance included armoured cars, M.Gs, 20 m.m. and mortars, 'S' Coy attacked round left flank and gained Northern part of enemy positions, inflicting casualties. 'S' Coy had 30 casualties.
33. At 0530 hrs, the C.O. received information through his F.O.O. that 2 Bn was in urgent need of reinforcements. He decided to disengage and to by-pass via South and so to Bridge.
34. About 0700 hrs, 1 Para Bn picked up H.Q. Coy, 3 Para Bn which, it will be remembered, had become separated together with 'A' Coy from 3 Para Bn. Soon afterwards the Bn ran into mortar and shell fire about Rly Br 712775. The enemy were in strength astride the road at Houses 712226, in Factory 720774, and area Rly Br 715780. Four armd cars and one tank were seen at this Br but moved to high ground 718778 which was strongly held. It would appear from this that the enemy, having initially blocked the two main rds, TIGER and LEOPARD and inadvertently allowed 2 Bn and part of 3 Bn to get into the town, had now closed the last gap just after 3 Bn had passed and were holding in strength DEN BRINK and the houses and factory covering the route LION to the South of it. Possibly the occupation of DEN BRINK by 'B' Coy 2 Bn on the previous evening had caused the enemy to withdraw from it and allow 3 Bn to slip through.
35. At 0830 hrs, 1 Bn less 'R' Coy and most of H.Q. Coy which was with 'R' Coy, plus H.Q. Coy 3 Bn, were held up by strong enemy resistance on the line of the rly. The Bn had been moving and fighting almost continuously for 15 hours and 'S' Coy had about 30 per cent casualties - here we will leave them and return to 2 Bn on the Bridge.
36. At first light, Major Murray - O.C. 1 Para Sqn R.E. - did a careful recce of the bridge and found that it was not prepared for demolition. During the morning, armd cars attempted to cross from the South, but ten armd cars and half tracks were destroyed by 6 prs and P.I.A.Ts. Throughout this and succeeding days, the Bn position was heavily and continuously mortared, with little effect on the strongly built houses. There was also a good deal of light flak from South of the river.
37. During the afternoon and evening a strong attack developed along the river bank from the EAST. This attack was held until dark and two tanks were destroyed, one by 6-pr and one by P.I.A.T. Just before dark the Germans burnt down four of the houses, Bde HQ only narrowly escaping a 'martyrs pyre'.
38. By last light on D+1, it was reported that 1 and 3 Bns could not get through, but there were reports in the evening that 11 Bn and 2 S. Staffs were on their way.
39. During the night some adjustments were made to the position and the Eastern flank strengthened. Another counter-attack from the SOUTH was repulsed and Major Wallis 2 i/c killed.
40. We will return to 3 Para Bn just West of ELIZABETH Hosp. The expected counter-attack developed about 0900 hrs and from then until about 1600 hrs the Bn was attacked at frequent intervals by infantry supported by mortars and a Mk IV tank and armd car. The attacks were not pressed home and casualties were light. Mortaring was ineffective except that Major Waddy - O.C. 'B' Coy - was killed in the open. The Mk IV tank narrowly escaped destruction from Gammon bombs and, from then onwards, kept its distance.
41. Information received through the F.O.O. showed what was happening on the bridge and that they were receiving artillery support. It was obvious that, although they were holding their own, they would soon need more information. 3 Bn F.O.O. was not in wireless comn with Control and could get no artillery support throughout.
42. Wireless communication to 'A' Coy was very bad but the Coy was understood to be just EAST of the rly - or a mile to our EAST - about 0900 hrs.
43. I would emphasise here that I still saw no cause for alarm in the situation. The Bridge was ours. The opposition ahead of us did not seem serious and we were only waiting for the rest of the Bn when we would be strong enough to continue the advance. No news had been received from 1 Bn since the night before and I felt that they would soon begin to influence the situation in our favour.
44. As the morning wore on, I began to get rather worried and impatient at the delay and strenuous efforts were made to regain touch with 'A' Coy. This was done about 1230 hrs and it was discovered that they were not across the railway but, together with two Coys of 1 Bn, were staging an attack on the area DEN BRINK and South of it at 1315 hrs. It will be recalled that 1 Bn less 'R' Coy were still held up by strong opposition in this area about 0530 hrs, but this was the first information I had received of it and it came as something of a shock to find that the enemy was so strong just West of us. Lt. Col. Fitch emphasised to Major Dennison - OC 'A' Coy - that it was vital he should reach us as he had with him two carrier loads of reserve ammunition badly needed at the bridge. We now awaited with impatience the arrival of this force and I made a tentative plan with Lt. Col. Fitch for our further advance to the bridge.
45. At 1430 hrs the remains of 'A' Coy and the Bn Defence Platoon arrived under Lt. Burwash. They totalled no more than 30-40 men with only one officer. They had suffered considerable casualties in breaking through a very strong enemy position and Major Dennison had been badly wounded. About 10 men from 1 Bn also arrived. They had become separated from the Bn. I could get no coherent information as to what had happened to the rest of 1 Para Bn, except that they had had very heavy casualties.
46. It was decided to push on as soon as more ammunition could be distributed. The main road was under heavy fire so I agreed with Lt. Col. Fitch that we should move North through the gardens and houses till we struck the railway and then try that approach. Meanwhile we had just heard from a Dutch Liaison Officer who had arrived from Div H.Q. in a carrier that the 2nd lift was not landing till 1500 hrs. The G.O.C. was able to get a message through to Div H.Q. on this officers set. He had put up a very fine effort in reaching us at all and had made an unsuccessful effort to get ammunition to the bridge. He said he would renew the attempt after dark.
47. We moved off at about 1600 hrs - our total strength must have been about 130-140 all ranks. Progress was slow and difficult owing to high walls between the gardens. There was some sniping and we were very bunched and vulnerable. There was a long delay after crossing the street parallel to LION / TIGER and half way between it and the railway. Here I decided with the G.O.C. and my I.O. to take a short cut to the ELIZABETH Hospital. I was wounded and had to be left in a cellar in a small house about 100 yards West of the hospital.
48. 3 Bn were unable to make any progress and the Bn came under heavy mortar and MG fire from the railway embankment North and N.W. of the hospital. Before it got dark they again took up a defensive position in the houses little more than 300 yards North of where we had fought all that day. Here we will leave them and return to 1 Para Bn.
49. At 0900 hrs T Coy 1 Para Bn - Major Perrin-Brown - put in a most determined attack astride 'LION' and gained the houses at 717776. The attack was supported by Lt arty and 3 Para Bn Mortars and M.M.Gs. which had arrived with their H.Q. Coy. A further attack on the factory on the right of the road at 720774 failed largely owing to 20 m.m. fire from flak positions on the river bank.
50. Meanwhile, 'A' Coy 3 Bn - Major Dennison - had arrived and Lt. Col. Dobie planned another co-ordinated attack. 'A' Coy 3 Bn was to seize the high ground North of the rd - DEN BRINK - and 'T' Coy was to attack astride the road on to the factory. The attack was supported by 3 Bn Mortars & M.M.Gs. and the Lt Artillery. Lt. Col. Thompson (C.O. Lt Regt) was there throughout and he and the F.O.O. gave excellent support. This was the attack of which I had been informed and went in about 1400 hrs. It was successful and heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy. A 6 pr was used to destroy a pillbox in the Factory area, and an armd car was destroyed. Meanwhile 'S' Coy 1 Bn were attacked from the rear. They held this and received 6 minor casualties. Fighting had been extremely bitter and 'T' Coy who had carried out three attacks since 0800 hrs were reduced to 22 men.
51. About 1300 hrs 1 Bn reached just West of rd junc 726778 and came under heavy fire from 88 m.m., M.G. and mortars from directly ahead. The rd junc was gained after a short battle supported by 3" mortar fire. 1 Bn must therefore have arrived 100 yards West of 3 Bn positions just as the latter were forming up to move off to the North and it was a pity that no contact was made.
52. 1 Bn continued to advance East down the South side of the main rd but could not get past rd junc 728779 owing to tanks. In fact, as 3 Bn moved off, 1 Bn came up against the same resistance that had held 3 Bn. At this point, however, Lt Arty and MMGs destroyed or neutralised two more A.A. guns on the South bank of the river.
53. About 1700 hrs the Bn crossed the rd under cover of smoke and tried the North side moving by the gardens of the houses just vacated by 3 Bn. They came under heavy fire just West of ELIZABETH Hospital and it was impossible to get any vehicles forward. Here they were held and there was no doubt that this advance of 1 Bn astride the main rd, allowed 3 Bn to disengage with so little difficulty and so few casualties.
54. At 1830 hrs D+1 Lt. Col. Dobie received a message from the bridge - presumably from B.M. or Lt. Col. Frost - that he must get through. He had left only about 100 men and any further advance by daylight was out of the question.
55. At 2000 hrs, the S Staffs arrived bringing with them 'R' Coy 1 Bn and the portion of H.Q. Coy which had been with 'R' Coy. 'R' Coy had about 40 men. A plan was made between the two C.Os. for a further advance on the bridge starting at 2100 hrs. More ammunition was issued.
56. Information then came that the bridge had been over-run and the attack was put off.
57. At 2300 hrs 1 Bn F.O.O. heard 2 Bn F.O.O. on br calling for fire. Lt. Col. Dobie therefore decided to get to the bridge and sent a runner to Div H.Q. to say this. About that time 11 Bn arrived and Lt. Col. Lea, the C.O. was brought into the plan.
58. At 0100 hrs D+2, orders were received to withdraw to OOSTERBEEK.
59. At 0230 hrs D+2, these orders were cancelled and Lt. Col. Dobie made a fresh plan. 1 Bn to advance on RIGHT by river bank. S. Staffs LEFT by main rd with HQ Coy and tpt of 1 Bn. 11 Bn to follow 1 Bn axis. Start time 0330 hrs. S. Staffs were ½ hr late.
60. 1 Bn crossed start line about 0400 hrs and reached the rd at river bank 730779 just beyond ELIZABETH Hospital. Here, Capt. Dorrien-Smith, 3 Bn, met the C.O. and warned him that the bank was impossible owing to heavy opposition.
61. The advance continued and at 0430 hrs very heavy opposition was encountered - mortars, shelling and M.G. fire. Also enemy armour and half tracks on high ground to the left. Heavy casualties were inflicted on enemy infantry with bayonet and grenades and the way was cleared as far as rd junc 739778 just beyond Pontoon bridge. Remainder of enemy infantry ran or surrendered.
62. At 0500, 1 Bn was attacked by tanks, from the town just above them. These kept on coming to the edge and firing and dropping grenades down the bank. 'R' Coy retaliated with Gammon bombs. Opposition ahead was growing more intense. A number of German prisoners were accompanying the Bn.
63. By 0600 hrs the position was becoming desperate. The S. Staffs on the left flank appeared to have withdrawn and, as a result, the Bn was enfiladed and overlooked from the river front. Tanks were engaging them at point blank range. At this time the C.O. made his last check up on numbers which were - R Coy. 6 men, S Coy. 15 men, T Coy. 8 men, Bn H.Q. 10 men, H.Q. Coy was moving with S. Staffs. Wireless communication had gone but a final effort was made to get into buildings on the high ground. At about 0630 hrs the C.O. was wounded and it is probable that the survivors were overrun by 0700 hrs D+2 day. Nothing is known of 11 Para Bn who were not seen again. It is possible that they were attacked from the rear whilst moving behind 1 Bn.
64. 3 Para Bn had a very similar experience on the early morning of D+2. The Bn had no difficulty in maintaining its position in the houses N.W. of ELIZABETH Hospital during the night. Capt. Dorrien-Smith took out a patrol during the night to try the river bank. It was probably on his way back from this patrol that he met Lt. Col. Dobie, C.O. 1 Bn. In any case, Lt. Col. Fitch decided to attempt this way and he followed on the heels of 1 Para Bn. They suffered a similar fate. Lt. Col. Fitch himself was killed and there were three of the few remaining officers wounded in ELIZABETH Hospital.
65. We now return to 2 Para Bn on the bridge. It is certain that the gallant though fruitless efforts of 1 and 3 Bns to reach the bridge drew off much of the enemy opposition and, inflicting as it did, heavy casualties, allowed the defenders of the bridge a little more breathing space.
66. German attacks from the East were resumed early on D+2 and continued throughout the morning. About mid-day, three tanks got into positions near the river and shelled one of the key houses just East of the bridge. The house had to be evacuated, but Capt. Frank - Comd 'A' Coy - took two PIATs and scored three hits on the tanks, driving them and two more away. Lt. McDermott's platoon of 'A' Coy then counter-attacked the house and re-occupied it, although Lt. McDermott was mortally wounded.
67. A heavy gun South of the river now caused serious trouble, demolishing the top storeys of two houses just West of the bridge and causing 'B' Coy some casualties. Two armd cars, also from the West penetrated along the river bank but one was destroyed with a PIAT by Major Murray R.E. and the other withdrew.
68. Pressure continued until dark and some more burning houses had to be evacuated. A Tiger or Panther tank caused much trouble by running down our line of houses and putting a shell into each. Major Tatham-Warter - acting C.O. 2 Bn - was injured by the blast and Major Gough took over command of 2 Bn temporarily. The 6 pr positions were now under intense small arms fire and could not be manned. Capt Frank - OC 'A' Coy - had also been wounded and Capt. Hoyer-Millar took his place.
