Official Letters


Winston Churchill, speaking in the House of Commons,

28th September 1944.


"... Finally, by the largest airborne operation ever conceived or executed, a further all-important forward bound in the north has been achieved. Here I must pay a tribute, which the House will consider due, to the superb feat of arms performed by our First Airborne Division..."


"The cost has been heavy; the casualties in a single Division have been grievous; but for those who mourn there is at least the consolation that the sacrifice was not needlessly demanded nor given without results. The delay caused to the enemy's advance upon Nijmegen enabled their British and American comrades in the other two Airborne Divisions, and the 2nd British Army, to secure intact the vitally important bridges and to form a strong bridgehead over the main stream of the Rhine at Nijmegen. "Not in vain" may be the pride of those who have survived and the epitaph of those who fell."



From General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Forces,

to Major-General R.E. Urquhart, October 1944.


In this war there has been no single performance by any unit that has more greatly inspired me or more highly excited my admiration, than the nine days action of your Division between September 17 and 26.


There is no question that these sentiments are shared by every soldier, sailor, and airman, of the entire Allied Expeditionary Force now battling against the Western boundaries of Germany.


Before the world the proud record that your Division has established needs no embellishment from me, but I should like every survivor of that gallant band to realise, not only how deeply this whole Command appreciates his example of courage, fortitude and skill, but that the Division's great battle contributed effectively to the success of operations to the southward of its own battleground.


Your officers and men were magnificent. Pressed from every side, without relief, reinforcements or respite, they inflicted such losses on the Nazi that his infantry dared not close with them, in an unremitting hail of steel from German snipers, machine guns, mortars, rockets, cannon of all calibers and self propelled and tank artillery, they never flinched, never wavered. They held steadfastly.


For nine days they checked the fury of the Hun and when, on 26th September, they were ordered to withdraw across the river, they came out a proud haughty band--paratroopers, air-landing men, glider pilots, clerks, cooks and batmen, soldiers all--two thousand strong out of seven thousand five hundred that entered the battle.


The Allied Expeditionary Forces salute them.



From Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, Commander 21st Army Group,

to Major-General R.E. Urquhart, 28th September 1944.


I want to express to you personally, and to every officer and man in your Division, my appreciation of what you all did at Arnhem for the Allied cause.


I also want to express to you my own admiration, and the admiration of us in 21 Army Group, for the magnificent fighting spirit that your Division displayed in battle against great odds on the North bank of the lower Rhine in Holland.


There is no shadow of doubt that, had you failed, operations elsewhere would have been greatly compromised. You did not fail, and all is well elsewhere.


I would like all Britain to know that in your final message from the ARNHEM area you said:- "All will be ordered to break out rather than surrender. We have attempted our best, and we will continue to do our best as long as possible."


And all Britain will say to you:- "You did your best; you all did your duty; and we are proud of you."


In the annals of the British Army there are many glorious deeds. In our Army we have always drawn great strength and inspiration from past traditions and endeavoured to live up to the high standards of those who have gone before. But there can be few episodes more glorious than the epic of ARNHEM and those that follow after will find it hard to live up to the standards that you have set.


So long as we have in the Armies of the British Empire officers and men who will do as you have done, then we can indeed look forward with complete confidence to the future.


In the years to come, it will be a great thing for a man to be able to say:- "I fought at ARNHEM."


Please give my best wishes and my grateful thanks to every officer and man in your Division.



From General Miles Dempsey, Commander 2nd British Army

to Major-General R.E. Urquhart, 28th September 1944.


Before you leave 2nd Army, I want to tell you how much I appreciate the great action fought by your Division at ARNHEM.


From the moment that you came under my command on September 17th, until the day on which you were ordered to withdraw, you were fighting ceaselessly against odds which increased as days went by.


I want all ranks in your splendid Division to know that this action of yours played a vital part in the whole 2nd Army operation.


Thanks to the way in which you contained the enemy at ARNHEM, we were able to secure the bridges at Nijmegen intact.


Please convey to them all my admiration and gratitude for their great work.



From Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks, Commander XXX Corps,

to Major-General R.E. Urquhart, 26th September 1944.


