National Archives catalogue reference WO 171/1375
Forward Observation Officer
General Officer Commanding
King's Own Scottish Borderers
Main Dressing Station
Medium Machine Gun
Physical Training / Point (if lower case)
Royal Army Medical Corps
Regimental Aid Post
Rounds per Gun
Supply Dropping Point
Self-Propelled / Start Point / Support (if lower case)
Month and year: September 1944
Commander: Lt-Col. W.D.H. McCardie
1st September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
Briefing for Coys of Operation "Linnet" : loading gliders at Brize Norton and Broadwell.
2nd September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
Final briefing of Coys.
0900 - Communion given in the Marquee by the Padre. Afternoon spent in checking up final points, for the take-off at 0645 hrs tomorrow. Weather is squally by "Met" reports that it will blow itself out by the morning. Allied advance continues at a tremendous rate, and they are reported on the Belgium frontier. Our role may be changed after landing, to move NE to capture Antwerp in conjunction with our own armour.
2230 - News received of 6 hr postponement on account of weather.
2300 - Operation "Linnet" cancelled; gliders to remain loaded.
3rd September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
The Bn slept late after its unexpected last minute reprieve.
1015 - The CO spoke to the Bn, saying that in our role we must expect such changes, and although every man was disappointed yet we must realise that we will be flown in at exactly the right time and such a tremendous force would not be committed at any other. The battle is going so well that our own armour had already reached RENAIX. The camp would be unsealed and recreational tpt would be provided to OXFORD. Hardly had these words left his mouth when a message was handed to him that the Bn must be ready to take off at 1400 hrs today on Operation "Linnet".
1145 - Operation "Linnet" again cancelled, the Bn First Lift to take off for Manston, Kent, at 1400 hrs, to give the Albemarle tugs additional range.
1230 - First Lift embus for the aerodrome, news received that the Brigadier and CO to attend Army "O" Gp at Moor Park Nr. Rickmansworth for a new operation.
1330 - Tps (first lift) emplane for Manston. Advance Party left by air (C47) ahead of them. Brigadier and CO flew to Moor Park.
1355 - As the gliders were being towed out to the runway, move cancelled, tps returned to Transit Camp Brize Norton. 3 3 tonner have already left for Manston with blankets and rations.
1915 - CO returned from Moor Park by Plane with orders for a new operation, area West of MAASTRICHT. The Bn areas allotted and one set of maps issued. LZs unknown to be received at 0600 hrs tomorrow; maps to be collected during the night.
1930 - All offrs briefed on the one set of maps we have. Take off for Manston will be at dawn, from Manston 1400 hrs tomorrow for Belgium.
2130 - Coordinates of LZs received, weather is bad with a high wind and squalls.
2150 - Map Party ready to leave for Newbury Map Depot, when word was received that Operation planned was cancelled. First lift to fly to Manston at dawn notwithstanding.
2215 - First lift flight to Manston cancelled. So ends the day in which the Bn has been briefed for two operations and three different flights and has seen a new word coined by the troops who complain that they are 'brief happy'. Field Return of Offrs 2 Sep 44. Field Return of ORs 5.
4th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
Day spent in administration; baths, etc in the morning. In the afternoon ¾ all ranks proceeded to Oxford by M.T. and attended a cinema as an organised party. The remainder went to the RAF Cinema, Brize Norton.
2100 - Message received to standby to go to Newbury at 0100 hrs to collect maps.
2359 - Message received that maps are not to be collected until 1100 hrs Tuesday.
5th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
First Lift were ready to embus for move to airfield at 0800 hrs when move was postponed until 1100 hrs.
1100 - Maps collected. 1st lift take off for Manston, Kent, postponed until 1500 hrs.
1500 - 1st lift take off in very squally weather. D Coy HQ Glider (Maj Phillp) did not take off owing to a defect in the tail of the glider. 13 Pl glider (B Coy - Lts Norwood & MacDonald) crashed on take off. No serious injuries sustained. All concerned took the matter very calmly and both gliders were scheduled to take off on Wednesday.
1700 - Maps reached Camp and were allocated to 1st and 2nd Lifts.
6th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
0900 - The remaining gliders took off for Manston. The C.O. flew with the Brigadier to receive orders at MOOR PARK. The 2 i/c and IO followed by road.
1630 - C.O. 2IC and IO returned.
1800 - Bde "O" Gp.
2000 - All operational officers still at Brize Norton briefed by CO on Operation COMET (FIFTEEN according to new form A just received).
2030 - Maj Lane arrived from HARWELL, having just arrived there from Manston with his Coy (Glider flight). The CO personally briefed Maj Lane in his 'Coup-de-Main'.
2300 - 13 Pl glider returned to Camp, having crash landed just outside Oxford. Again no casualties. Arrangements made for this Pl to go to MANSTON by road and a replacement glider to be flown down in ballast.
7th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
1000 - CO left for MANSTON by road.
1030 - "O" Gp for 2nd lift, who were briefed by Maj Commings.
1515 - A Coy reloaded with 6 special gliders for their task. Remainder of day spent in briefing 2nd lift personnel.
2300 - Operation postponed for 24 hrs.
After a night of heavy rain, most of the troops were compelled to evacuate their tents for drier accommodation. The rain continued until well after mid-day, rather dampening everyone's spirits. The CO and IO arrived at 1615 hrs, with details of operation. General briefing of officers at 1700 hrs. Coy Comds special briefing after, then down to NCOs and men. Rather hurriedly carried out. At 2230 hrs news received that operation was postponed 24 hrs. Ground bogged. Unable to martial gliders and tugs.
8th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
1000 - Additional briefing for all 2nd lift glider commanders - further air photographs available. All ranks had baths in the morning and went to RAF Station cinema in the afternoon.
1500 - Times for take off were put back 45 minutes for 1st lift.
2100 - Operation postponed for 24 hrs.
The 24 hrs cancellation proved rather a blessing. The Coy Comds were able to brief their men thoroughly, and altogether get a really good idea of the job on hand. Everyone seemed well keyed up for the Op. However, at approx 1700 hrs new gen came in through Bde, which rather upset our plans. CO in consultation at Bde 2100 hrs, operation postponed for tactical reasons. Another night's undisturbed sleep.
9th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
Another day of waiting - weather here perfect for gliding. Morning spent in bathing, afternoon on maintenance of vehicles in gliders, remainder played football & basketball, etc.
2115 - Operation postponed for 48 hrs. No official reason given. All heavy loads ordered to be unloaded on Sunday, starting at 1330 hrs for 2nd lift. Reloading to start at same time Monday.
A rather quiet morning. Everyone seemed to think further postponement likely. A rather mild surprise at 1215. Six gliders and crews were to go up in the afternoon for testing a new take off system. The new system worked beautifully. No complaints anywhere. At 0915 hrs word received official postponement for yet another 48 hrs. Tactical reasons.
10th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
Another glorious autumn morning.
0915 - "O" Gp. Details of unloading and reloading, cinema, bath & games organisation discussed.
1245 - Unloading party left in MT for BROADWELL.
1615 - Operation COMET cancelled. Operation 16 brewing up. Camp unsealed, men went to Oxford in our transport.
Another quiet morning. "O" Gp conference 1030 hrs. Church Parade 1100 hrs. Word received late afternoon (official) "operation scrubbed". 1730 hrs - Bn allowed out of camp. Not many took advantage. Reason - financial difficulties, plenty of foreign currency, no English money.