69. The position had now deteriorated. Many houses had been burnt down and casualties had reached alarming proportions. These were in the cellar of Bde H.Q. where Capt. Logan - M.O. 2 Para Bn - and Capt. Wright - M.O. Bde H.Q. did magnificent work.
70. On D+3 day, pressure from the East continued all morning. A party of Bde Sigs and RASC under the Staff Captain - Captain Briggs - who had been attacked incessantly, were burnt out of the houses one by one and gradually the troops holding the East perimeter were forced out and finally beyond the end of the bridge. Ammunition was getting short and it must be remembered that no supplies of any sort had reached the Bn.
71. Lt. Col. Frost - OC Force - and Major Crawley - OC 'B' Coy - were both wounded during the day. Major Gough took over command, referring matters of importance to Lt. Col. Frost. Major Tate took over 2 Bn but Major Tatham-Warter was able to resume command later.
72. The remnants of the force were now holding 6 houses just to the N.W. and controlling the end of the bridge. Alternative positions had been dug in the gardens anticipating the firing of the houses. During the afternoon, 4 or 5 German tanks were able to cross the bridge from the North as the 6 pr positions could no longer be manned. News also arrived that 30 Corps would attack the South end of the br at 1700 hrs and the Bn were confident of holding out for one more day.
73. An 88 m.m. gun was then brought up to close range and shelling the remaining houses. It was silenced for a time by 3" mortar fire but resumed just before dark and then three important houses of the last 6 were set on fire by phosphorous bombs. Bde H.Q. caught on fire and no sooner were the wounded now numbering about 280, moved to another house, than that too caught fire.
74. The order was now given to surrender the wounded. The enemy got them out of the building in time, but took advantage of the confused situation to infiltrate into the gardens.
75. The force was now split into several parties and had to withdraw from the gardens of the burning houses. An attempt to re-occupy them early on the morning of D+4 was not successful and organized resistance was at its end. The survivors, probably numbering about 100 - 150 attempted to make their way back through the town to rejoin the Div, but were probably nearly all rounded up.
76. The men fought magnificently, particularly 'A' Coy and Bde Sigs & RASC party under Capt. Briggs.
77. No mention has been made of 16 Para Fd Amb which set up in ELIZABETH Hospital on the evening of D day. Later that night, the Germans re-occupied that area and, despite every protest, insisted on taking prisoners and marching off the whole party except the Surgical teams. It was only by the firmness and tact shown by Major Longland that these teams were not also taken, leaving the wounded unattended. Continuous operating by the two surgeons forestalled several attempts by the Germans to do this.
78. It is understood that about 150 all ranks of the Brigade fought under Major Lonsdale, and survivors of 11 Para Bn for 6 days with the rest of the Div OOSTERBEEK. This party was mostly 1 and 3 Para Bns.
79. So ended a very gallant and bitter struggle. Officers and men fought magnificently against superior numbers of first-class S.S. Troops well supplied with tanks and S.P. guns. The ARNHEM Br was captured and held for over three days and that was their task.
DIARY OF EVENTS 1 PARA BDE H.Q.
SUNDAY SEP 17
1410 hrs. Bde HQ landed DZ 1000 yds NORTH of HEELSUM. The Air Force gave us a perfect flight in excellent formation throughout. Saw few fighters, but the ones we did see appeared to be very busy ground straffing and had caused several fires. The whole of Western Holland seemed to be flooded and as we passed over the coast line, large numbers of C 47's, which had already dropped their load passed above us on the return flight. Approx 10 mins before the drop we passed over some guns dug in along a hedge, they seemed to be firing energetically, and at us, but it did not worry anyone unduly and did no harm. Just before this we had seen a Glider which had force landed in a field near a village. Already it was entirely swamped with enthusiastic Dutchmen and a bean feast was in progress. As we approached the DZ we could already see hundreds of parachutes on the ground, the plane throttled down and plumb over the right place the green light went on and out we went. Everyone was rather slow getting off the DZ. This may have been caused by all distances on the ground being rather more than one had imagined looking at the map. Also the coloured smokes which were to have guided everyone to their RV's were remarkable by their absence. A red container chute had conveniently lodged in a tree in 3 Bns RV area.
1420 hrs. Arrived Bde HQ RV, no troops yet arrived. Slightly apprehensive lest any German patrol investigating activity on DZ would cause unpleasantness, but decided that presence of 2 Bn in HEELSUM would probably deter patrols. Several Dutchmen had come out from HEELSUM to greet us; found two who could speak English well and took them with me to the RV interrogating them while we walked. They reported that there were a very few third rate troops in HEELSUM and the neighbouring villages with very little tpt and probably only armed with rifles. In ARNHEM there were rather more but again only third rate Luftwaffe administrative troops. This news was very satisfactory if true, and was certainly borne out by the complete lack of opposition on the DZ, in spite of the fact that the first parachutists had landed well over an hour before (21 Ind Para Coy).
1425 hrs. Remainder Bde HQ started to arrive at RV; Bde Comd and Capt Taylor among first to arrive. Gave Capt Taylor layout of Bde HQ at RV and detailed him to dispose personnel as they arrived.
1445 hrs. Bde HQ personnel coming in slowly; approx 80% had already reported in. Bde Sigs had set up 68 set and were in touch with 2 & 3 Bns. LOs were called for. 2 Bn reported captured several prisoners which were brought in shortly afterwards. Very nondescript types, some Luftwaffe, no infm of importance. No tpt had yet arrived. Capt Briggs had gone off at approx 1430 to tpt RV with instructions to bring it back immediately, but no sign as yet.
1510 hrs. In wireless communication with all Bns. LOs reported in. All nearly 100% correct except for odd mortar and PIAT. The A.Tk, RE and Fd Amb all OK. Bde Comd ordered 2 & 3 Bns to advance & order sent out over wireless.
1530 hrs. Bde tpt arrived RV. Bde Comd ordered 1 Bn to advance and himself moved off immediately with Capt Taylor, in a jeep behind Bn. Bde HQ delayed for some time while tpt sorted out and the 22 Sets unpacked and mounted.
1545 hrs. Bde HQ and att tps moved from RV down tracks to HEELSUM with two sections of the Defence Platoon leading followed by Bde HQ and att tps.
1610 hrs. Crossed main road East of HEELSUM. Several German lorries and cars strewn about the road where 2 Bn had done some ambushing. [None?] of the cars would go (Capt Killick, the F.S.O. stayed behind and eventually persuaded a much-peppered Fiat to move very slowly under its own steam). Soon after crossing the main road 2 Bn reported that their leading elements had bumped light opposition on LION about two miles East of HEELSUM and the tail of 2 Bn column came to a halt, causing Bde H.Q. to halt too. About ten minutes later (now about 1620) 3 Bn reported their leading elements had struck enemy opposition on TIGER at approx 685785.
1630 hrs. G.O.C. and C.R.A. passed Bde H.Q. at speed - G.O.C. stopped to ask situation and to find Bde Comd. Informed him that 2 and 3 Bns held up, Bde Comd with 2 Bn and no report from 1 Bn.
1700 hrs. We had progressed a short distance by fits and starts during the last half-hour. The Bde H.Q. column was very strung out and vulnerable but little could be done to protect it. The civilians were all extremely pleased to see us, draped orange paper from the front of their houses, and brought out milk, water and fruit for us. Some I even heard got some beer but we were unlucky. We had retained one of the Dutchmen whom I had picked up on the D.Z. and he was acting as our guide. The other we had left behind with Jack Cranmer Byng and the R.A.S.C. Platoon. His job was to collect lorries and farm carts to help the R.A.S.C. platoon to collect the spare arms containers from the D.Z. At about this time the G.O.C. and the C.R.A. came racing back in their jeeps, the General in a bad temper. He had been unable to find the Bde Comd who in the meantime had gone to 3 Bn and was on the whole not satisfied with the speed of our advance. I passed this message to the Bde Comd and warned him that the General was on his way up to see him.
1730 hrs. 2nd Bn suddenly put on a spurt followed by the two sections of the Defence Platoon. By the time the Bde column had been goaded into action and a bevy of guides had decided, after long argument, which of two roads to take, neither of them being shown on the map, contact had been lost with our protecting elements. However, after fifteen minutes of very rapid movement the defence platoon were caught up with again and from then onwards the advance up to OOSTERBEEK was uneventful and uninterrupted.
1830 hrs. Just as the Bde H.Q. was entering the outskirts of OOSTERBEEK there was a loud explosion, and a section of the railway bridge at 707763 collapsed. There was also a certain amount of small arms fire in the area of the bridge. This was a great disappointment as we had hoped that as our troops were almost on the bridge that there was a chance of capturing it intact. Having got into the middle of OOSTERBEEK the advance was again held up by 2 Bn halting ahead. Firing was becoming more general now. 2 Bn were engaged in clearing up machine guns and snipers to the East - there was still intermittent firing from the railway bridge to the South, and there had also been sounds of a fairly brisk battle to the North and N.W. The situation from the Bde H.Q. point of view did not look too healthy. The enemy's reaction was rather more than had been expected and tanks and armoured cars had been reported. Bde H.Q. was strung out over some distance and included along it large numbers of unarmed medical personnel, odd German prisoners, which had accumulated up to about 40, and masses of M.T., and all the while the left flank was becoming increasingly exposed. As there was no sign of an immediate move forward I sent back a message to the column to dispose the R.E. and any other available troops (a Platoon of R.A.S.C were used) on the left flank to prevent an attack from that side. By this time it was beginning to get dark.
1930 hrs. Succeeded in getting through to the Bde Comd on the wireless. I told him that 2 Bn had succeeded in crossing the railway, were being delayed by light opposition, but hoped to push forward to the main bridge soon; also that the 2 Bn coy which had tried to capture intact the railway bridge had failed and that the bridge was blown. The Bde Comd told me that 1 Bn had run into trouble N.E. of WOLFHEZEN and were now trying to bypass it. 3 Bn had run into a packet at 685785, and as they were unable to push on were going to remain there for the night. He also ordered Bde H.Q. to continue the advance behind 2 Bn on to the main bridge. Just as I'd finished speaking on the air Freddie Gough turned up with two jeeps mounted with Vickers K guns. He asked us to pass a message back to Division asking them to direct all his jeeps along LION, but we could not get through. In the meantime, I had pulled back the two leading sections of the Bde Def Pl. into a tighter perimeter and to cover the N.E. flank. As soon as this order had been carried out 2 Bn suddenly moved off in front of us and disappeared into the night. Immediately Bde H.Q. were ordered to move off again, but it was fifteen minutes before all the defences had been withdrawn and sorted out into the column. In the meantime C Coy of 2 Bn which had had the unsuccessful crack at the railway bridge, passed through us and we followed on behind. This was the last that was ever seen of C Coy. They are believed to have taken a turning into the town, got trapped, and cut down nearly to the last man. The Bde column continued the advance behind 2 Bn passing several wrecked German vehicles left behind in their wake.
2015 hrs. Halted at 725777 to enable column to close up. Major Gough and I went to nearest house to view map with some light and to find out best route from civilians. Resumed advance, Bde H.Q. column taking right fork, Fd Ambulance taking left fork to Hospital. Almost immediately met Tony Harrison who had come back from the bridge, offered to lead us there as the route somewhat complicated. He told us the bridge was intact and that 2 Bn had one company on the North end of it.
2045 hrs. Halted Bde H.Q. column about 500 yards WEST of the bridge and went forward to 2 Bn HQ with Tony Harrison, leaving Bde H.Q. under Major Gough. Our main worry at this time was that, though we were taking every precaution to be silent, every few yards Dutch civilians would come rushing out of their houses shouting their welcomes at the top of their voices. Arrived at 2 Bn HQ and reported to Lt. Col. Frost. The situation was roughly as follows. A Coy was sitting astride the bridge, both in the buildings on each side and on the embankment. B Coy had been left behind on the Pontoon bridge and was going to be brought up to the buildings West of the main bridge. HQ Support Coy was occupying a large building West of the 2 Bn H.Q. After consultation it was agreed that I should establish Bde H.Q. East of the bridge and be responsible for the defence of the Eastern perimeter until 3 Bn arrived. With this plan in view I crossed to the East of the bridge with officer reps from each party and made a recce. On the return journey a German patrol down to the bridge threatened to cut the recce party off, but on the withdrawal of the patrol I again reported to Lt. Col. Frost with the result that the plan was altered. 'A' Coy had attempted to get to the South end of the bridge by attacking along the bridge, but running into fixed line M.G. had been repulsed with heavy casualties. Lt. Col. Frost now asked for the Bde Def Platoon to attempt a crossing of the river further West and then to assault the South end of the Bridge. I agreed to [this?] and put the Def Pl under command 2 Bn until further notice and [also?] provided a composite RAOC-RE-Bde Sigs Platoon about sixty strong under command of Capt. Briggs with Capt. Manley, Capt Mackay [and?] Lt. Cairns, to be put under command of 'A' Coy. The 4 Bde RASC under Capt. Gell, whose presence was a complete surprise to [me?] but a pleasant one, was ordered to occupy the house to the N.[E? of] the one occupied by the Support Coy. The remainder of Bde H.Q. which now consisted of a skeleton signal staff under Capt Marquand with the orderlies, batmen and clerks, occupied the attic of the building housing the support coy. In future this house will be known as the Bde H.Q. house. Also occupying the attic were Major Munford with his R.A. set, and Major Gough with the Recce sqn set. Soon the attic had become somewhat conspicuous with large aerials sticking out of every conceivable window and tile. In spite of all this activity, though not one set, even the 76 set could pick up the faintest whisper. The Bde 22 set was in touch, loud and clear all the time with 2 Bn H.Q. - 30 yards away - but that was all. David Wright and the medicoes established an ADS in the cellars of Bde HQ house, soon to become very overcrowded. The 2nd, 1st, and ground floors were occupied and put in a state of defence by HQ Coy. The M.T. of both 2 Bn and Bde was parked in the yard behind the house. In the meantime the Bde Def Pl had been unable to cross the river and were now recalled to occupy a building to the East of the bridge. They were put under command of 'A' Coy, which were now getting quite strong. Some more R.E. under Capt. Callaghan had also been put under command. In addition to this 'C' Coy of 3 Para Bn of 3 Para Bn under command of Major Lewis had succeeded in reaching a point just North of the bridge, having advanced along the railway line to Arnhem Station. They rather faded into the air when they arrived though - one platoon complete vanished while Major Lewis was giving his orders. Another platoon was ordered to occupy a house near to that occupied by the Def pl, and were never seen again. The third platoon joined Major Lewis in the School to the North of the bridge but were badly cut up before they reached it.
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 18.
0800 hrs. 'B' Coy, having met heavy resistance at the Pontoon bridge, losing one platoon, arrived at the main bridge, and occupied buildings to the West. At about this time Major Munford despatched Capt Harrison back to No 3 Bty, which was in action at the East end of our D.E.? to move forward to the OOSTERBEEK area. The reason for this was to bring the guns within range of the bridge. Owing to the fact that the enemy were in occupation of much of the area through which Capt Harrison had to pass, this journey was extremely hazardous, but by exercising great dash Capt Harrison succeeded in penetrating to his battery and bringing it forward to OOSTERBEEK. This resulted in not only having the guns within range of the bridge, but also brought the wireless within range and enabled Major Munford and Capt. Buchanan, the 2 Bn F.O.O. to give their fire orders. On the return journey to the bridge, Capt. Harrison was wounded and was admitted to 181 Fd Ambulance. As that showed signs of being captured two days later, he made his way back to his battery which he continued to command with great gallantry until the evacuation of the Division.
0700 hrs. Report received from Major Murray that the main bridge was NOT prepared for demolition. Major Arnold made final adjustments in the siting of his four 6-pr A/Tk guns.
0800 hrs. The Germans started to push a column consisting of armoured cars, half-tracks and lorries across the bridge from the South. There were already four or five lorries burning fiercely on the North end of the bridge which had been knocked out the night before but this did not deter them. A daisy chain of Hawkins grenades laid in pairs had been laid on the road in front of Bde H.Q., with a PIAT covering it. A certain amount of mortar and flak fire was first put down to cover the breakthrough. Then two half-track vehs made a dash for it. The first one went slap over the mine belt without damage and raced up the road. Hardly a shot was fired, everyone was so surprised and the Germans in the back had the cheek to wave to us. The next half track also got over the minebelt, though a mine went off under the track. This did not seem to damage the vehicle but one German sat on the back was catapulted into the air and landed in the road. When he hit the road he clanged, he was so full of lead. By this time though the PIATs and 6 prs had got the drill and in quick succession two armoured cars, eight or ten half tracks vehicles and five or six lorries were knocked out and on fire. Most of these vehicles were fairly full of Germans who provided very good target practice for the Bde HQ personnel who were in the attic. The highest individual score was reported to be Lt Harvey Tod who claimed eight with his American Carbine followed closely by Major Munford and Pte Shuttlewood. After this affray, the Germans stepped up the mortar fire on the area and more guns opened up from the South banks of the river. Occasional concentrations of artillery had a good effect on [their?] guns. During the morning, in spite of continuous efforts on both 22 and 76 set we were unable to pick up either Division or 1 [or 3 Bns?]. German snipers and MGs began to move into the houses round the area and kept the attic of Bde HQ under observation and fire.
1500 hrs. In touch by wireless with 1 Bn who reported that they had switched the direction of advance and were now coming in on LION and were at approx Grid Line 72. They also mentioned that they had contacted 3 Bn who were near them. No news of the Brigadier though. I then asked Lt. Col Frost to come in to command of the Bde. From then till 1830 we received occasional reports from 1 Bn, none of them showing any progress, and eventually at 1830 Lt Col Frost gave an order that 1 & 3 Bns should send at least a coy strength to get through to the bridge by any means by 2359 hrs.
1900 hrs. As it got dark it was decided to set light to several wooden huts round the bridge in order to keep the area [illuminated?] and so prevent German movement and infiltration overnight. This was highly successful and kept the whole area as light as day. The Germans too seemed to have the same idea and decided to set fire to most of the houses outside the [perimeter?] in the process they set fire to the house next door to [Bde HQ?] only by this action of very energetic fire fighting, [on?] each floor was Bde HQ saved.
Tuesday Sep 19
Everything had been fairly quiet during the night, though we had heard sounds of a very brisk battle to the west, and imagined that it must be 1 & 3 Bns coming in. However this died down and no troops appeared. In fact the only activity [?] even caused by the armoured cars and half tracks on the road burning and blowing up one after the other.
0900 hrs. Loud cries of "Woa Mahomet" from the buildings about 300 yds North of our position and a few troops, apparently our own moving about. Great exhilaration as we felt that they must be the long awaited relief. The cries of "Woa Mahomet" worked round to the East of the bridge, accompanied by desultory firing and then died out. No one has yet discovered what troops they were, or what they got to. (Query - Remnants 1 Bn).
0700 hrs. As soon as it was light the Germans started the fire fight again, opening up with mortars, flak guns, snipers, MGs and some [?] guns. During the preceding day the main infantry attack had come in from the East and had forced the Bde Def Pl to withdraw on Capt Brigg's Pl. The Germans renewed the attack against [?] sector supported by heavy mortaring. At about the same time the Germans on the South bank started to shell and [knock down?] systematically every church steeple on the North bank, thinking I suppose that we were using them as OPs. This considerably relieved our minds as we had been thinking that we were under German observation from these same steeples.
0800 hrs. Germans brought a 2cm flak gun into position by the side of the main road about 400 yds North of the bridge, in full view of the attic of Bde HQ. The gun proceeded to engage several burnt out and unoccupied houses to the North of the Bde [area?]. Brens and a sniper opened up simultaneously on the 3 men manning it. Another 3 men ran out again to fire the gun and these too were accounted for. After that the gun was [abandoned?]. At about this time one of our 22 sets picked up Canadian [voices?] on the air, definitely nothing to do with Division. As we had been unable to pick up Division on the normal frequencies [?] signallers had been searching for and suddenly picked up these [?]. We were unable to receive them loud and clear but they appeared to be able to hear us. They were obviously units of 30 Corps not more than 20 miles away. Eventually at about 1000 hrs one of their stations picked us up and were able to pass a message to 30 Corps and to tell them that we were holding the North end of the bridge. I asked them how soon they would be able to reach us. This they could not tell us, but did say that they were putting in an attack to secure NIJMEGEN BRIDGE at 1200 hrs and hoped to be with us soon.
1400 hrs. For some time our OPs had been reporting activity in the buildings about 400 yds north of us. Two Mk4 tanks suddenly appeared round the corner and under cover of their guns a [gun?] was unlimbered and pointed directly at Bde HQ. The attic was evacuated and Capt MILLER despatched at speed to persuade Capt PANTER to bring mortar fire to bear. The attic was then ventilated by 3 direct hits by this time Capt MILLER very ably directed mortar fire onto the gun and the attic was reoccupied. Where the gun had been was a large crater in the road and it is thought that the ammunition was detonated by a mortar bomb. Certainly the gun did not worry us again. Feeling that perhaps the situation was a little obscure [for the?] rest of the army a detailed sitrep was sent back by pigeon. Owing to the open state of the attic of Bde HQ, the 22 set working to 30 Corps and listening out to Division was set up in the square behind the building, and later in the attic of the house occupied by Capt GELL's platoon.
1930 hrs. A Tiger tank drove down the main road from the North end and shot up Bde HQ and 2 Bn HQ, wounding Major TATHAM-WATER and Padre [EGAN?]. The tank was chased away with a Gammon bomb. Several more Tigers appeared after dark but remained mostly on the main road and were not very active. After one had been [hit?] by a PIAT they all withdrew.
2030 hrs. Both 22 sets mounted in the attic of RASC Pl building neither of them through to anyone. We had last heard from 30 Corps at 1700 hrs and it seemed doubtful whether they had then crossed the bridge, and they would not estimate a time by which they would reach us, beyond 'soon'. Many more houses burning round the perimeter causing a certain amount of danger from flying sparks.
1000 hrs. One of the 22 sets which had been searching suddenly picked up the Div forward net. This was very good news and immediately I talked to GORDON GRIEVE and gave him our position and approx [strength?]. A message had been sent to Lt. Col. FROST that we were through to Div, and just as he arrived the General came on the air and asked to speak to our Sunray and Col. FROST took over. The General first of all congratulated him and said he was delighted that we had got to the bridge and wished his congratulations to be conveyed to all ranks. He said that 30 Corps were expected soon, that Division was getting stuck in the OOSTERBEEK area, and that we must hold on until 30 Corps arrived. Col. FROST said that our position was satisfactory for the time being and that we could hold out for some time yet, but that we must have supplies of food and ammunition immediately, also a surgical team with medical supplies to look after our wounded. The General then suggested that we should organise the local civilian population to bring in food, ammunition and [sups? from some of the resupply containers which had gone astray on the previous day. Col FROST then explained that we were fighting in the middle of a devastated area, that there were no civilians and that we were surrounded by a superior and somewhat aggressive enemy force and that it was by no means possible for civilians to wander backwards and forwards through the lines carrying containers full of supplies. We then passed back our official estimate of casualties inflicted on the enemy during the first two days fighting. These were - 8 half tracks armd cars destroyed. 6 Mk IV tanks destroyed. 20-30 lorries destroyed & damaged. 1 Tiger tank damaged. 120 prisoners. 300-400 casualties. Actually the estimate of prisoners taken was somewhat inaccurate. There had been a slight tragedy. That number had in fact been taken but whether or not we still held that number was more than doubtful. On the Sunday evening a total of about eighty prisoners had been taken. The original Bde plans had been to send all prisoners to the civil prison in Arnhem which was inside the Bde perimeter as planned but outside the perimeter that we actually held. On the Sunday night these prisoners were duly sent to the civil prison under an escort of military police. Early on the Monday morning it became clear that the original Bde plan was not working and Lt. Manley was ordered to try and withdraw prisoners and escort back to Bde perimeter. He made two attempts but the Germans were now too thick on the ground and he could not get through. It was hoped the Germans would not search the prison, and that when 1 and 3 Bns arrived we should be able to regain prisoners and guards.
1300 hrs. Enemy fire was increasing steadily. Enemy mortars were becoming increasingly active, and high velocity guns were shooting holes through Bde H.Q. and the buildings to the South held by 2 Bn.
1330 hrs. Capt. Briggs and Lt. Cairns with the remnants of their force approx 12 men left, withdrew to Bde H.Q. having fought brilliantly against very great odds for 3 days. Soon after this Col. Frost and Major Crawley were wounded by the same bomb. Major Gough who had been acting as Deputy Comd of the force to Col. Frost now took over command, and Maj. Tatham-Water was commanding 2 Bn.
1430 hrs. Another message received from Division that 30 Corps had been delayed at NIJMEGEN and would not be with us for a bit. Soon after this the General came on the air again and said that they were being attacked from the East and West and that, far from coming to our aid, they would probably call on us for support. Freddie Gough also spoke to the General and told him that we were all in great spirits which was true and that we could easily hold out for another 24 hours and longer if necessary. This in view of the fact that A & B Coys had been withdrawn almost back to the Bde H.Q. building, that there had already been over 50 per cent casualties, that there was no more PIAT ammunition, that the 6-prs were unable to fire, being under direct S.A. fire, and that ammunition of all types was precariously low, was probably an optimistic statement but indicated the general feeling at the time.
1600 hrs. German pressure increasing from the North direct against the house occupied by Capt Gell's platoon. The windows and attic were then under continual S.A. fire and rifle grenades were fired into the roofs. This preliminary fire was maintained till dark.
1730 hrs. General passed a message that 30 Corps jeeps had been spotted on the South bank of the Rhine by our gunner O.Ps. This would have been cheering news but for the continual stream of messages about 30 Corps that we had received previously all of which had proved false.