11th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
1230 - All units in camp paraded and the Bde Comd spoke to all ranks on the reason for the recent operations, postponements and cancellations. He mentioned leave and said that there was no possibility of any at the moment. Recreational tpt to Oxford in the evening.
1730 - CO and IO returned to camp from Manston.
Still all quiet. Good news. Field Cashier to arrive in afternoon. Foreign currency exchanged. The influx of Airborne Tps into Margate, Ramsgate, etc, much larger this evening after being given English currency. At 1430 hrs IO left by plane for Brize Norton at 1500 hrs, CO did likewise. Maj Phillp takes over command Manston detachment.
12th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
0915 - Warning Order received from Bde. Additional maps for operation "Market" may have to be collected from Bde HQ at 1500 hrs 12 Sep. Previous allocation of maps are to be retained, and it appears that this new operation will be in the same area as "Comet".
1730 - Order received from Bde saying Bn should be prepared to send all personnel on a leave. The leave to consist of four nights at home. This will be confirmed later. The news spread round the camp and caused great excitement. Best suits are being pressed and leave passes prepared.
Everything peaceful. Weather glorious. Warning order for Bde. Additional maps for operation "Market".
13th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
1000 - Bde "O" Gp. CO briefed by Bde Comd on Operation "MARKET". Only 2IC and IO to be briefed at the moment, no general briefing until loading starts. Although the leave has not been cancelled, there seems little prospect of it coming off on the eve of an operation.
1600 - Orders received that all personnel may take a 24 hr leave only. All leave to be over by 1200 hrs 15 Sep. There was feverish activity preparing passes and paying out 'once again'. Trucks were run to OXFORD for personnel who wished to go on leave the same evening.
1000 - Bde "O" Gp. CO briefed by Bde Comd on Operation "Market". No general briefing until loading starts. Brize Norton personnel given 24 hr passes.
14th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
The camp has a very deserted look today. The only people left are people who were unable to get home in the short time, and personnel on duty. Recreational tpt was arranged to OXFORD for the afternoon, for personnel still in camp. All "O" Gp from the 1st lift at MANSTON returned to camp during the day, for COs "O" Gp tomorrow.
Things very quiet at Brize Norton. "O" Gp arrive from Manston for briefing and fly back.
15th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
1300 - Maj-Gen R.E. URQUHART DSO, GOC Div visited the camp and stayed to lunch.
1330 - Loading parties of 2nd lift left camp.
1400 - COs "O" Gp for Operation "Market". Area of ARNHEM, North of NIJMEGEN in HOLLAND. Weather is very fine at the moment and the troops are doing PT and games.
1700 - All "O" Gp of 1st lift left camp to fly back to MANSTON.
Brize Norton and Manston parties loading. Weather very fine.
16th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
0845 - Briefing of 2nd lift commenced and camp sealed.
1400 - CO and IO left for MANSTON by plane.
General briefing all day. Everyone in good spirits. Take off 17 1030hrs.
17th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
0730 - Personnel of 181 Fd Amb and HQ 1st Landing Bde left camp for the airfields.
1030 - A large number of gliders and C47s flew over the camp, and so the 1st phase of operation "MARKET" had started. The weather is glorious today and should be ideal for flying.
0730 - Last minute check of kit. Morale very high but owing to so many cancellations, troops still fear postponement.
0900 - Troops embussed for runway, weather still perfect.
1030 - First glider took off to time. (CO) Perfect take off followed by remaining gliders. Troops, immediately prior to take off, extremely cheerful.
1101 - Tug was seen returning to airfield without glider. Glider No.298 B Coy HQ reported to have made forced landing near CANTERBURY [Note: This was probably No.296 instead, as the glider referred to below at 1430 hrs was definitely No.298]. All a/c to take off with second lift 18th.
1430 - Tug planes returned, reporting good landings of gliders. 1 Glider 296 Pl B Coy reported to have made forced landing 40 miles from LZ. German radio reports heavy landing at this point. Pl having fun?
1600 - BBC announced landing in Holland by 1st Airborne Army.
Bn 1st lift consisting of BHQ, B & D Coys, one pl Vickers and HC Pl Mortars, landed at RIJERS CAMP (662815). One Pl B Coy did not arrive, and B Coy HQ glider cast off over England. Bn took up defensive posn round L.Zs.
18th September 1944
Place: Brize Norton
Owing to "Met" report take off put off until 1015 hrs. Rain at Manston, low light cloud Brize Norton. Take off on time, 1 A Coy glider broke tow rope while circling airfield made good landing, hitched up and took off again. All our gliders at LZ OK. Newspapers full of airborne landing on Holland. Photographs.
Bn moved off at 0930 hrs through WOLFHEZEN into ARNHEM with the object of relieving 1st Para Bn at Arnhem Rd Bridge. Held up for a few hours north of OOSTERBEEK (708702) but got through and entered town at about 1900 hrs, where contact was made with remnants of 1st and 3rd Para Bns (726776), under heavy fire from German defences on high ground north of ARNHEM. During the afternoon the second lift consisting of Rear BHQ, A Coy, and C Coy, one pl Vickers, Jeep Pl, Mortars, and two ATk pls, landed. B Coy HQ glider also landed with this lift. Second lift moved down into Arnhem during the night and A Coy reached the Bn about midnight. Remainder of second lift held up; got through at first light.
19th September 1944
At 0445 the Bn moved off for the Road Bridge through the main street of the town. They were followed by the 11th Para Bn; remnants of 1st and 3rd under Lt-Col Dobie, at the same time, started along the river bank. By 0630 hrs the Bn had reached the Monastery (734780). Two unsuccessful attacks were launched in an attempt to continue the advance and heavy casualties were sustained. At about 0800 hrs it was arranged that the 11th Bn should retrieve the situation by moving up to and along the rly and putting in a left flanking attack. This never developed. The Bn continued to fight off the enemy and at about 0900 hrs tanks appeared. These were held off for about two hours by PIATs, but at approx 1100 hrs when all PIAT amn was exhausted, the tanks overran the posn, inflicting heavy casualties and splitting the Bn into pockets.
There was no ATk guns in the area. Only small parties fought their way back to the ATk screen (725777) where they were reorganised with C Coy, making a total force of fire [five?] pls and one Vickers pl. This force was immediately put into an attack on to the wooded hill at DENBRINK (723782), the object being to secure a "pivot" for 11th Para Bn. to attack on the line of the road running North and South through HEIZONOORD and DISPENDAAL (7278). The attack succeeded but before the troops could dig in very heavy mortar concentrations were brought down on the hill, inflicting a number of casualties; it is thought that the 11th Bn. was also heavy mortared. Parties of the 11th began to fall back through our posns. ATk guns which should have arrived on our position during consolidation did not materialize, and no PIATs were available. Enemy tanks broke through into a wood at 723781, and also at 722782 and drove the troops back to the SW. Remnants of the Bn were organised with remnants of 1st, 2nd and 11th Para Bns at Rd Junc 705774 and around OOSTERBEEK CHURCH (696773).
20th September 1944
Orders were received to relieve all Staffords at Eastern Outpost (705774) and replace them with 11th Bn troops. This was effected before mid-day. The Bn left a pl of Vickers and a pl of ATk guns with the 11th Bn. The Staffords withdrew from this outpost occupying the area of the Laundry (697775). The remnants of this Bn were now nearly all concentrated in the area of OOSTERBEEK CHURCH (696773) and the Laundry (697775). Small units such as part of the Jeep Mrtr Pl, one pl of C Coy, Pnr Pl, and the Carriers, who had never reached the battle, remained and fought with Div., Bdge., the Border Regt., throughout.
21st September 1944
Bn held same posns. Towards evening 11th Bn were driven out of the outpost posn and our Vickers Pl came back to take up posns in the church area.
22nd - 25th September 1944
The same positions held. Continual mortaring, shelling, and tank and infantry attacks. On 22 Sep 30 Staffords under an officer were sent to the Border Regt. On the night 25/26 Sep the remnants of the Bn withdrew with the rest of the Div across the RHINE.
26th September 1944
The remnants of the Bn, moved down to NIJMEGEN through a drizzle of rain. Everyone was wet, but the men were cheerful. Met 1st seaborne who took them to billets where they found food and dry clothing.
27th September 1944
The Bn was refitted with new battledress. The men were smart again, and once again, cheerful. Rumour says that a quick return to England is imminent.
28th September 1944
Bn survivors embussed at 1000 hrs for journey to LOUVAIN. Spent night in large barracks at LOUVAIN.
29th September 1944
Survivors leave for BRUSSELS airfield at 1200 hrs. Emplane on Dakotas at 1400 hrs. At 1700 hrs survivors of Arnhem battle set foot on England. Landfalls made at Woodhall Spa and other two aerodromes in Lincolnshire.
30th September 1944
Bn Reorganising, refitting and resting. Majs Cain and Buchanan sorting out details of casualties.
NOT TO BE TAKEN INTO THE AIR
2 S. Staffords OO 1.
14 Sep 44.
Ref Maps 1/25000 GSGS 4427, GINKEL 388, EDE 387, RENEN 5 NE, ARNHEM 6 NW.
1/100000 GSGS 2541 Sheets 2 and 5. GSGS 4416 Sheets P 1.
1. (a) General Operation MARKET is a development of Op "COMET". The tasks previously to be carried out by 1 Airborne Div are now being carried out by 1 Airborne Corps. 1 Airborne Div undertakes to occupy all ARNHEM, 82 American Airborne Div takes NIJMEGEN and 101 American Airborne Div occupies line of canal at GRAVE.
(b) Enemy Issued verbally. All Comds should read Planning Summary in Intelligence Office.
(c) Own Tps
(i) Air Plan Forms AB issued separately.
(ii) Div lands in three lifts.
1 Para Bde
1 Air Ldg Bde (less certain sub-units)
9 Fd Coy RE
181 Fd Amb RAMC
Certain Div Tps
4 Para Bde
Remainder 1 Airldg Bde
Remainder Div Tps
1 Polish Para Bde
DZ X H+45 mins
LZ S H hr
Z H+19 onwards
DZ Y X hr
LZ S X+17 onwards
DZ K Z hr
and LZ L Z+20 onwards
(iii) LZs and DZs marked on Coy Comds maps.
(a) 1 Para Bde
(i) Seize and hold ARNHEM and secure brs over the NEDER RIJN.
(ii) Occupy that portion of the town shown on trace issued separately.
(b) 1 Air Ldg Bde
(i) Cover the unloading of 1st and 2nd lifts.
(ii) After unloading of second lift seize and occupy the sector of the town allotted.
(iii) Protect LZ for landing of 3rd lift gliders.
(c) 4 Para Bde and 1 Polish Para Bde Occupy sector of town allotted.
(d) Outpost line and standing patrols will be pushed forward as far as possible as for normal telescopic defence.
3. Air Landing Bde Plan 1 Air Landing Bde will
(a) Protect the ldg of 2nd and 3rd lifts.
(b) occupy ARNHEM within the bdys shown.
Tasks will be carried out in two phases indicated as follows:-
Phase I. Initial ldg.
Phase II. Clearing of DZ and LZ of 2nd lift.
4. 7 KOSB is to
(a) est strong coy gp at PLANKE WAMBUIS 6683.
(b) protect DZ Y until 4 Para Bde are clear.
5. 1 Border is to
(a) est strong coy at RENKUM 6276.
(b) protect DZ X and LZ Z until Div tps are clear.
6. Glider Pilots will
(a) remain with units as far as unit RVs.
(b) RV under own arrangements and occupy the EAST end of WOLFHEZEN.
7. Bde HQ RV WOLFHEZEN.
8. 1 Border
(a) move on orders Bde HQ to occupy area KOUDE HERBERG 6878.
(b) est post in HEVEADORP area.
(c) route along main RENKUM - ARNHEM rd.
(d) dominate area bounded on NORTH by main rd, on EAST by rly and on SOUTH by river with special reference to ferries.
9. 7 KOSB
(a) move as soon as 4 Para Bde are clear of DZ Y into bde res in area H on road 7279.
(b) protect LZ L until 1 Polish Para Bde gliders are clear with one coy gp.
(c) est post at rd and rly br 715780.
(d) dominate area bounded by pts H on road 7279. X rds 726797. X rds 733785.
10. Glider Pilots
(a) move on orders Bde HQ along rd NORTH of rly to occupy wood 697787 with posts from HALTE X rds 699792 to main rd at 696784.
(b) dominate the area bounded on the NORTH by the rly, on the EAST by the rly and on the SOUTH by the main rd.
11. Recce With under comd dets 9 Fd Coy RE are operating against the brs under orders 1 Para Bde.
(a) FOOs normal. Initial gun area 6779 moving to 7177.
(b) 1 Lt Bty is sp 1 Air Ldg Bde with OPs at PLANKEN and RENKUM.
(c) DF and SOS sig:- RED - GREEN - RED.
(a) One Pl 9 Fd Coy under comd 1 Air Ldg Bde - primary task rd blocks on main EDE - ARNHEM rd in area 2 S.Staffords during Phase II.
(b) the tasks of the remainder incl (i) seizing & holding rly br at 7076. (ii) removal of all boats to NORTH bank of NEDER RIJN.
(a) Bombline (i) from H hr until 2nd lift plus 6 hrs. 785855 - 768852 - 750746 - 737845 - 730844 - 715845 - 708851 - 695852 - 676853 - 659853 - 639853 - 628853 - 613855. (ii) from 2nd lift plus 6 hrs (ie Not before 1100 hrs D+1) 629852 - 629842 - 630821 - 628807 - 623788 - 616772 - 614759.
(b) Prebriefed targets will be engaged from D-1 to H hr. These will incl barracks at EDE and WOLFHEZEN and all known flak.
15. 2 S Staffords will -
(a) land in two lifts on LZ "S".
(b) protect LZ "S".
(c) seize and occupy WOLFHEZEN (6680) in Phase I.
(d) hold the main road ARNHEM - EDE at X rds 713798 in Phase II.
16. General Plan This operation will be carried out in four phases:-
First Phase landing of first lift and protection of LZ "S".
Second Phase landing of second lift.
Third Phase move to first posn at WOLFHEZEN.
Fourth Phase Occupation of defensive posns on main rd ARNHEM - EDE.
17. Composition of 1st and 2nd Lifts
HQ Mrtr Pl.
One Pl MMG Gp.
4 gliders Bn HQ.
ATk Gp complete.
Motor Pl Mrtr Gp.
Vickers Gp less one pl.
2 gliders Bn HQ.
5 gliders Tpt Pl.
2 Bren gun carriers.
18. Take off aerodromes
1st lift - MANSTON.
2nd lift - BROADWELL.
Bren Carriers - TARRANT RUSHTON.