1930 hrs. It became clear that the main attack was being directed against Capt Gell's house and the right flank of 2 Bn position. The enemy occupied the high building overlooking Capt Gell and poured a steady stream of M.G. fire and rifle grenades into his house and enemy mortaring increased. A high wall separated the two houses and the enemy proceeded to blow down the Southern end of it. Capt Gell's men withdrew to the passages ready to re-occupy the rooms when the German infantry advanced to the assault. Vigorous action on the part of fire fighting picquets prevented fires that were started. Brilliant work was also done by the signallers of Bde Sigs Section who maintained the wireless sets in the attic under extremely heavy fire. Meanwhile Bde H.Q. building was under heavy fire from 105 m.m. and 88 m.m. guns and from tanks. When sufficient of the outside walls had been blasted away phosphorus grenades were fired into the building and fires broke out at several places at once. These fires were kept under continual shell fire by the Germans and it was found impossible to keep them under control.
2000 hrs. The order was now given to evacuate the wounded to the houses occupied by Capt Gell. Space was entirely inadequate though, as the only part of the house that was not under direct and continual fire was a space under the stairs and a short length of corridor. There were about 250 wounded and the available space was soon filled up. At this moment the Germans started using the same tactics which had been so successful on Bde H.Q. and owing to the fact that the house was largely constituted of wood it was soon burning fiercely. I was out at the time making a reconnaissance of some houses to the North which I found to be unoccupied. I put a section into these houses and returned to Bde H.Q. There I found considerable confusion, both houses burning fiercely, the entrances to both completely blocked by wounded, and considerable numbers of wounded in the square between the two buildings which was being mortared and was under fire. To this was added numbers of extremely frightened refugees and German prisoners. I reported to Major Gough who had been to see Lt. Col. Frost. It was decided to order a cease fire while our wounded were evacuated and handed over to the Germans as we no longer had anywhere safe to put them, and could not provide them with the medical attention which they required. Hard as they had worked, Logan and Wright with a few medical orderlies could not cope with 250 wounded, many of them seriously, and had neither the equipment nor the medical supplies they needed.
At the same time it was necessary to evacuate the defenders of Bde H.Q. and R.A.S.C. buildings. I told Major Gough that I thought we could get them into the houses just to the North. This was agreed to and about 130 men were evacuated. Unfortunately though, the houses which I had recced ten minutes previously, a long block of flats, had been set on fire by another house from the farther end and it was now out of the question to occupy them. However, Capt Miller had made a rapid recce on seeing this, and had found a large school, L'Ecole de Ste Marie about 150 yards further on and the troops were concentrated in this. Owing to overcrowding Capt Miller took a further 30 men to the Cathedral some 200 yards away. The front of the school faced on to the main road which was extremely full of Germans by this time. Rifle, M.G. and A/Tk posns were being dug in the grass on both sides of the road, covering the bridge, there were also several tanks and half tracks milling about. Just after we had arrived a large batch of our walking wounded was evacuated past the front of our building moving North. Shortly afterwards followed four of our jeeps and a carrier being driven by Germans, and behind them a party of about thirty airborne soldiers unwounded, being escorted Northwards. From this and a subsequent recce it was concluded that 2 Bn had either been overrun or had withdrawn to another area but no sign of them could be found. It was now approaching midnight and a decision had to be made as to future action. The men had already been organised into two platoons each of five sections, with an officer in command of each section. I called for a report from section commanders who informed me that whereas nearly everyone was armed that ammunition situation was very bad and that on average each Bren and Sten had but one magazine apiece. The men were extremely exhausted. We had been told that 30 Corps might be expected the next morning, but it was already midnight and there was no sound of artillery bombardment or firing, and the Germans in front of us seemed to be going about their work very casually, but not hurriedly which would have been the case if 30 Corps had been approaching. I therefore concluded that as there was yet no sign or sound of 30 Corps on the South bank of the river, that they would probably not be in a position to cross to the north bank before the next evening. The school which we were holding at present was not ideally suited for defence, and did not command the bridge. It would not be possible to re-occupy the old Bde H.Q. and RASC buildings for another twelve hours or more until they had cooled down a bit.
Considering the shortage of ammunition, the absence of A/Tk ammunition and the number of German tanks and guns in the neighbourhood I considered we could probably hold out five or six hours the following morning, but not much longer, and as we were not commanding the bridge we could not have influenced the battle very much. I therefore decided that we could possibly be of more use with the main force of Division, and that as we had so many officers, that the best way of getting them back would be to let them infiltrate through the town by sections, each under an officer.
I collected section commanders and ordered them to move out westwards with their sections and to get as far as possible into the town during that night, to lie up during the day and to make their way to OOSTERBEEK during the following night. There was also the hope of course that 30 Corps would be through by then which would facilitate the second part of their journey, and discourage the Germans from sending out search parties on Thursday. Sections were to move out at five minute intervals. Lt Harvey-Todd's section was to move out first and had the task of contacting Capt. Miller in the Cathedral to inform him of our movements and to instruct him to do the same. I went to the Cathedral later and failing to find Capt Miller concluded that he had moved off. In fact the message never reached him and he remained in hiding with his men in the Cathedral.
Two of the first three sections were fired on from close range as they moved out. The whole area was subjected to intermittent mortar fire which caused no damage.
Eventually the area outside became somewhat congested with odd sections milling about. This was caused by several sections doubling back on their tracks having run into Germans and being unable to get through. I therefore held back the last three sections until the people outside were sorted out and had got away. I then loosed the last three sections and took command of the last one. It was now approaching dawn so decided to hide them as quickly as possible. I found the ruins of a burnt out building, spread the men out and ordered them to scoop themselves a trench and bury themselves in ashes and remain there till the following night. After a while it was clear that this was impossible as the ashes were too hot. I then moved them to the garden of the next door house where we found Dennis Munford and his section, and was nearly shot up by him thinking that we were Germans. I joined forces with him, put two men in a tool shed and barricaded the remainder in a bedroom. Dennis Munford hid himself in a wooden box and Anthony Cotterill and myself in a coal shed. The next morning the Germans put a platoon through the houses we were hiding in and as we were disposed for cover rather than for defence we were captured and taken to the P.W. cage where we found most of the remnants of the bridge party.
DIARY OF EVENTS - 1 PARACHUTE BN.
1540. Ordered to move from R.V.
1600. Moved from R.V. to Rly Sta 665806 - met OC Recce who stated enemy were to East down Rly (infantry only) and tanks up rd to North. As we could not get tpt along Rly any further - moved North up road. Tanks withdrew.
1700. R Coy attacked infantry posns astride road at 673816. Enemy withdrew with casualties. R Coy reached rd junc 675820 after more fighting - were heavily engaged at that point by tanks and infantry. R Coy took up posn forcing [facing?] East then attacked again.
1800. Remainder Bn by-passed opposition via track to South of main road to rd junc 690809. W/T with R Coy broke down. No touch with Bde HQ - sent L.O. off to contact (he was shot off M.C. by enemy on main rd but got back to the Bn).
1900. About to advance N to main rd when tanks approached from S.E. along main rd. Altogether, 5 tanks and approx 15 half-tracks passed 691811 (400 yds N of our posn in woods). Enemy also digging in WOOD 694809.
1930. Sent Major Bune back for R Coy and decided to bypass to South again.
2000. Armd car and some infantry approached our lying-up posn. Engaged enemy - they withdrew, we had 6 casualties. Enemy in WOOD 695809 opened fire - returned fire and took up all-round posn until R Coy should come up.
2200. Major Bune returned with 2 I/C R Coy - they had 50 per cent casualties and could not get casualties away. Sent M.O. Fd Amb back with 2 i/c R Coy with all available tpt for evacuation of casualties - 2 i/c to bring remainder Coy back to Bn. Sent patrols to main rd - many enemy - spasmodic fighting & firing.
0100. R Coy still not arrived so left guides and went down to track SOUTH with intention of getting to objective via town, as we had heard bridges were in our hands. No touch with Bde. Wireless hopeless all through.
0300. Very bad going through wood with guns, carriers etc. Bumped enemy post X tracks 697797 (approx) - caused enemy casualties - enemy withdrew (Major Bune and Mtr Det missing).
0430. Reached Rd junc 709783 - S Coy ran into enemy fire from astride rd at 713782. Enemy armd cars off rd - MG fire, 20 mm. and mortars. Attacked with S Coy left flank - gained northern enemy posn and inflicted casualties.
0530. Received infmn from FOO from Bridge that 2nd Bn were in urgent need of reinforcements. Decided to disengage and bypass to South and so to bridgehead. S Coy had 30 casualties.
0700. Passed HQ Coy 3rd Bn - took them along (my mortars, Ass Pnrs, Sec MMGs and 1 A/Tk gun with R Coy). At Rly Br 712775 ran into Mortar fire and shell fire.
0800. Enemy in strength astride rd at Houses 717776; in Factory 720776; area Rly Br 715780; 4 armd cars and 1 tank also seen at this Br - they moved to high ground 718778 which was held strongly.
0900 - 1400. First attack by T Coy gained astride rd at Houses 717776 - this was spptd by Arty, Mtrs and MMGs. 2nd attack on factory failed - 20 mm. from River bank too strong. Met Major Dennison and made plan for co-ordinated attack - his Coy left on to high ground - T Coy astride rd and to factory - sptd by Arty (Lt. Col. Thompson & F.O.O. throughout) mortars and M.M.Gs. A/Tk guns used against pillbox in factory area - direct hit. Caused heavy enemy casualties in this area. One enemy armd car put out. S Coy in meantime were attacked from rear and held attack which was light. T Coy reduced to 22 men. S Coy 6 casualties.
1500. Reached Rd junc 726778 - came under '88' fire, MG and Mtr fire from main road - gained rd junc after fight. Mtrs used on rd junc.
1600. Advanced East down main rd on South side. Heavy fighting - could not advance past rd junc 729779 - tanks ahead. Here Mtrs, Arty and MMGs put out two AA guns on river bank - MMGs shot running men. Good work.
1700. Crossed road under cover of smoke and tried North side by backs of house - came under heavy Mtr fire and sniping - reached just West of hospital. Tried to get vehicles fwd but quite impossible - lost one carrier.
1830. In touch with bridgehead received orders from there that must get through. Had practically no amn and approx 100 men left. Decided to try right down on river bank. Heavy fire cut across main rd and every side street.
2000. Met OC S. STAFFS who had my R Coy with him (very depleted approx 40 men) and Ass Pnrs, Mtrs and MMGs - made plan to get to Bridge - Starting time 2100 hrs. Resupplied with amn. News came back that Bridge had been over-run. Attack put off.
2300. Heard F.O.O. giving fire orders at Bridge - sent runner to Div HQ and decided to move - 11 Bn coming up behind - took him in plan.
0100. Received orders from Div to withdraw to bridgehead at OOSTERBEEK. 11 Bn arrived.
0230. Above order cancelled - proceed to bridges. Made plan 1st Bn by river - S. STAFFS by main rd. 11 Bn follow 1st Bn axis. Starting time 0330 hrs. S. STAFFS ½ hr late.
0400. Crossed start line and reached rd at river bank 730779 - (Dorrien-Smith had come up and said we would not get along the bank - opposition too strong).
0430. Heavy firing, shelling, mortaring coming down on us. Tanks and half tracks on high ground to left. Enemy infantry cleared with bayonet and grenades. Cleared to rd junc 789776. Inflicted heavy casualties on enemy - remainder ran or surrendered.
0500. Attacked by tanks. Gammon bombs used by R Coy. Two infantry guns captured. German prisoners coming along with us. Opposition ahead intense.
0600. S/STAFFS seemed to have retired - shooting ceased some time ago. Our posn becoming desperate as enemy were on high ground and houses above us (i.e. to NORTH). A.A. & MGs from river direction. Tanks firing at point blank range. R Coy - 6 men left. S Coy - 15 men left (approx). T Coy - 8 men left. (HQ Coy were to come along with tpt behind S. STAFFS). Bn HQ - 10 men left (approx). This was my last check. No wireless touch with any coys. (C.O. fwd at this stage trying to find posns - became embroiled - had engagement - was wounded). Orders given to make for houses on high ground - i.e. R & T. S to house on rd junc.
0630. T Coy were cut off and could not disengage. Enemy grenading us from houses we were trying to get into. Managed to force entry into one house - but only 6 men with me. Enemy now between us and S & T. Sent OC R Coy to find out posn. Firing dying down in distance. S Coy appeared to be having bad time having retired to some trenches - could not get message through. Tanks outside our house. Many civilians in bottom storey with me. Nothing more to be done - four wounded in my party.
0730. S.S. entered house, party taken.
Diary of Events - 2 Para Bn
(Sketch Map of Bridge Area attached - Annexure I)
No opposition at RV - 'A' Coy captured six vehicles and 12 prisoners.
Moved off at approx 1530, 'A' Coy leading. First opposition met after about 2 miles - 'A' Coy came under MG and Mortar fire. Enemy withdrew after left flanking movement by one platoon (Lt McDermonts'). Moved Coy round South. It appeared we had struck the left flank of enemy opposition as we could hear heavy firing to our left on 3 Bn route.
No further opposition until railway, where a few snipers caused slight delay. Just beyond railway an arm'd car appeared and caused delay and casualties. We pulled out before we could bring PIAT or 6 pr into action. This arm'd car appeared two or three times with same result but we were able to get round through back gardens.