19. Landing Plan - later.
20. Move to Airfds At Appx 'B' issued separately.
21. Landing of 1st Lift See trace at Appx 'C'.
22. Action on landing.
(a) B Coy will seize high ground at SW corner of LZ 652812.
(b) D Coy will seize Wood at 658818.
(c) One sec Vickers Gp under comd B Coy. One sec under comd D Coy.
(d) Mrtr Gp. one sec under comd D Coy, one sec under comd B Coy, one sec in Bn reserve.
(e) Bn HQ establishes at REIJERS CAMP 663815.
23. Landing of 2nd Lift.
Action on Landing.
(a) This Force under comd Maj J.C. COMMINGS will R.V. as shown at Appx 'C'.
(b) If all is quiet guides will be present to take it to previously reccd posns in R.V. area.
(c) If all is not quiet A & C Coys will be prepared to take offensive action to assist the landing.
(d) B & D Coys will be in position to protect the landing.
24. Coord Conf. There will be a coord conf at BHQ on receipt of codeword FIREWORKS.
25. Move to defensive posns.
(a) Normal approach to contact No.1 Coy D Coy. No.2 Coy B Coy. No.3 Coy C Coy. No.4 Coy A Coy.
(b) Advance Guard Coy will move on CO's orders to secure road junc 665805.
(c) When D Coy has reported road junc 665805 clear B Coy will pass through to secure area Church at 662802.
(d) C Coy will then clear Bldgs at 666803 and afterwards occupy Spot Height 38.8 at 664804.
(e) A Coy will pass through to secure road junc 658805.
(f) Bn HQ will establish at X tracks 664803.
(g) Route SP X tracks 659810 - Road North of rly to road junc 665805.
(h) Coys will be prepared to change over tasks.
26. Coordinating Conference There will be a coordinating conference as soon as 2nd lift has arrived for all comds on receipt of code word BUZZ BOMBS.
28. Move to main defensive posns.
(a) Route SP - Rd Junc 665805 - thence along road North of rly to rd junc 685799 - rd junc 702802 - rd junc 703805.
(b) Order of March Normal approach to contact. No.1 Coy "C" Coy. No.2 Coy "D" Coy. No.3 Coy "A" Coy. No.4 Coy "B" Coy.
29. Dispositions at main defended locality.
(a) C Coy occupy area H at 704804 with outpost of one pl at X tks 693811. TASK to hold the main rd ARNHEM - EDE.
(b) "D" Coy area wood 707800. TASK to protect Southern flank.
(c) "A" Coy area wood at 712804 with one pl at X-tks 716806 (junc pt with 4 Para Bde). TASK to protect Northern flank.
(d) "B" Coy area X-rds 713798. TASK to hold main rd ARNHEM-EDE in depth and to counter-attack on to "C" Coy's posn.
(e) Both "A" and "D" Coys will also be prepared to counter-attack on to "B" Coy's posn.
(f) Small patrols and snipers will be sent out immediately.
(g) All tps will dig in immediately. Reverse slope posns will be occupied wherever possible.
30. Fire Plan
(i) Probable DF task X rds at 692811.
(ii) Probable SOS task rd junc 703805.
(b) Mrtr Gp
(i) Two dets under comd "C" Coy.
(ii) Two dets under comd "D" Coy.
(iii) Two dets under comd "A" Coy.
(iv) One pl in Bn reserve area "B" Coy.
(c) Vickers Gp
(i) One pl in Support "C" Coy.
(ii) One pl in Bn reserve area B Coy, facing South and NE.
(d) ATk Gp
(i) Two dets under comd "C" Coy.
(ii) One det under comd "C" Coy. outpost pl.
(iii) ATk gp less 3 dets to cover main road ARNHEM-EDE and open ground to NE, SE and SW.
(i) to construct rd block in "B" Coys area.
(ii) Coy Comds will inform CO of any likely RE tasks.
(f) Pnr Pl All pnrs with Rifle Coys will rejoin Pnr Pl on arrival at RV. TASKS
(i) Build Command Post.
(ii) Minefds in C and B Coys area.
(iii) Minefds in A and D Coys area.
31. Priority of tasks
(i) Road Blocks.
(iii) Clearing fields of fire. All axes will be removed from gliders for this purpose.
(vi) Wire and Trip Wire. Enemy wire should be used for this purpose.
32. Coordinating Conference There will be a Coordinating Conference for all Comds on receipt of the codeword SECRET WEAPON. RV Bn HQ.
33. Stand to.
(i) Automatic stand to ½ hr before first light until ½ an hr after.
(ii) Evening stand to. ½ hr before dusk until ½ hr after dusk. This stand to will be only 25% so that digging may continue.
(a) No brs will be destroyed or prepared for destruction. Temporary minor rail cuts may be made for the purpose of local defence.
(b) No demolitions of any kind, and no destruction of signal communication (except German field cable) will be allowed.
(a) Will only be laid under RE supervision, so as to ensure accurate recording.
(b) Own and enemy minefds will be reported through normal channels by the quickest possible means, and, in the case of enemy minefds, also to the nearest RE unit.
36. Ferries and Barges All ferries, barges, etc, will be brought to the NORTHERN bank of the river as soon as the situation permits, so as to safeguard them for future use.
37. Air sp
(a) Direct air sp will be provided by 83 Gp RAF, probably assisted by 84 Gp RAF. Requests for air sp will be submitted to Bde.
(b) Should a request to engage a target inside the bombline be made, the unit concerned will give a temporary bombline to cover that operation only.
38. Anti-gas Respirators WILL repeat WILL now be carried.
39. Glider Pilots Glider Pilots will form up under their own comd as soon as initial Bn RV is reached in Phase I and Phase II.
40. Resupply SDP at (i) LZ "L" at X+100 hrs. (ii) S of HOOGERF 7180 from Z+30 onwards.
(a) RSM will arrange for 2 jeeps and 4 trailers to report to Bde HQ on arrival.
(b) Bandoliers will be withdrawn into Coy reserve as soon as possible. 50% of bandoliers will be withdrawn into Bn Reserve by RSM.
(c) Amn pt will be established area wood at 710801 after arrival of 2nd lift.
(d) OC HQ Coy will ensure that NCOs of Bren gun carriers are adequately briefed to ensure their safe arrival.
(e) All concerned will ensure that trailers carrying amn are marked in chalk with the contents of each trailer.
42. Seaborne Tpt - as for "Linnet".
43. (a) CAS on all LZs and DZs will be evacuated to 181 Fd Amb in WOLFHEZEN until end of Phase III.
(b) At Phase IV MDS will be established in Western end of ARNHEM.
(c) RAP Phase I, II & III at Water Tower 662801. In Phase IV at Bldgs 710798.
44. PW to Bn HQ where Provost will establish PW cages.
45. Civilians As for "Linnet".
46. (a) W/T immediately on landing.
(b) Closes down as soon as line is laid except for control of listening watch. Coys will call up at 10 mins every hr.
(c) Pigeon messages will be addressed to "HQ British Airborne Tps (Rear)".
(d) Line As "Linnet".
(a) DF to be put up from Bn HQ on demand from Coys Red - Green - Red. Rate of fire 3 rpg per min for 2 mins.
(b) SOS 3 white to be put up by OC B Coy.
48. Recognition Signals
(a) to air yellow smoke or flares.
(b) to ground yellow celanese triangles.
(c) to collaborators; friendly Dutch civilians properly enrolled for labour through the Civil Affairs Mission will be issued with Blue and White armbands as worn by DRs. A Dutch liaison NCO is available at Bn HQ.
H hr till 2359 hrs D Day.
D day till 2359 hrs D+1
D+1 till 2359 hrs D+2
D+2 till 2359 hrs D+3
D+3 till 2359 hrs D+4
D+4 till 2359 hrs D+5
(a) Div HQ
(i) Lands on LZ Z.
(ii) RV track junc 657797.
(iii) Moves by main rd WAGENINGEN - ARNHEM.
(iv) Opens at ARTILLERIE PARK 7378 on arrival.
(b) Bde HQ
(i) RV WOLFHEZEN.
(ii) Moves along 2 S.Staffords route.
(iii) est in KOEPEL 7179 on arrival.
(c) Bn HQ
(i) Phases I & II REIJERS CAMP 663815.
(ii) Phase III X tracks 664803.
(iii) Phase IV Bldg 709809.
2nd SOUTH STAFFORDS AT ARNHEM
17-25 Sept. 44
On the 17th September the 2 South Staffords were ready to take off for HOLLAND as a battalion of the 1st Air Landing Bde, 1st Airborne Division. For various reasons it was due to be landed in two lifts, the 1st under Lieut-Col. W.D.H. McCARDIE consisting of Bn H.Q., B Coy (Maj R.H. Cain) and D Coy (Maj J.E. Phillp), one pl MMG and HC Mortar Pl on 17th September; while the 2nd lift comprising the remainder of the Bn under Maj J.C. COMMINGS came in on the 18th September. The 1st lift was concentrated at MANSTON, Kent, while the 2nd lift was at BRIZE NORTON, Oxfordshire, ready to take off from BROADWELL airfield close by. Morale throughout the unit was extremely high, despite the fact that they had been continually briefed and debriefed for operations, which had subsequently been cancelled, during the previous three months, and the continual 'keying up' for operations might well have affected the men.
The 1st lift took off from MANSTON at 1030 hrs. Flying conditions were extremely good and the trip was a great deal more peaceful than many exercise flights. The huge escorting fighter force did its job splendidly. With two exceptions the gliders arrived almost dead on the landing zone at REIJERS CAMP (6681). There was a certain amount of flak as they approached but only a few of the gliders were hit. The two missing gliders were those carrying Maj R.H. Cain with B Coy HQ and one pl of B Coy (Lieut J. Sharp). The former was cast off over England and landed back near CANTERBURY; the latter broke its tow rope over enemy occupied HOLLAND and came down near TILBURG. Its arrival caused the Germans to report that there were extensive air landings taking place in that area; they apparently carried out some demolitions. The landing was made safely, but the pl itself was unable to rejoin the allied armies. During the next six weeks it made several moves and lay up for long periods, finally rejoining complete when the 2nd Army advanced into BOXTEL.
There was practically no opposition to the landing at REIJERS CAMP apart from one or two isolated MGs which were soon dealt with. D Coy had two killed and seven wounded, the latter including Lieut J.E. Hardman-Mountford. About 20 Germans, who did not show much fight, were taken prisoner. The role of the 1st lift was to secure the landing zone for the arrival of the 2nd lift and the Bn therefore dug in with B Coy in the area 650810 and D Coy in the area 657818, the latter detaching on pl to protect Bde HQ at 663807. One section each of MMGs and Mortars were placed under command of coys, the remainder being with Bn HQ at 663815. The Border Regiment was holding a similar locality to the South, and the K.O.S.B. to the NW. The whole layout in the area was thus based on a series of defending localities. There were sounds of a good deal of firing from the direction of ARNHEM but no opposition developed in the bn area and all ranks spent a quiet night.
The 18th September also started fairly quietly while the bn prepared to wait for the arrival of the 2nd lift. However, orders were received about 0900 hrs to move to ARNHEM with the object of forcing a way through to relieve the paratroops of the 1st Bde who had seized, and were holding out at, the road bridge. The bn accordingly moved off at about 1030 hrs. The order of march was, D Coy, supporting arms, Bn HQ, B Coy (Capt R.S. Foot MC). The route lay through WOLFHEZEN, which had been much battered by RAF Lancasters the day before, and thence Southward to join the main UTRECHTSCHEWEG at X roads 678784. Although there were still a few scattered snipers about, the first real opposition came from German fighters which straffed the road when the bn was near the HOTEL WOLFHEZEN (6779). Fortunately, there were very few casualties from this attack. When the bn entered the built up area about X roads 702783 they picked up a fair number of stragglers from the 1st Para Bde who had with them a major and three subalterns. They were unable to give much information as to what lay ahead, although it appeared that opposition had grown much stiffer since their leading troops had passed through. At about 1300 hrs the head of the bn was just moving down into the valley about 711781 when heavy MG fire was opened from the high ground around MARIENDAAL and immediately South of the rly about 713784. It appeared also that the line of trees running due South from MARIENDAAL to the UTRECHTSCHE WEG was held.
At the same time odd snipers in houses on both sides of the road between the line? of the valley and the road junc 706782 came to life and started to be a nuisance. D Coy cleared off some snipers immediately threatening the road, and then began to work up the line of trees towards MARIENDAAL to clear the opposition. This proved difficult as the Boche posts were well hidden and well sited and it became clear that they could make little progress without incurring a good many casualties. The C.O. was not anxious to commit them fully, as his task was to get on into ARNHEM and if it proved difficult to disengage D Coy it left him only one weak coy, with which to try and get through, until the 2nd lift arrived. It was already quite obvious that the Germans had used the 24 hrs between the original landing and the advance of the South Staffords to strengthen their defences of the approaches to ARNHEM very considerably and it looked as if a push down the main road in daylight with the small force available would not have much hope of success. Recce was carried out for an alternative route and one was found from road junc 706782 through rly bridge 711774, but even so it would be difficult to use this road in daylight unless D Coy remained in their position to keep down the Boche MGs. Eventually at 1730 hrs B Coy with Bn HQ and support pls moved round by this route, the early stages of their move being covered by D Coy from their position at about 709783. They reached road junc 724776 as it was just getting dark and there met about 70 paratroops under command of Lieut-Col. Dobie, 1st Parachute Bn. This increased the rifle strength which Lieut-Col. McCardie had available by nearly 80% but Lieut-Col. Dobie's party had been fighting hard and were very exhausted. Fairly heavy MG fire was coming down from the area of DIEPENDAAL (7278) and the high ground about 729785 but it was mostly high; there was also a certain amount of fire coming from the houses in ARNHEM immediately along the proposed line of advance. Col. McCardie appreciated that severe street fighting lay ahead and he considered it unwise to attempt an advance into the town until the remainder of his bn had joined up.
D Coy started to pull out to follow the remainder of the 1st lift at 1830 hrs. It took them some time to disengage and by the time they arrived at the rly bridge it was dark. They had meanwhile been joined by A Coy (Maj T.B. Lane) from the 2nd lift. In the conditions existing Maj Lane, senior coy comd, considered it unwise to advance further in the darkness until he knew what was happening in front. He therefore went forward and contacted Col. McCardie. Both coys then moved up and joined the C.O's party about midnight. B Coy established themselves south of the road about 723776 and D Coy North of the road at about 723777, A Coy remaining on the line of the road behind them. Meanwhile the 11th Para Bn, which was intended to support the South Staffords in their advance to the bridge, came up in rear of A Coy.