Rly Bridge was blown as 'C' Coy were crossing. Colonel had anticipated opposition at DEN BRINK and ordered 'B' Coy onto it. They met considerable opposition and suffered casualties. At this stage wireless comn with 'B' and 'C' Coys seems to have broken down. Nothing more was heard of 'C' Coy.
Meanwhile 'A' Coy were able to move SOUTH of DEN BRINK and entered town keeping close to river. Several small parties of enemy with light automatics were quickly dealt with in the failing light. 'A' Coy took some 30-40 prisoners during this advance and reached Bridge to find enemy tpt crossing from SOUTH to NORTH.
Buildings 8 and 10 were occupied at once - also Area A.
At approx 2045 'A' Coy put in an assault with one Pl (Lt Grayburn's) on South end of Bridge. They were met by a Light Flak gun in a pill box on the Bridge and an arm'd car. The Pl suffered 8 casualties in first 50 yds and the attempt was abandoned. Lt Grayburn was wounded but continued to comd his Pl - he was wounded again on 3rd day but still carried on till he was killed. He led his Pl magnificently throughout and was an inspiration to every one.
Meanwhile the Colonel and Bn HQ had arrived. He decided that the South end must be taken from the South bank, and sent a patrol to contact 'B' Coy (at PUTNEY) with orders to cross by barge and take the South end of Bridge. This patrol never made contact, Major Murray did a recce for barges and found none.
'HQ' Coy occupied houses 2, 5, 6 and Bn HQ was established in 3.
Shortly afterwards Bde HQ and attached tps arrived.
Col Frost took comd of the force which now consisted of 1 Parachute Bde Gp less 1 and 3 Bns. 'B' and 'C' Coys 2 Bn. Approx 45 men (RASC and Bde Sigs Sec) under Capt Briggs occupied houses 14, 15, 16, 17 and were put under comd 'A' Coy.
Bde Def Pl was despatched to cross river by boat and take South end of Bridge. They failed to cross and later occupied 12 and 13 under Comd 'A' Coy.
Bde HQ was established in 2 with remainder of tps in 1 (?) and 4.
Later in the night Major Lewis (3 Bn) turned up with remnants of his Coy - 1½ Pls.
They had apparently walked down the Rly without opposition. It is a mystery what happened to them afterwards. The Pl was ordered to occupy a Bldg just east of 12, but was never seen again. Later I found Major Lewis with 12 men in 16, having been driven out of 17.
At approx 0500 hrs 'B' Coy less 1 Pl (Lt Levian) - lost) arrived and occupied block 7. They had met strong resistance at PUTNEY and suffered several casualties.
At first light 'A' Coy evacuated area 'A'. During the night the Pl there (McDermonts) had repelled a strong counter attack from the south and had set fire to several amn and petrol tks.
'A' Coy now held 8, 9, 10.
Later a party of approx 25 sappers (A/L) under Capt O'Callaghan arrived and were put under comd 'A' Coy.
The Bridge was examined carefully by Major Murray, who reported that it was not prepared for demolition.
During the morning Armd Cars tried to cross the Br from South to North. I think altogether 10 Armd Cars and half tracks were accounted for - 6 by 6 prs and 4 by PIATs.
Through out the day and following days, the Bn Area was heavily and continuously Mortared with little effect on the houses. House 9 received a good deal of light flak from South of the river.
During the late afternoon and evening a strong attack developed along the river bank from the East. It was supported by Hvy Mortar fire and two Tanks (Mk III)?. Bde Def Pl in 12 and 13 suffered hvy casualties and were withdrawn to join Capt Brigg's party.
House 10 (held by McDermont's Pl) bore the brunt of the attack and 1 Pl of B Coy (Flavell) was put under Comd 'A' Coy in 11. The attack was held until dark 1 Tank was knocked out by a 6 pr and 1 by PIAT.
Just before dark houses 1, 11, 9, and 17 were set on fire by enemy fire and burned down - Bde HQ narrowly escaped fire.
Through out the day there had been rumours and great hopes of 1 and 3 Bns arriving, but by night it was accepted that they would not get through. Later we heard that South Staffs and 11 Bn were on their way to join us and hopes were revived.
Soon after dark David Wallis was killed. I took over comd of 2 Bn handing over 'A' Coy to Tony Frank.
Area A was again occupied during the night by 'B' Coy (2 Secs under Francis H Miller) and another attempt from the South was repulsed.
During the night it was decided to strengthen our position East of the Br, by moving the whole of 'A' Coy to that side and 'B' Coy taking over 8 and 9. This was carried out early D+2.
The attack East of the Br was resumed with very hvy Mortaring and attempted infiltration throughout the morning. At midday 3 tanks got into position near the river and shelled 10 at close range making it temporarily untenable. McDermont's Pl suffered casualties and evacuated into area B. Capt Frank was then dispatched with two PIATs to deal with the tanks as 6 prs could not engage them. They scored three hits and then observed two more tanks. After obtaining more bombs from B Coy (the last 3) he returned to see the tanks pulling out. Enemy had meanwhile occupied 10. McDermonts Pl counter attacked and reoccupied the house - McDermont was badly wounded (doubtful if he will recover).
Grayburn then led an attempt to rescue 13 it resulted in more casualties and the attempt was abandoned.
Soon after this a hvy gun from South of the river shelled 8 and 9. The top two storeys of these houses were demolished and B Coy suffered some casualties. 2 armd cars penetrated along river bank to 9 where George Murray accounted for 1, the other withdrew. Tony Frank was now wounded in the ankle but remained in command until dark. Pressure continued until dark. Block 8 and House 10 were set on fire forcing A Coy into area B and the ruins of 11 and B Coy into Block 7.
Just before dark a Tiger Tank drove down the road opposite 1, 2, 3, 5, 6. It kept the 6 pr positions under small arms fire and pumped shells into each house in turn. Bn HQ stopped 3 shells before we could all get out. The Padre was badly wounded and I was injured and pretty badly shaken up by blast. The tanks withdrawal was hastened by Gammon Bombs.
Freddy Gough took over Comd of 2 Bn - later handing over to Tate.
Meanwhile houses 16, and 14 were set on fire and it looked as though Bernard Briggs would soon be burnt out of his position.
Our position was now greatly weakened. We had suffered hvy casualties - particularly in 'A' Coy. Amn was getting fairly short and we had been burnt out of the key position East of the Br - House 10.
Enemy were occupying all houses to the North and West of our positions. Although they did not attempt infiltration from this direction they were able to keep us under automatic fire - to which we could not afford to reply.
The numbers of wounded were reaching serious proportions - they were all evacuated to the cellars of Bde HQ where Jimmy Logan and David Wright were doing great work.
Pressure from the East continued all morning. Bernard Briggs who had had a very sticky time all along was now burnt out from all his positions and fell back on 'A' Coy. Between them they held the ruins of 8 and 9, the gardens of 10 and 11 and Area B (Under the Br).
Tanks were brought up and shelled the men in the gardens at point blank range. Having no means of replying they fell back on the ruins of 8 and 9. A Party of enemy attempted to set charges beneath the small arch of the Br. This party and other attempts to infiltrate were counter attacked. Finally tanks were brought up under the Br and 8 and 9 became untenable. The remnants were withdrawn to 5, 6 and 2 at approx 1330 hrs.
Colonel Frost and Doug Crawley were wounded by the same Mortar bomb earlier in the morning. Freddie Gough then took Comd of the Force, referring matters of importance to Col Frost. Hoyer-Miller took over B Coy. They had been burnt out of Block 7 and were now back in 5 and 6.
I now took over again from Tate. We were holding houses 1-6 very strongly and as we anticipated that these too would be fired we dug alternative positions in the gardens. It was not a very happy position but we were quite confident that we should be able to hold the alternative positions until the fires burnt out and still keep the Br covered through the gaps. At least we would be in a tank proof area. During the afternoon 4 or 5 tanks crossed the Br from North to South. The 6 prs were now under direct small arms fire and could not be manned. We received news that 30 Corps would attack the South end of the Br at 1700 hrs and we were quite confident that even if this did not come off we should be able to hold out for at least another day.
They now shelled 3, 5 and 6 with a 88mm in position just West of Block 7. Our Mortars were able to silence it for a long period but just before dark it was resumed and then all these houses were fired by phosphorous bombs.
Just after dark Bde HQ caught fire. The wounded were moved to 4, but before this was finished this house also caught fire.
There was now nowhere to put the wounded so Col Frost ordered all opposition from Bde HQ to cease and surrendered the wounded.
This meant that the Bde HQ party under Major Hibbert had to move to new positions further North in a burnt out area. Strict orders were given to 2 Bn Not to open fire.
The enemy took advantage of this situation to bring large numbers into the garden of 2 and 4. The situation now became very involved.
A German Officer entered our Garden and demanded help to evacuate the wounded from the burning house. We soon found out this was a trick to get us to surrender. He was followed by some of his men and the situation became extremely difficult as we were powerless to shoot or counter attack while the wounded were being evacuated.
We were surrounded on three sides by burning houses and Grenades were being thrown into the area from behind 4. It was quite clear that the position was no longer tenable, so after consulting Freddie Gough I moved the Bn into an adjoining warehouse which was not strongly held. When we left the Garden the Bn strength was approx:-
Bn HQ Major Tatham Warter, Capt McClean
'A' Coy Capt Frank and 15
'B' Coy Capt Hoyer-Miller, Lieut Flavell and 35
'HQ' Coy Major Tate, Capt Panter, Lieut Monsell, Lieut Tannerbaum and 60
Approx 30 assorted RE, RA
It was soon clear that the warehouse could not be held so I decided to divide the Bn into two more manageable parties and to take one myself, Major Tate taking the other and to move to separate areas in the vicinity for the night and then reoccupy our old area at 1st light.
I arranged that my party should retake the gardens at 0500 hrs and the other party should join us at 0515.
This plan did not prove a success as the area was very thoroughly surrounded and it was extremely difficult to move in any direction. However about half my party finally got into a building for the night. We were joined there by Capt Gill with a few RASC. He told us that Bde HQ had suffered much the same fate and Tony Hibbert had split them into small parties to make their way back out of the town.
It was now clear that we were finished as a fighting force, so we split up and as best we could in the area.
Practically all that remains of Bde HQ and 2 Bn were rounded up in the morning.
2 Bn suffered 50/60 more casualties after leaving the gardens these were collected by the enemy and dressed by Jimmy Logan the following morning.
It is not possible to estimate accurately the number of casualties.
Jimmy Logan estimated 2 Bn wounded are 210.
94 of 2 Bn were rounded up on D+4.
The following officers of Bde HQ and attached tps were taken prisoner:- Major Gough, Major Hibbert, Major Cotterill, Major Byng-Maddick, Major Arnold, Major Murray, Major Mumford, Major Clarke, Capt Killick, Capt Livesey, Capt Briggs, Capt Platt, Capt Mortlock, Capt Gill, Lieuts Macfarlane, Morley, Beavers, Meakin, Daniels, McNab, Cairns.
Slapsy Miller was wounded and OK.
It was an appalling end I'm afraid; they had all fought so very well - particularly 'A' Coy and Bernard Briggs and his party who had borne the brunt of the fighting.
DIARY OF EVENTS - 3 PARACHUTE BN.
Drop, assembly, and beginning of approach march to bridge of ARNHEM went exactly according to plan.
1700 hrs. First opposition - infantry and two armd cars. 'B' Coy, advance guard, dealt effectively though slowly with infantry, but didn't cope with armd cars, because they had no PIATs with their leading platoon, because they were rather taken aback with this first sight of armour, and because 6-pr attached to this coy was facing wrong way when cars appeared and was knocked out when trying to face right way. German Staff car and 4 staff officers annihilated. 'B' Coy suffered about 5 casualties (all wounded). About half a dozen prisoners taken. Advance of Bn was held up until about 1800 hrs. Location Xrds 685785 (approx).