The 2nd lift had taken off from BROADWELL at about 1030 hrs and all it gliders arrived safely by 1530 hrs. Maj R.H. Cain and B Coy HQ party accompanied this lift. There seemed to be rather more opposition in the L.Z. area than there had been when the 1st lift arrived, probably as German snipers had infiltrated in, and one pl of C Coy under Lieut D.K. Edwards was detached to unload a glider which had crash landed about 660821; this involved a minor pl action as it was under MG fire from the edge of the woods at 656826 and 660823. The task was however successfully completed.
As soon as possible the 2nd lift moved off to join up with the rest of the bn. The advance guard was formed by A Coy, with a section of mortars under command, while the main body consisted of C Coy (Maj P.R.T. Wright) and the bn tpt, one pl C Coy moving in rear. Lieut Edwards' pl had not rejoined when they moved off. The progress was slow as there was a good deal of other traffic on the road and a certain amount of general confusion existed. Some delay was also caused by snipers about the X-rds 696784. Unfortunately A Coy somehow got too far ahead of the main body, and the 11th Para Bn seems to have got in between it and the remainder of the column. It arrived at the road junc 706782 just as the tail of D Coy was moving down to rejoin the 1st lift; their subsequent moves have already been dealt with above.
The remainder of the 2nd lift did not learn about the detour as Maj Commings had no wireless communication working with the C.O. and on arriving at the head of the valley below MARIENDAAL at about 2030 hrs they moved on down the main road. The Germans were still in position, and when C Coys head was at about 713781 they opened up on fixed lines on to the road. The leading pl of C Coy (Lieut J. Badger MC) tried to push on through the lines of trees at 715782 but Maj Commings, appreciating that his role was to get his party up to the bn and not to become involved in a separate battle, decided at once to withdraw from the valley and recce for an alternative route. C Coy subsequently took up almost exactly the same positions as D Coy had held during the afternoon, while the transport vehicles were reversed and brought clear of the valley. This took some time and meanwhile Maj Commings went back to Div HQ in order to try and find out the exact location of the bn. Eventually about 0330 hrs the 2nd lift moved forward again by the same route as that taken by other parties, and about 0500 hrs came up with the tail of the 11th Para Bn at about 718776. During this move forward there was no real opposition although some trouble was experienced from Spandaus firing on fixed lines from the area of DEN BRINK 720779 and also from across the river. Casualties had been very light, while the strength had been increased by certain stragglers from para units which had been picked up.
Meanwhile the bn had started its advance towards the ARNHEM bridge by the main road at approx 0430 hrs. The order of march being D Coy, B Coy, A Coy. The parachute detachment under Lieut-Col. Dobie was meanwhile to move along the river bank parallel to the South Staffords. 11th Para Bn moved in rear of the Staffords to support them if necessary. In the early stages the advance went well, although there was a certain amount of opposition from scattered parties of the enemy in houses, while MGs from the high ground were firing on fixed lines down side streets and straight along the road from the NE. 20mm guns had also been sited to bear on road junctions etc. At about 0500 hrs D Coy met a strong post of the enemy in the vicinity of the hospital 729779. This was quickly cleared up, but by then the strength of the coy had been reduced to about 60%. Casualties included Maj Phillp and Lieut Erskine wounded and Capt Wyss and Lieut Roebuck killed. B Coy was therefore sent through and reached the Monastery 734780 against increasing opposition by about 0600 hrs. It will be remembered that B Coy was considerably under strength and by then its casualties were also beginning to mount. It was quite obvious that all hope of surprise had been lost. There was no touch yet with the main part of the 2nd lift and A Coy provided the only immediate reserve under the bn comd's hand. It seemed obvious that the 11th Para Bn would have to be brought in to help. Therefore B Coy were halted just west of the Monastery at about 733780; D Coy came up on their right to go into position just south of the Monastery at 734779 where it was hoped also that they would be able to assist the paratroops who were expected along the river bank; A Coy came through to occupy some houses just beyond and on the far side of the road to the Monastery at about 734780, to complete a firm base for a subsequent advance on the same axis. A Coy had to clear their houses of some Germans before they could occupy them and eventually three pls were in buildings on the north side of the road while the coy less three pls were in the Monastery itself. As soon as it began to get light, about 0630 hrs, German fire intensified and fairly heavy mortaring started particularly in the area immediately west of the Monastery where there was a distinct hollow in the side of the hill.
The C.O. meanwhile had gone back to contact O.C. 11th Bn and as a result it was decided that that bn should move north to the rly line and then advance westwards along it, and that the South Staffords should wait for this thrust to develop and should then continue their advance upon the main street. C Coy would by then have joined up with the bn. It was at this stage that Major Commings and Major Cain came up from the 2nd lift. It will be remembered that this lift had with it the bn tpt. The C.O. decided that it would be unwise to allow any extra wheels into the streets of ARNHEM itself and Lieut J. Withers MC was instructed to take the tpt coln back to the Div HQ area. Unfortunately the bn 6 pdrs had already been ordered to come back at Div HQ. Lieut Withers carried out his task successfully although he was compelled to make a further detour from the route followed by the bn as the stretch of road parallel to the rly at 712775. [Road] impassable owing to German MG fire on fixed lines from the area of MARIENDAAL.
For the bn as a whole there now ensued a period of waiting while the 11th Bn prepared their attack, and all the time German opposition was definitely on the increase. In fact from about 0800 hrs the bn passed definitely on to the defensive. At that time a force, estimated at about one coy of German infantry, attacked D Coy on the right from the SE. This attack was easily repulsed, but from then on parties of Boche infantry were continually working forward, more particularly against A Coy on the North. At about 0900 hrs SP guns made their first appearance, shooting at close range at the Monastery building and at the houses occupied by A Coy. Others from the direction of the river bank fired directly into the hollow, which now became an absolute death trap. One end of the Monastery blown away. The SP guns were engaged by the bn PIATs and kept at a reasonable distance and several hits were certainly made. Lieut G. Duponois of B Coy particularly distinguished himself by his bold use of this weapon. At about 1050 hrs the situation was getting serious for the PIAT amn had run out and the SP guns were working in closer. At least one of the houses occupied by A Coy, that which contained Lieut A.E. Barker's pl, was on fire with the roof and one side burning fiercely although the men were still firing back from the unburnt portion of the house. The hollow was quite untenable and it was therefore decided to draw back the bn some 200 yds or so to reorganise and avoid further unnecessary casualties pending the development of the 11th Bn's attack. Unfortunately just as the order for this withdrawal was issued a large party of Boche infantry, which had assembled unobserved in houses about 20 yds from the Monastery, rushed the building and gained an entrance through the breech in the building made by the SP guns and almost simultaneously German Tiger tanks appeared. From that moment the story becomes extremely confused. No one from A Coy on the north side of the road got away and it is probable that orders to retire never reached them. When last seen they were fighting back hard. Bn HQ disappeared completely and it is believed, although still unconfirmed, that they were run down by a tank while in the act of withdrawing. The C.O. and 2IC have both been reported as wounded and prisoners of war.
The remainder of the bn withdrew in a series of small groups behind the 11th Para Bn, who had stayed in the area about 727780, and reformed at the end of the main built up area about 724777, where there were some ATk guns belonging to the ATk Bty. Here Maj R.H. Cain assumed command of the bn, which now consisted of C Coy, as yet not engaged, who had moved forward to about 723776, and a total of about 100 men who had got back from the Monastery. Capt J.R. Dickens was commanding C Coy as Maj Wright had gone forward to contact the C.O. It is now known that he was killed. At about this time the party of paratroops which had attempted to move parallel to the bn along the river withdrew westwards through C Coy.
Maj Cain made his way back to C Coy where he found that OC 11th Para Bn had also arrived and that the Staffords were to capture the DEN BRINK feature 7277 to "act as pivot" for an attack to be carried out by the 11th Bn on the line of the road running north through DIEPENDAAL and HEIJENOORD 7278. Maj Cain organised two composite pls, one under Lieut R.H. Schwartz and the other under CSM Robinson, the latter composed mainly of his own glider party, in order to give additional strength to C Coy to carry out this attack. One pl of C Coy (Lieut Badger) was sent forward to take up a position at the NW corner of the gaol compound (724781). This was done successfully and Maj Cain then led in the remainder of his force against the objective, supported by a section of MMGs which dealt with some German MGs located about 719779. There was no opposition actually on the feature and Maj Cain's force started reorganising successfully in the area 722781. Almost immediately they were very heavily mortared for about 10 minutes. The ground was thick with roots on which their entrenching tools made very little impression and mortar bombs burst in the trees, inflicting a number of casualties. Lieut Badger who had closed up his pl was killed. There was then a short break in the mortaring and what appeared to be a weak coy of the 11th Bn came up round the left flank of Maj Cain's forces, moving across his front and established themselves about 723782. A fresh burst of mortaring then came down, while tanks appeared along the road from ARNHEM running just north of the gaol. The Coy of the 11th Bn came back through our positions and a number of Staffords retired with them. Tanks then broke into the wood. Some RA ATk guns had been detailed for the reorganisation but were unable to get up owing to the mortaring. Thus the remaining troops were forced to retire. It is believed that the main body of the 11th Bn was badly mortared about the same time while forming up, as Maj Cain reports heavy mortaring to his left rear.
At this stage a general withdrawal was taking place over the whole area. Of the Staffords, Maj J.S.A. Buchanan collected a party of about 60 riflemen at the road junc 724776, some of whom had withdrawn from DEN BRINK, together with a MMG pl and an ATk pl which had now come up. This party grew rapidly to a strength of about 300, being made up of stragglers from 1st, 3rd and 11th Para Bns. Most of the Staffords from DEN BRINK rallied in the general area of the rly bridge 711774. Meanwhile Maj Buchanan, realising that the attack into ARNHEM had failed, and knowing that in such a case it was the intention to form and hold a bridge-head in the OOSTERBEEK area withdrew his force to the area of the road junc at STATION OOSTERBEEK about 705774, being joined on his way by the rest of the Staffords from DEN BRINK as he passed through the rly bridge area. At STATION OOSTERBEEK he organised a covering position for the main perimeter. The detachments 1st and 3rd Para Bns were East of the road junc 705774, the 11th Bn in the area north west of X rds 705775, with the Staffords on the road west of road junc 705774. The position was occupied by about 1430 hrs and about that time was heavily stonked by "moaning minnies", but nothing more developed that day. A detachment of Glider Pilots were sent forward at 1530 hrs to hold a forward covering position on the line of the rly, but they were subsequently withdrawn on orders from Div HQ, at about 1830 hrs. The following day, 20th September, the Germans started a series of local attacks supported by fairly heavy mortaring against the STATION OOSTERBEEK position. These were fought off well by the paratroops, and apart from the supporting weapons, the Staffords were not heavily engaged. At about 1030 hrs orders were received for the Staffords riflemen to be withdrawn to the main perimeter, being relieved by additional troops of the 11th Bn who had withdrawn to OOSTERBEEK the day before. The MMG and ATk pls however remained on the forward position. At this stage Maj Lonsdale, 11th Para Bn, took over command of the STATION OOSTERBEEK position from Maj Buchanan. The latter has since received the DSO.
The troops who had withdrawn to the perimeter were not attacked during the day although they were occasionally shelled and mortared.
On the 21st September German attacks on the STATION OOSTERBEEK area continued with increasing intensity. The South Staffords supporting arms had plenty of work to do. The MMGs got a magnificent target when a large number of German infantry were seen on the rly embankment across the ROSANDER POLDER, providing them with a first rate traversing target. German tanks also began to come in from the south and our guns knocked out about five. About 1400 hrs the Boche put in a really heavy attack. It was then that L/S Baskeyfield, his own gun having been put out of action, and all the crew including himself wounded, first helped as a rifleman to drive off an infantry attack which had broken through, and then under heavy fire made his way to another gun which was not manned to fight it single handed against an oncoming tank. He was unfortunately killed while firing this gun. In the course of this attack nearly all the houses held by the paratroops were set on fire and Major Lonsdale decided to withdraw his force to the main perimeter. The Staffords supporting arms remained to cover the riflemen out. The Boche followed up the withdrawal hard and also brought down MG and mortar fire on the line of withdrawal. However the Staffords completed their task entirely successfully and succeeded in withdrawing complete, apart from those weapons already knocked out, when the paratroops were clear. It was a near thing as the last 6 pdr passed the road junction at 705775 as a Tiger tank appeared 25 yds away to the North.
In the OOSTERBEEK perimeter the Staffords held the SE corner immediately east of the Church 696773 covering what was the most direct route from ARNHEM. There were about 50 Staffords together with certain details of other units under command of Lieut P.H. Turner in the church area, while the bn supporting weapons were covering the southern flank. To the north of this, round about the laundry 697774, Maj Cain commanded a sector with about 80 Staffords, again with a good deal of assistance from details of other units, on somewhat higher ground. The total number of Staffords in the area was thus about 160.
To the right of Lieut Turner's post, there was an open stretch of flat ground down to the river which remained entirely a no man's land. There appeared to be no organised units facing southwards to the west of OOSTERBEEK Church although there were details of various divisional troops. To the north of Maj Cain's sector a detachment of the Glider Pilot regiment, who fought splendidly, formed a rather "refused flank". The line of the perimeter then continued to the X rds 697784, so that Maj Cain found himself in something of a salient. The whole area was overlooked from the rising ground towards BATOSWIJK 7077. The other sub-units of the regiments still organised elsewhere in the perimeter were Lieut D.K. Edwards pl, a section of mortars under Lieut L. Withers M.C., both of whom fought with the Border Regiment, and the Pioneer platoon, Lieut E.F. Walters, which was employed in the area of Div HQ.
Lieut Edwards it will be remembered had become detached from C Coy shortly after landing. He had endeavoured to rejoin but as the situation was deteriorating rapidly he had been ordered together with Lieut Withers to take part in the defence of the X rds at 697784. After being engaged sometime here they were both employed in the area HARTENSTEIN 6978. Lieut Edwards was subsequently moved to the southern part of the Border Regiment's sector where his pl at one stage advanced a considerable way towards HEAVEDORP along the river bank, although they subsequently met serious opposition and had to withdraw. They were thereafter used largely as a mobile reserve and employed at various places on that side of the perimeter. They were the one sub-unit in the bn who had the opportunity to act offensively during the last days and their commander subsequently received the Military Cross for his services. Some eleven men ultimately returned.