1800 hrs. 2nd Coy 'C' Coy was passed through 'B' Coy and swung left towards railway with orders to try and get through to the Br. by the best possible route they could find. This was the last seen of 'C' Coy although we were in wireless communication with them the following day. An account of 'C' Coy's move to the Bridge by Sjt Mason, is inserted here - "1800 hrs. Passed through B Coy who had been hung up and swung left towards the railway. Our orders were to get to the Bridge. I was the leading section commander. We were advancing up a third class road and ran into a German DR whom we captured. We left the bike and sent the prisoner back to Bn HQ with Pte Davies 35 who had a gammy leg. About ten minutes later, before reaching the railway, we came to a fork road and met a German M/C with two men up. We killed them. We then found that we had lost the other two platoons. We did not want to go along the railway as this was in a cutting. So, we went along the road which ran parallel with the railway. After about 20 yds, we saw one of our jeeps coming towards us filled with Germans. We got down but they opened up on us and wounded Pte. Tindle in both legs. We left Pte. Madigan RAMC with him. The jeep turned round and made off, leaving one man behind to snipe us. We took him prisoner immediately and kept him with us. We proceeded down the road, and on hearing a truck coming up from behind us, hid and laid an ambush. Pte. Gooseman wounded the driver and set the truck alight. It was carrying amn. The driver got out and L/Cpl Newbury killed him. Sgt. Graham stood up to shoot at another German riding in the back of the lorry, but the German shot him first. Sgt Graham was very seriously wounded in the stomach. That German was then shot by Cpl. Burton. By this time the other two platoons had linked up with us. They said that they had attacked an amn lorry which they had set on fire and killed the four German passengers. It was now dusk so we proceeded down the railway cutting until we reached ARNHEM station. A recce was made by 8 Platoon and when they returned we moved off towards the bridge in the order 8 pl, Coy HQ, 7 Pl, 9 Pl. The town was deserted except for two Dutch policemen who gave us a great welcome. We walked down a main street of the town towards the bridge. Just before reaching it a German car was blown up by a Gammon bomb thrown by the leading platoon. On Monday at 0300 hrs, 7 and 8 Pls were put on the right of the road and Coy HQ and 9 Pl on the left. We were well hidden in shrubbery. We contacted the R.E. attached to 2 Bn. Shortly afterwards I heard foreign sounding voices on the other side of the road where 7 and 8 pls were, and later the coy runner said that the Germans had completely surprised 7 pl, and taken them all prisoner. While at Pl O Gp, I again heard voices on the other side of the road, and two other Sgts and myself went to investigate. A German came across the road towards us and shouted 'Hands Up'. We all fired a burst at him, but could not see the result. All time we could hear the R.E. fortifying a house (later it transpired to be a school) about 50 yards WEST of us. We took up all round defensive position in the shrubbery. A few minutes later, two Germans appeared along the road. A MG opened up on us from very close range causing several casualties. We were ordered to withdraw to the school independently. Not many reached this place, and I believe that most of the men went to other houses, all the wounded except for Sgt White reached the school. About half an hour later I went to try and collect Sgt. White but the area was held by the Germans. We started to turn this school into a strong point." This ends Sjt Mason's story.
1830 hrs. 'A' Coy, last Coy in advance, was attacked by infantry and heavy mortar and shell fire. Approx 40 enemy killed and 12 prisoners taken. 'A' Coy casualties, 18 including the wounding of 3 officers - 2 i/c 'A' Coy - Lt. Baxter, Lt. Bussell, Sgt. Hildyard-Todd killed. (This based on Major Dennison's verbal report to me).
Bn, minus 'C' Coy, was concentrated some 300 yards beyond X-rds already mentioned, and remained there for the night.
0830 hours. Advance continued 'B' Coy, Bn HQ, RE, HQ Coy, 'A' Coy, Route - main road to Bridge at 712775 and then direct as possible to main bridge. Advance went smoothly until about 730780. 'B' Coy were prevented from proceeding further by accurate and most persistent shelling from 88 m.m. guns. The Coy attempted to get round by the left i.e. nearer the railway. This was found impossible too. About this time it became apparent that something had happened in the rear of the column. The enemy had cut the road, preventing HQ Coy (Mortars and MMGs) and 'A' Coy from reaching the area where 'B' Coy, Bn HQ and RE were beginning to consolidate. OPs. reported preparations for an enemy counter attack on our position at 730780; self-propelled guns were reported to be assisting infantry.
1000 - 1600. About 6 houses at the point mentioned were manned by B Coy (Lieut. Hill was missing after the shelling), Bn HQ and R.E. We were out of wireless contact with 'A' and 'C' Coys. During this period the houses were attacked by S.P. guns and infantry. Offensive fire was directed at both whenever possible. Contact was regained with 'C' Coy who reported they were in buildings, north of the Bridge, had suffered but few casualties, had dealt effectively with 5 half-tracks and the infantry they carried, were quite happy and would remain so if amn could be got through to them. Contact was also regained with 'A' Coy who reported they were held up and were trying to get through to us by any means and any route. 'A' Coy were given instructions to get to the area of Bn HQ at any cost and to instruct the carriers (which were loaded with amn) to get through to us as soon as humanly possible. At about 1300 hours mortaring started and continued intermittently and in various degrees of intensity for the next three hours.
1500 hours approx - about 20 men, a mixture of 'A' Coy and the Defence Platoon arrived with a carrier. This force was commanded by Lieut. Burwash MC, who had done extremely well to get through. His force had had to travel so fast that the majority of them were practically exhausted on arrival. They said they had had an extremely difficult time since ten hundred hours in the morning. It was reported that Major Dennison OC 'A' Coy had been wounded in both arms. There was no news of mortars and MMGs under Major Houston OC 'HQ' Coy. The C.O. ordered amn to be delivered to the houses we were holding. This was done under fire and further attempted penetration beaten off. During this resupply Major Waddy OC 'B' Coy was killed instantly by a mortar bomb. The C.O. still keeping his object in mind, ordered a preparation for breaking out of this position, having decided to attempt to reach the bridge by striking north to the railway and then by following the line of the railway to the bridge area. The break out was eventually affected by 1600 hours. Our losses in this area had not been serious; apart from Major Waddy I don't think there were more than 3 other casualties, but I am not sure what the RE suffered. The General, Brigadier and Brigade I.O. left us at this time and proceeded their own independent route.
1600 - Nightfall. The order of march for the break-out was 'A' Coy and Defence Platoon (now combined and about 40 in strength) under Lieut Burwash MC, Bn HQ 'B' Coy and RE. It was soon discovered that either enemy machine guns or snipers were positioned so that they could fire down all streets around our strong point. This necessitated rather slow movement through houses and narrow passages wherever possible, and very rapid movement across the open streets. The leading elements of 'A' Coy reached the approaches to the railway at approx 728782 and could get no further. 3 machine guns and 2 mortars prevented further advance. At this point the whole force was, in fact surrounded and it split into two groups. This was not the wish of the C.O. The latter half of the force could not get across one street to join those who had gone before. The first group, commanded by the C.O. consisted of 'A' Coy and part of Bn HQ - a total of about 70 officers and men; the 2nd Group under Capt. Dorrien-Smith consisted of about the same number.
The enemy attacked from various distances until nightfall, but refused to get to close grips. It was a case of firing from the house opposite. Both groups fought independently of one another although they occasionally supported one another unintentionally. Lieut. Vedeniapine, Intelligence Officer, showing complete disregard for his own personal safety, worked with terrific zeal to organise the defence of the area. Towards nightfall the enemy brought up tanks, but after firing bursts of tracer down the streets where we stood our ground, they went back to harbour.
The plan of the C.O. was now as follows. If the enemy did not attack in the dark he would make a further effort to reach the bridge. The route he decided upon was the most direct way to the lower road which ran parallel to the Rhine and to join it at approx 735780 where there was a large building we called the Pavilion. (This was probably the name given in the Town Plan - I don't remember).
0230 - Dawn. The move out from this position was orderly and silent. Houses were evacuated one by one, the senior officer or NCO being responsible for getting his men to the appointed place, although we were to proceed as a body if possible. The plan worked. At two points machine guns opened up on the force but no damage was done, the river bank was reached, and the advance eastwards towards the bridge begun. It was impossible to get beyond a point just WEST of the pontoon bridge due to intense machine gun and mortar fire. The C.O. ordered a withdrawal to the Pavilion where he hoped to establish a strong point and whence he hoped to advance in daylight. We had suffered about a dozen casualties on the advance, including Lt. Dean, Liaison offr wounded in the leg, and R.S.M. Lord, wounded in the arm. Both went to hospital. During this time contact was made with the 1st Bn (Major Stark's Coy) who were advancing between the lower road and the river, and a Coy of the SOUTH STAFFS who were advancing on the Higher Road. The 2nd Group under Capt Dorrien-Smith arrived. The C.O. had now all the force he could expect to have and his plan was to advance behind the 1st Bn at first light and give them what support he could. The line of advance was the same - between the Lower Road and the River. There had been no news of 'C' Coy since their report on Monday afternoon.
Dawn to 1000 hours. Progress was satisfactory until the area of the Pontoon bridge (Order of March - 'A' Coy under Lieut. Burwash MC, Bn HQ, RE under Capt Cox, 'B' Coy under Capt Dorrien-Smith). Casualties from the 1st Bn then started passing through us. The thick undergrowth blinded us and we were unable to support by fire in any way. The C.O. recced areas to our left rear for fire positions but without success. At about 0730 hours heavy enemy fire was directed on the 3rd Bn. This fire was from machine guns, some of the 20 m.m. calibre. (Probably from armd cars) and intense mortaring began. Another effort was made by the C.O. to find fire positions but again his recce was fruitless. On his return casualties were being suffered at an ever increasing rate, and the wounded were being rushed back in small groups every minute. The C.O. held a brief conference with his 2 i/c and I.O. It was decided that as his force was being slowly decimated without being able to reply, he would withdraw to the Pavilion and form a strong point there. The orders he gave were that every officer and man would make his way back to that point by the best way he could. No question of field-craft this; the whole area seemed covered by fire and the only hope of getting out safely was by speed. The withdrawal began immediately. Casualties were heavy.
The 2 i/c reached the Pavilion to find only a mere handful of men there, including Capt. Dorrien-Smith (slightly wounded) and Capt. Cox. About 100 yards to the West at approx 723783 the 2 i/c found Lieut. Fraser with a considerable force under his command - about 120 men from every Bn in the 1st Bde.
He had been cut-off the day previously and had collected these men together in an effort to join up with his Colonel. This force was organised in a defensive body and houses were occupied and prepared for defence. Lieut. Cleminson and Capt. Dorrien-Smith were also in that area and further houses were occupied under their command by men who had withdrawn from the river bank. There was also another small party of the battalion under Sgt. Callaghan (about 12 in strength) at approx 730780. This force also occupied and prepared a house for defence.
The 2 i/c, realising that there only was only about 20 men effective from the mornings advance and that the C.O. was missing, returned to the area of the Pavilion and the ground East of that. There he could find none still able to fight. In the house next to the Pavilion he found the I.O. who was wounded in the foot (this visible) and who said he had mortar splinters in his back and chest. He had great difficulty in breathing and speaking. He managed to say that the C.O. had been killed by mortar fire. In the next house lay C.S.M. Watson of 'A' Coy wounded in the legs and another soldier. Whilst going further East to locate the C.O. and others; the 2 i/c became cut off from the remnants of the unit, and did not join up with them until mid-afternoon of Thursday 21 Sep 44.
1600 hours. After a day of very confused fighting the remnants of the Bde withdrew to 706776, where they were allotted the S.E. sector of a small isolated perimeter with 150 men of 11 Bn holding the North and 60 men of the S. STAFFS holding the S.W. We had 4 A/Tk guns. The force consisted of approx 120 of 1 Bn commanded by Lt Williams and 60 of 3 Bn commanded by Capt. Dorrien Smith.
Night 19/20. The night was reasonably quiet and most men were able to obtain a few hours of badly needed sleep.
0800 hrs. The first attack came in along the road from the EAST. 2 tanks or S.P. guns supported by about 20 infantry. The leading tank was hit repeatedly by one of the 6 prs, and finally 'brewed', the second tank moved away to the NORTH with the infantry.
1230 hrs. Maj. Lonsdale 2 i/c 11 Bn arrived to take over command of the perimeter. He brought news that 30 Corps started their long awaited attack at mid-day and that 4 Para Bde were expected to move into a position immediately North of ours during the afternoon.
1800 hrs. A M.G. team and a number of snipers infiltrated into the fwd positions and caused casualties. A 6 pr gun shell into the offending house quietened things down and Lt. Clarkson with two sten gunners killed any who remained losing two men wounded.
1600 hrs. An infantry gun was brought up by the enemy and made things most unpleasant from a defiladed position near the burnt out tanks after a time, our one mortar forced it to withdraw.
1830 hrs. The enemy put in a strong attack, the usual tanks or S.P. guns supported by infantry and 11 Bn were gradually driven back. Number of houses were on fire and the position untenable.
1845 hrs. The whole party withdrew to main Divisional perimeter - the enemy failed to appreciate what we were doing and there were no casualties.
Night Sep 20/21. The Bde dug in around area 699771.
1530 hrs. Remnants of 1 Para Bde reorganised in the Church - Major Bush took over command of the Bde and tps already in the area WEST of the Church. The bde took up a defensive position already occupied by about 20 S. STAFFS under Major Cain and elements of 11 Bn. The force consisted of 2 officers, 43 O.Rs - 3rd Bn, about 100 O.Rs., of 1st Bn, under Capt Caird (RA) and Lieut. Turrell - about 3 O.Rs 2 Bn, some dozen Glider pilots, and 1 O.R. A/Tk Bty. In the area were 4 guns of the Lt. Arty with about 40 O.Rs under Capt Wilkinson and Lieut. Leech. Position was occupied as soon as darkness fell, and digging continued throughout the night. By dawn 1 6-pr manned by Poles was dug in. At Dawn 11 Bn were withdrawn to the Church area on the orders of Major Lonsdale.
0700 hrs. Attacked by 50 infantry in 3rd Bn sector, by about 30 in 1st Bn sector, - attack repulsed without loss.
1100 hrs. Attacked by infantry and 2 tanks. Attack again repulsed. Enemy infantry suffered casualties from the 3" mortar fire directed by Sgt. Wittingham (1st Bn).