From Thursday, 21st September onwards, the story becomes almost monotonous and it is extremely difficult to get events in their correct chronological order. The whole area was under fire pretty well continually and the fire was liable to come from any direction. Mortaring was the main trouble and the Boche seemed to follow a regular system. He seldom let up for long but he continually worked round the area in a systematic manner, so much so that in the later stages one began to know if ones turn was coming next. Shelling, mainly with SP guns, was also pretty continuous and latterly they were getting increasingly bold, working close into our positions. Tanks, including a fair proportion of Tigers, were also in evidence from an early stage, generally speaking we learnt to expect an attack on our sector every morning and afternoon made by both tanks and infantry. The tanks were boldly handled, but the infantry was far inferior to our own. Only on two occasions did infantry attack by themselves, on one occasion at night, but both these attacks were very feeble. Individual German snipers were however a great nuisance and showed considerable bravery but fortunately their bravery was not always equalled by their skill at arms. Several times they managed to creep into our area during the night and had to be rooted out after daybreak. They also caused considerable trouble firing from houses about 699774 and from the rising ground towards BATOSWIJK.
Against tanks, 17 pdrs and 6 pdrs had many good targets while the PIAT proved its value again and again. It was his outstanding bravery and courage in taking on tanks armed with this weapon, as well as his inspiring leadership, that won Major R.H. Cain his Victoria Cross. The PIAT was also used with success firing high angle, and the two 3" mortars left in the Staffords area were used with good effect. A troop of 75mm guns near the laundry also did invaluable work in an ATk role, while at a later stage Maj Cain demonstrated the possibilities of the 2" mortar as a substitute for an ATk weapon.
For four days there were no proper rations. A few packs were dropped near enough to the area to be retrieved but they were sent to the RAP. Some men still had the remains of their 24 hr packs or emergency rations but others had to rely on some tomatoes and apples together with raw onions and potatoes which were growing; there were also a few chickens and tame rabbits, but the difficulty was to cook them as any smoke from fires brought down hostile retaliation. In addition to this another small but welcome source was a supply of bottled fruit found in one of the houses. Water presented a serious problem as the only supply was from some wells and a little canalised stream but these had to be put out-of-bounds owing to the danger of pollution from the corpses. This was however a difficult order to enforce in the circumstances. Perhaps the greatest hardship was the lack of cigarettes. Really quiet periods were unknown and alarms were constant, and so very few of the men and practically none of the leaders got any sleep whatever.
It is invidious to single out individual cases of gallantry during this period for they were legion. Mention has already been made of Maj R.H. Cain. Outstanding powers of leadership were also shown by CSM W. Robinson whose gallantry and utter contempt for danger subsequently earned him the Military Cross. Pte Holt also showed great initiative; he on one occasion went out well in front of the position to stalk and kill a sniper who was being particularly troublesome. For this and other actions he was subsequently awarded the Military Medal.
The position would have been far easier had not bad weather which was preventing the relieving troops getting through also, prevented the RAF giving adequate support. It was most disappointing to see the RAF flying through terrible flak and suffering heavy losses in an attempt to drop supplies which were so badly needed and yet which could not be retrieved although they were only a few yards away. The Germans straffed the dropping areas heavily and at night lit them with flares to see that no one was recovering the supplies. A certain number of German aircraft came over and on one day about 50 ME109's made a low flying attack on the area without however doing very much damage.
On Friday 22nd September Maj Cain had to detach a party of 30 men under Lieut Godfrey to assist in the protection of Div HQ thus further decreasing the available rifle strength in the Staffords sector. It was on this day that Maj Cain destroyed a Tiger tank, coolly lying in the open with a PIAT and waiting till it came into proper range. He was knocked out by a premature burst by his 6th PIAT bomb, after he had set the tank on fire, but after receiving first aid he insisted on returning despite a burst eardrum to command his sector again. Capt Dickens was wounded on this day. Some Polish paratroops appeared in the sector.
On Saturday 23rd September a section of MMGs was also called in to Div HQ. British Medium artillery of the 2nd Army was now within range of the south side of the RHINE and the comforting sound of British shells was heard coming over. This seemed to discourage the Germans somewhat but an even better thing was when British planes appeared. German mortars and artillery ceased firing whenever they were around but on one occasion, to the huge delight of the troops, one mortar battery was a bit slow and our rocket firing Typhoons got it nicely. Maj J.M. Simonds was killed on this day.
Sunday, the 24th September, was much like the previous day except that there were fewer British aircraft, but on the other hand more support from our guns south of the RHINE. It was on this day that the guns of the Light Battery, who did magnificent work throughout, smashed up a German MG post in the roof of a house 300 yds away up the road towards STATION OOSTERBEEK. The men were by this time getting very exhausted from lack of sleep and food.
On Monday 25th September, the situation was becoming really difficult. It was by now realised there was little hope of any large scale assistance coming across the river. Amn was dangerously low - our PIAT amn was completely exhausted - and all but one of the ATk guns were out of action, so that further prolonged defence particularly against enemy armour was out of the question. Soon after midday the Germans launched one of their heaviest attacks. Things looked rather serious until 25 pdrs and medium guns from the south of the river laid down a barrage in front of the forward troops. It was in fact uncomfortably close and we suffered some casualties from our own shell fire but the Germans had got pretty close too and the barrage completely broke up their attack. Some of the enemy infantry had however succeeded in establishing themselves in a house about 15 yds from our forward post. There was a sharp grenade fight between our troops and the Germans but the matter was clinched by a 75mm gun which took on the target at 70 yds and the house disintegrated. Only one German managed to get away. After this some tanks which had penetrated the perimeter to the north of the Staffords area, shot our positions from the rear. The 75mm's drove them off, and this proved to be a final crisis.
About 1830 hrs orders were received for a withdrawal to the south side of the river which was to begin at 2200 hrs. The troops in the Staffords area were to move last, not before 2345 hrs, and they thus had the honour of covering the withdrawal. Surprisingly enough all seemed to go well and there was no German pressure. At about 2330 hrs the men began to smash everything which could not be taken with them, and a few minutes before midnight they moved out on their way to the 'boats'. It was some satisfaction to know in evacuating the slit trenches which they had dug and held for the last 5 days that they had lost no ground although they were covering a very vital sector of the perimeter, the most direct approach to ARNHEM. It seemed impossible that the Germans would not realise the evacuation had begun but the impossible did happen. The lines of men in single file made their way across the flat ground to the river, 'freezing' when German patrols were suspected to the close, but no heavy concentration was put down. There were a few bursts of MG fire, mainly high, and a certain amount of mortaring. The strain of waiting on the river bank was considerable. Fortunately the night was very dark and it was still possible to cross unobserved up to about 0600 hrs. Then as it got light, the Germans began to realise what was happening and they shelled and mortared the bank heavily. Ferrying had to stop and a few of the Staffords were left on the wrong side of the river. Even those who got across were as yet by no means safe for there was a weary 9 miles to cover before the survivors reached NIJMEGEN. All the way the Germans were shelling the road spasmodically. Even in NIJMEGEN the survivors were subjected to bombing attack, but once the RHINE was left behind the worst was over.
The remnants of the bn, who totalled 6 Offrs and 133 ORs, joined up with their seaborne tail at NIJMEGEN and were flown back to England. 39 Offrs and 587 ORs had been left behind, the vast majority missing. When the full check up was made the casualty list stood at:-
Since then Lieut J. Sharp and his complete pl have rejoined together with 3 ORs who had been hiding. A certain number of additional deaths have been confirmed and a proportion of prisoners, mainly wounded, have been reported. It is probable that the percentage of killed among the missing is high.
This account is based on the stories of the survivors but it cannot be complete until some of those now missing are released when we break through into Germany again.