Attacks were so frequent between this period and the time of withdrawal that it is impossible to give full details of each attack. Attacks took the form of tanks and infantry by day, and infiltrating infantry patrols by night. Shelling and mortaring were particularly heavy just before dark Saturday 23rd Sept and Monday afternoon 25 Sep. Lieut. Cleminson was wounded and was evacuated to R.A.P. Saturday. Lieut. Evans (S. STAFFS) was wounded Sunday and was evacuated. Lieut. Turrell taking over 3rd Bn sector. Lieut. Leech & a Canadian Officer whose name I can't remember, were killed Monday afternoon 25 Sep, Capt Wilkinson was wounded at the same time. Of the other casualties suffered I remember only Sgt Blakely (killed) and Sgt Chandler (Glider Pilot killed). There were many others whose names I cannot remember.
The tanks were dealt with by most daring use of PIAT guns (when we had them), by firing arty over open sights. Major Cain made great use of the PIAT which was manned by Pte. Wilson and Pte Braid ('B' Coy). The infantry who would try to get amongst us by infiltrating from house to house were dealt with most energetically. The 3" mortar proved invaluable in support of these actions. If snipers could not be dislodged from houses by the methods already mentioned the Arty would be ordered to fire at point blank range at the houses in question. This usually prevented further action on the part of enemy infantry.
The heaviest attack came about 1100 hours Monday 25 Sep. The position was becoming desperate when a stonk from 30 Corps artillery came down exactly in the right place, on whose orders I don't know. After this attack we had no A/Tk weapons of any description left. But no further attacks developed against us. Intense mortaring and shelling in mid-afternoon caused us many casualties, as several trenches received direct hits.
1600 hrs. Word came through from RHQ. that we should probably evacuate during the night. We were out of touch with this HQ except by runner, and that means of contact was most uncertain. Preliminary arrangements for evacuation were made by Major Bush in case orders could not reach the area.
2000 hrs. A patrol of 20 in strength was driven off from 1st Bn sector, 1 prisoner taken, a marine who had arrived from ROTTERDAM that day.
2230 hrs. Orders for evacuation received.
2330 hrs. Evacuation began, & was 100 per cent successful as we were lucky enough to get all our party over before dawn.
During the 4 days of fighting in this area, the perimeter was never broken. Four tanks for certain were destroyed - 1 by PIAT - one by shell fire - 2 by Lt. Arty. A further two were almost certainly damaged. Casualties inflicted on enemy infantry difficult to estimate but were considerable. Of the 3rd Bn about 30 were capable of walking out on the order to withdraw, I think that all of these crossed the Rhine safely.
Wounded, incapable of walking, were left in certain cellars of houses under the care of friendly Dutch. The R.A.P. was warned where they would be found.
I can give no report on 'C' Coy who were at the Main bridge from midnight Sunday 17th - or of elements of 'A' Coy who never reached us on Monday 18th - or of Mortars or Vickers under Major Houston who failed to reach us on the same day. There were some Vickers men fighting on the 3rd Bn sector from Thursday 21st to night of withdrawal.
The remnants of the Brigade met up with the Seaborne element in NIJMEGEN. Those who got out, number -
Bde H.Q. 1 offr 2 O.Rs.
1 Para Bn. 4 Offrs. 104 O.Rs.
2 Para Bn. 17 O.Rs.
3 Para Bn. 27 O.Rs.
COMMENTS on OPERATION "MARKET" 1 PARA BDE.
1. Airborne troops dropped 7 miles from their objective suffer from a serious initial disadvantage. All surprise is lost and the enemy has time to organize his defences and occupy key points and approaches. I do not think the Air should have it all their own way in planning; we could certainly have dropped closer without many casualties from flak.
2. I do not think sufficient use was made of the Dutch Resistance Movement as a source of information. They were reliable, and well organised and could have given us excellent information after landing as to enemy strength and positions.
3. It was essential to seize the ARNHEM Bridge quickly, and, with that in view, Bns were told to by-pass opposition and not to mop up. This policy proved itself in that the bridge was captured in spite of strong opposition. Such tactics, however, are bound to lead to disorganisation and the splitting of Bns, particularly, if wireless does not work perfectly. It is not always possible to extricate one leading company of a Bn after contact and transport often cannot follow all the bypass routes. It was this that caused the Brigade to split into so many parties.
4. Resistance was far greater than anticipated. Apart from flak and any Luftwaffe or Administrative troops, there must have been at least one S.S. Regt with about 10 tanks or S.P. guns and some armoured cars, with a considerable number of half track vehicles, on the evening of D. day. From then onwards the enemy reinforced steadily and there must have been nearly an S.S. Division there by mid-day D+1. In fact, from early D+1, the enemy were so strong on the Western outskirts of the town, apart from holding further out on the AMSTERDAM & UTRECHT rds, that it required a carefully planned and deliberate operation by at least two Brigades to clear the town up to the bridge. Such an operation would have taken at least two days and large numbers of grenades and PIAT and 6 pr ammunition. It has been shown again and again that a strongly held town cannot be cleared in a hurry. This accounts for the failure of 1 and 3 Bns - good as they were and hard as they fought - to get to the bridge, and for the heavy casualties they suffered. It is interesting to note in this respect that the S. STAFFS and 11 Bns, the former a large and comparatively fresh Bn, made absolutely no impression on the enemy defences and appear to have been swallowed up without, certainly in the case of S. STAFFS, having much influence in the battle.
5. The Tank or S.P. gun, or even armd car is a most formidable weapon in the defence of a town against troops without tanks. It will beat the A/Tk gun every time. The 6-pr towed is vulnerable and slow into action. It is also most formidable against troops in buildings unless they have had time to carry out the necessary demolitions and to install their A/Tk guns below street level and to barricade and mine the streets. 2 Para Bn on the bridge found it extremely difficult to find positions for their 6 prs. They are useless in a ground floor room as after every shot, dust and plaster blinds the crew for about five minutes. It was the German tanks and S.P. guns that definitely gave them the upper hand.
6. The greatest menace to troops having hastily prepared positions in houses is FIRE. The Germans burnt 2 Bn out of nearly every house in turn. The ruins take some time to cool sufficiently to re-occupy.
7. Weapons were all good and the P.I.A.T. a great success. Artillery support was good except in the case of 3 Bn where wireless failed.
8. Wireless was very disappointing and useless at night. Presumably because of trees and houses.
9. It was unfortunate that 3 Bn were split on the early morning of D+1, but I do not think that the Bn, less 'C' Coy on bridge, could have forced its way to the br, even at that early hour. The second half of the Bn - 'A' Coy and HQ Coy - did yeoman service with 1 Bn.
10. It was also unfortunate that 3 and 1 Bn did not make contact WEST of ELIZABETH Hospital at 1500 hrs D+1. Though here again, I doubt whether the two reduced Bns could have made much impression on the evening of D+1.
11. On the other hand, troops were definitely thrown in piecemeal on the early morning of D+2. There was a strong force available consisting of the remnants of 1 and 3 Bns and S. STAFFS and 11 Bn; but they were swallowed up without doing more than denting the enemy defences along the river bank. Had the strength of the enemy defences been fully appreciated and had it been possible to put in a properly co-ordinated attack, the bridge might conceivably have been reached. But, more important, this valuable force might well have been disengaged and made available for the Div at OOSTERBEEK.
EVASION REPORT 21 Sep - 23 October 1944 by Major A.D. Tatham-Warter 2 Parachute Bn.
Captain Frank and I escaped from a hospital in ARNHEM in the night 21/22 Sept and hid about two miles west of the town. After a week we heard that Brigadier Lathbury had done much the same thing and was lying up quite close. We soon made contact with him and later heard of 10 men also in the area. On the 3rd October the HQ of the underground movement of EDE got in touch with us and asked us to move to EDE to help them in (a) Sending information to 2nd Army (b) Taking care of the men of 1 Airborne Div hiding in their area.
The following day I was moved by bicycle to EDE and the same day visited about 45 men, mostly of 133 Fd Amb and 10 Bn who were hiding in farms about 3 miles from EDE. Later that day I was taken to meet KING, a Belgian S.A.S. officer operating in the district. The latter was most helpful and contracted to arrange a supply drop of weapons, food and cigarettes on a D.Z. in operation further North. He also put me in touch with an escape route which will be called W.
On 4th October it was decided to move the Brigadier and Capt Frank to EDE which was considered a safer area and offered some opportunity for escape. Pete, the ex-Leader of the ARNHEM underground, volunteered to move both these officers, who were wounded, by Red Cross Car. He accomplished this safely on the morning 6th October and both were established in houses in EDE.
It was obvious that there was little I could do in this line. Their method of collecting information was very efficient. These included thorough patrolling of the whole district to locate artillery, dumps, etc. a night and day round count on all roads, all troop movements and concentrations. This information was passed to 2nd Army via KING and also by a method to be known as 'Q'. Plans and sketches were photographed and sent over the river either by courier or by picked men of ours by Route "W". It seemed a most efficient organisation and produced definite but not always good results from the R.A.F. and R.A.
The only limitation was that the area two km North of the River was 'out of bounds' to civilians and so no accurate information as to enemy dispositions on the River could be obtained.
(a) Route "W". This was the existing method and it was never really satisfactory. The Rhine crossing was about 30 km West of EDE and was comparatively easy, the main difficulty being the WAAL. We sent 11 men at different times by this route and 3 were captured. Later we sent an officer, Lieut Adams, to establish a post North of the WAAL with a view to speeding up the process. He was replaced by an 'I' officer from 2nd Army who was caught and the route was finally blown.
(b) Route "R". This was a much shorter route, being one due South of EDE, and only involved one River crossing. When all arrangements were made we sent off an American Pilot to try it out. Luckily for him the route was blown while he was still three miles from the River.
(c) The Air. Before the Brigadier arrived we evolved a plan for getting him flown out. Unfortunately in the only suitable areas, the fields were so small that nothing bigger than an Arty O.P. A/C could land with safety. We suggested to 2nd Army that this could be done at dusk. They turned this down but offered to bring a Lysander in at night if we would flood-light the field, diagonally. We turned this down.
We were left then with the rather insecure route "W", which it was quite impossible to use for large numbers, and was at the best of times precarious.
The next person of note to arrive in EDE was Lt-Col Dobie, who turned up one day after some very harrowing experiences. Shortly after this Pete repeated his former exploit by delivering Brigadier Hackett intact, but very weak from his stomach wound. He was put to bed in the town under the care of a Dutch doctor.
We kept getting reports of men in hiding within a radius of 30 miles and agents were always sent to investigate. Sometimes these reports were true and at the end of ten days we had collected about 80 men, including six officers and several pilots, RAF and American, in the neighbourhood of EDE. We then decided that EDE was getting congested and Pete of Arnhem opened up a new base at REEMST, about six miles North East. Pete then discovered Tony Hibbert, Capt Robinson, Lieut Hindley and several men who were hiding some distance North East of Arnhem. It was intended to move this party to REEMST at a later date. At the end of a month the numbers were approx 80 in and around EDE and 40 at REEMST.
The supply drop we had asked for was successfully carried out about 7th October on a D.Z. some way to the North. The weapons and food reached us, but four years of war and home grown tobacco got the better of our Dutch friends's sense of honesty and very few cigarettes survived transit. We couldn't grumble as they kept us very well supplied out of their meagre stock of home grown tobacco. The weapons were hidden in a farm near EDE and proved very useful later. Later we asked for, and received, a further drop, which included clothes for escape which had always been a great problem to the Dutch. We should have liked a more regular supply system but the Boche made this difficult by discovering the D.Z. and new ones hard to find.
These supply drops were arranged through KING the Belgian S.A.S. officer, who I used to meet at a farm near EDE about twice a week.
Bill, the leader of EDE resistance, very wisely refrained from all sabotage except for cutting the railway when required. It is of interest that he received orders from his 'Brigade' Commander to carry out wholesale sabotage and slaughter of Boche officers. If he had done this EDE would have ceased to exist and both the Intelligence System and our safety would have been compromised. His prompt action on the railway was on one occasion directly responsible for the destruction of quite a number of light tanks. These were parked in sidings North of EDE. Bill cut the lines North and South and then asked the RAF to complete the job. The result was quite good. The line was cut on three other occasions and only four trains passed during my stay in EDE.
I was once asked to provide a party to blow a train on an important line 20 miles to the North. We should have liked the job, but there were many difficulties and we felt it was the job of the Resistance men in that area, who had better facilities and were experienced in the work.
We were expecting 2nd Army any day, and so, when we had collected about 80 men whom we could arm, we made plans for sabotage on all roads when the right moment should come. This would not be until a bridgehead was formed and the Boche had started to pull out.
The plan, roughly, was to work in small parties, five of our men with five dutch, on all roads leading from EDE and ARNHEM and as far North as APELDOORN. Tony Hibbert was to take charge of the ARNHEM District while I worked at EDE and coordinated the whole operation. We hoped to make road movement, by night at any rate, impossible without a strong escort. The country was ideal as most of it was thickly wooded. Just when our plans were completed and the necessary dispositions were being made, we got word that our efforts would not be required for a long time and we started to think seriously of escape.
Relations with the Enemy.
Once we had reached EDE we were not seriously inconvenienced by the Boche in and around the town. We were lucky in that there were very few S.S. in the district, though there were a great many Wehrmacht and later a few Gruno Polizei. The situation got worst towards the end of our stay when it was realised that the district was in no immediate danger of attack, and the 'back room' boys, who had cleared out during the Arnhem battle began to creep back.
The two things that worried us most were -
(a) A call up of all bicycles which lasted about ten days, and entailed the blocking of most roads and a search of houses and farms for hidden bicycles. During this period we had to be very careful how we moved and there was always the danger of discovery in the search.
(b) Billetting - They made two or three attempts to take over the Brigadier's house and entered several others that we were using. For the last three days there were four men of a panzer unit in my house, which was most inconvenient as it was a busy time for us.
We were very lucky in only having three men caught and they were some way from EDE, so the Boche never had any reason to suspect that there were large numbers hiding in the district, and our disguises, though sometimes a bit eccentric, seemed to be effective.
It is of interest that the Boche chose the day after we left and crossed the river for a mass call up of all men from 15 to 60 years old, to dig defences. They had done it in all the towns in the neighbourhood and it is very doubtful if we should all have survived this very thorough process.
Col. Dobies Escape.
I have already mentioned Route "W" and the fact that the officer we sent to establish it was replaced by an 'I' officer from 2nd Army. He sent word that the route was good and could take six men per day. Col Dobie was anxious to try his luck, so we sent him off on 14th October, carrying very important photos and plans of defences. Shortly after he left I received the information which changed our plans and got word to him before he crossed the River asking him to go into the question of a mass escape which we had already discussed in outline.
He had a most exciting journey, but got through at the same time as Route "W" was finally blown. The full story of this and the arrangements he made South of the River have been written by him (See Annexure 1 attached). It is sufficient to say that without his detailed knowledge of our situation and the excellent arrangements he made, it is very doubtful whether the escape would have worked.
Immediately after Col Dobie's departure we got news that Route "W" was blown so we were doubtful if he would get through. As it was essential that some one knowing our situation and plans should be South of the River to make arrangements there, the Brigadier volunteered to try a crossing alone South of EDE - a night patrol by Capt Wainwright (156 Bn) showed that the area we had selected was much too strongly held so we had to think again. Tony Hibbert had been brought over to EDE and now took command of the party at REEMST. A daily conference was held at the Brigadier's house, which the Brigadier, Tony and I attended, and a plan was drawn up.
On 16th October we got the good news that Col Dobie was across and that night I talked to him by 'Q'. We found that his ideas fitted in very well with our plans and after fixing preliminaries we agreed to discuss full details the following night. He gave me another area for the crossing which was to be known as 'DIGBY'. The plan finally decided was very simple. We were to make our own arrangements for reaching the River; at midnight and every hour after that a Bofors would fire a burst due North over 'DIGBY'. When we were ready we would flash a red Vic and ten boats, with flank protection, would come across. Col Dobie guaranteed the fullest support from the South bank if we should get into trouble.
The Brigadier was sceptical as to the merits of a Bofors as direction signal, but we agreed to use it. Afterwards his doubts were more than justified.
Having decided on the plan, the main problem confronting us was how 130 odd Englishmen were to be concentrated at the River. It entailed moving them a distance varying from 8 to 15 miles through country thickly populated by Boche, and finally through the defence lines to the River. We originally planned to do this by moving to a concentration point in the wood just North of DIGBY the night before, in two separate parties, one from EDE, the other from REEMST. It was a very difficult undertaking as the area we should move through contained a great number of Batteries and all that goes with them. However we were spared this by a great piece of luck. At 1700 hours on Friday, 20 October, we got the news that the Boche had ordered the evacuation of BENNEKOM, which was a village only two miles from our concentration area, by midday Sunday. This meant that on the following day the road would be congested with refugees, so we at once decided to make use of this opportunity. Bill mobilised his whole organisation and starting at 0730 hrs on Saturday, the 90 men from EDE district were moved down in parties of two's and three's to the concentration area, three miles North of Digby, in a thick part of the woods. There were one or two ugly moments but by 1730 hrs the concentration was complete and the whole party had been equipped with their uniforms, weapons and food which had all been transported to the area by horse and cart.
There still remained the problem of the other 40 men from REEMST. We had decided to move them down in two lorries provided by the Dutch Red Cross starting at dusk on the evening of the crossing. According to plan, soon after dusk on the Sunday 22nd October the two lorries picked up their load with Tony Hibbert in command, drove down, passing many Germans without incident, and drew up at the selected point on time. They had chosen a bad moment for as they debussed a German bicycle patrol came down the road and had to slow up, ringing their bells, to get past the congestion on the road. They didn't appear to notice anything wrong, not even the Dutch guides shouting instructions in English.
The whole party was now concentrated and organised into platoons and Sections. Our numbers were swollen by fifteen Dutchmen and two Russian Pilots who wished to accompany us.
The area selected for crossing had been reconnoitred by myself in daylight on Saturday morning and by a very thorough Recce patrol led by Capt Wainwright on Saturday night. We had a Dutch farmer to lead us through the woods and the last 1000 yards to the river was across open meadows, through a gap 250 yards wide between two enemy strong posts, sited 300 yards back from the river. The River front was covered by a series of posts all sited 300 yards back on the winter dyke and the bank itself was known to be regularly patrolled. It would have been a hazardous move with a highly trained company, but with a mixed bag of 120 parachutists, largely R.A.M.C. orderlies, 10 British and U.S. pilots, two Russians and 15 Dutchmen, all of whom were unfit and many of whom had never seen their leaders in daylight, it soon became obvious that our chances of slipping through unobserved were remote. Before we reached the River the party mostly closely resembled a herd of Buffalo, and I think it was this fact, which probably misled the Boche as to our numbers, added to the fact that the US parachutists on the South bank had been patrolling very vigorously on previous nights, that got us through. Although they were aware of our presence they were obviously windy to take us on. We moved off at 2100 hrs and reached the River at 2350 hrs. Captain Wainwright had led the party with great skill over the route he had reconnoitred and so far not a shot had been fired. Soon after we started moving West we bumped into a small patrol which opened fire and caused some consternation. Several enemy posts then sent up Red verey lights but fortunately the expected S.O.S. fire did not materialise.
At midnight we still reckoned we had about 500 yards to cover to DIGBY but were surprised to see the Bofors tracer passing what appeared a very short distance ahead. We moved on another 150 yards and then signalled for the boats; after 20 minutes waiting and still no boats we were beginning to wonder, when an American officer appeared and pointed out that if we moved another 400 yards West we should find all the boats waiting. We were very relieved, but decided then never to trust a Bofors again. We found Col Dobie waiting with the boats and rather annoyed that we had been so long. Still not a shot had been fired from the German positions, although we were clearly in view of them all the time; and we crossed without incident, to find a magnificent reception laid on for us.
ANNEXURE 1 to Appx 'F'
REPORT ON OPERATION TO LIBERATE PERSONNEL FROM NORTHERN HOLLAND.
by Lt-Col. D.T. Dobie. D.S.O.
Monday 16 Oct 44. Had been asked to proceed to 2nd Army HQ with plans of defences of ROTTERDAM and certain photographs of defences etc in North HOLLAND. Went to underground HQ and saw Major Tatham-Warter, and we went through plan of ambushing roads when 2nd Army cross the Rijn. All arrangements and communications fixed before I left. 1600 hrs. - proceeded to Capt Haig and sent wireless message to London reference operation. Remained night at Capt Haigs.
Tuesday 17 Oct 44. Was guided by underground to region Amerongen - 4077 - where I crossed Neder Rijn to Maurik - 4176. Underground at Maurik stated it was impossible to cross river Waal as there had been a fight the same day at TIEL, and two German soldiers had been killed. They agreed to give me guides the following day.
Wednesday 18 Oct 44. Arrived Tiel 1730 hrs but was told quite impossible to cross river owing to dusk curfew. Prans de Velder, a boy of 19, volunteered to get me to river bank through town. This he did, and we reached another underground house on outskirts of town. There I was told I could not cross owing to numerous German posts and patrols on the northern bank. However, Prans de V. once more volunteered to take me across. This was accomplished by 2200 hrs by infiltrating between two German posts and crossing the river in a rowing boat. Contact was made with British armoured car patrol at Warol - 4367 - at 2350 hrs.
Thursday 19 Oct 44. Contacted I.S.9 and went to 2nd Army HQ. Plans were delivered to G.1 I Section. I then went to General Dempsey's Tac HQ and informed him of the presence of approximately 200 airborne north of the river Rijn, armed, organised, and ready for his advance over the Rijn. Ambush plan explained. G.O.C. said I would have to evacuate them, if it was possible, and sent me to HQ 30 Corps, to make plan with General Horrocks.
Friday 20 Oct 44. Two crossings were decided on
1. For personnel North of Arnhem at area OOSTERBEEK 6975.
2. S.E. of WAGENINGEN - 604759.
the date to be night 23/24 October.
1. to be carried out by 50th Div.
2. to be carried out by 101 U.S. Airborne Div.
Rough outline plan completed, and I passed plan by telephone to Major Tatham-Warter at EDE. Was informed by him that they had to get out night 21/22 October and could only go by the western crossing.
Saturday 21 Oct 44.
Detailed plan completed with General Taylor, 101 U.S. Airborne Div. The 2nd Bn 506 Regt would carry out the task. 30 Corps RE to provide assault boats.
1. Enemy. Is holding North bank of Neder Rijn with main positions on high ground some distance from the river bank. The bank itself is covered only with patrols and posts.
2. Own Troops. Approx 130 Officers and men of 1st Airborne Div are in area North of Neder Rijn. This party is organised, armed, and in a fit state to make its way by night to the North bank of the river.
3. 30 Corps will evacuate the party of 1st Airborne (Br) Div from the area North of the river Neder Rijn.
4. 2nd Bn 506 Regt of 101 U.S. Airborne Div will supply an assault party in three groups -
Left; One patrol of one officer, 7 men and F.O.O.
Right; same party.
Centre; Company Commander beach party under Lieut Heaps (attd 1 Parachute Bn).
OC 30 Corps Engineers.
23 assault boats will be manned by 30 Corps R.E.
5. Covering party. Local to the bridgehead by the remainder of the company during crossing. Remainder of regimental machine guns and mortars to line bank to support crossing and evacuation which will be carried out in one lift.
INDICATION OF CROSSING PLACE.
6. Patrols from 1 (Br) Airborne will indicate crossing place by flashing 'V' with red light from North bank. Crossing will be effected immediately. A Bofors gun will indicate to airborne personnel crossing place by firing bursts of 10 due North over crossing places every clock hour, from 2400 hrs onwards.
7. The operation will be supported by 30 Corps Artillery by -
(a) Box barrage at local bridgehead.
(b) Concentrations on known German positions.
(c) C.B. in whole area.
8. The crossing to be silent, and no firing by anyone unless ordered by O.C. crossing.
9. Lt-Col. Dobie will command crossing and be responsible for evacuation.
10. All personnel will be in position ready to effect the crossing by 2300 hrs.
11. D.A. & Q.M.G. will make arrangements for transport and reception. I.S.9 will make arrangements for places back to England.
12. (a) Walkie-talkie between flank parties and OC Coy.
(b) W.T. to command post duplicated by line.
(c) Command post Randwick - 5975.
The co-ordinating conference was held at HQ 101 U.S. Airborne Div by General Horrocks.
Contact again was made by me with Major Digby Tatham-Warter, and final instructions passed. Was informed by him that concentration North of Rijn was already proceeding smoothly and had all artillery stopped in area 3 kms North of crossing place as some troops were already there.
SUNDAY 22 Oct 44.
Proceeded to HQ 2nd Bn 506 Regt and went over plan in detail with Lt-Col Strayer, the CO of the Bn.
At 1900 hrs we proceeded to Command post at Randwick.
All preparations were completed without mishap at 2300 hrs. At 2400 hrs the Bofors gun indicated crossing place. About the same time we heard small arms fire from North of river about 1,000 yards East of our crossing place. This later proved to be a German patrol which had run into the airborne personnel on the river bank.
At 0005 hrs the red light flashed 'V', but it was approximately 800 yards east of our crossing place. I immediately gave the order to cross, and we established a small bridgehead on the North bank of the Rijn. Germans were heard and seen 150 yards away in the woods. Lieut Heilecker proceeded at top speed eastwards to contact parachutists. I remained area bridgehead and organised defence.
At 0030 hrs two red verey lights were fired by Germans in the wood. Mortars opened up and landed near my left-hand patrol. A machine gun opened up from about 1,000 yards West. Shooting was inaccurate.
At approx 0100 hrs Lieut H. returned with the first party of parachutists, who were embarked and sent across. A red and a white were sent up by the Germans and some artillery fire came over into the Randwick area. Mortar fire continued, but no casualties were caused.
By 0130 hrs the remainder of the airborne personnel had come in.
By 0200 hrs all had been embarked, and I withdrew the covering party and reported back to the Command post.
The operation was completed without casualty, and 100 per cent success.
This information was sent to Airborne Forces HQ by wireless, and to 30 Corps HQ.
All personnel were transported to Nijmegen C.C.S., the total number being 138. The next day the party was flown to England.