I want to congratulate you and all ranks of your Division on their tremendous achievements during the last eight days of fighting. We realise that, had it not been for you, we should have had no chance whatever of securing the Nijmegen bridges intact.


I am afraid that your losses have been very heavy, but in your fighting north of the Neder Rijn you contained a large number of German reserves, and while your Parachute Brigade was holding the North end of the bridge at ARNHEM, you prevented any reinforcements from moving down towards Nijmegen. This just gave us time to secure these vital bridges.


There is no doubt that this may quite likely have a decisive influence on the war and will, at any rate, I am certain, shorten the period of the war by several weeks.


Well done First Airborne Division.


On behalf of 2nd Army--many thanks.



From Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning, Commander 1st British Airborne Corps

to Major-General R.E. Urquhart, 26th September 1944


Commander, 30 Corps is sending you a letter from himself and his Corps expressing their unstinted admiration and gratitude for the gallant part played by the 1st Airborne Division in the 2nd Army's drive to cross the Rhine.


He will explain to you, and in his expression of opinion I absolutely concur, that without the action of the 1st Airborne Division in tying up, pinning down, and destroying in large numbers the German forces in the ARNHEM area, the crossing of the Waal, the capture of the bridges at Nijmegen and, above all, the advance from the bridgehead would have been quite impossible.


I am intensely proud of the magnificent fight put up by your Division. With you, I deeply regret the sacrifice that has been entailed in the Division which I had the honour to raise originally.


I do not hesitate to say that the operation, taken as a whole, has done more to speed up the war and further disrupt the already disorganised Germany Army than any other action up to date. In fact, none other than an Airborne Operation could possibly have achieved the result.



Telegram from 6th Airborne Division


Magnificent achievement. All ranks thrilled with your epic battle. Good luck to you.



From Major-General R.E. Urquhart, 1st Airborne Division,

to Colonel George Chatterton, Commander Glider Pilots, 27th September 1944


Dear George,


On behalf of the 1st Airborne Division I should like to thank you, Lieutenant-Colonels Murray and Place, and all the Glider Pilots who took part in our operations near ARNHEM.


The glider-borne elements of the Division made possibly the best landing that has ever been achieved to date. The skill of the pilots was quite first-class, and all ranks appreciated the benefit of the good start given by the pilots of the operation.


Very early on in the 9 days of battle it became more and more apparent that we had to call upon the Glider Pilots to the full. They played all kinds of parts, but everything they were asked to do they did whole-heartedly.


I am afraid your losses were very heavy, but I think that those who became casualties and did not return with the balance of the Division will have the satisfaction of knowing that their efforts contributed to the results achieved.


I hope that you will thank your Glider Pilots on my behalf.


Yours ever,

R.E. Urquhart



From Major-General R.E. Urquhart, 1st Airborne Division,

to Brigadier-General Harold L. Clark, Headquarters, 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, 6th October 1944


Dear Clark,


Thank you for your letter dated 30th September 1944.


Your remarks are greatly appreciated and will be passed on to all ranks within the Division.


I have already told General Williams that no formation could have had a better start than the one that you gave us at Arnhem. All the parachutists were dropped in exactly the right place and at the right time and as a result units moved off some 95 per cent strong. A remarkable achievement on the part of your Troop Carrier Wing.


We shall be proud to remember the association that we have had with IX Troop Carrier Command and in particular your 52nd Troop Carrier Wing.


Yours sincerely,

R.E. Urquhart



From Major-General S. Sosabowski, 1st Polish Parachute Brigade Group,

to Brigadier-General Harold L. Clark, Headquarters, 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, 16th October 1944


Dear General Clark,


Having returned to U.K. I am writing to thank you, your pilots and crews for their splendid work in taking this Brigade Group over to Holland during the operation of the FAAA [First Allied Airborne Army].


I can not praise too much the perfect dropping which in difficult weather conditions and inspite of strong enemy anti aircraft fire over the D.Z. was equal to the best dropping during any exercise this Brigade Group has ever had. I should also mention that no casualties have been suffered by my troops during the flight itself as well as during the flight over the D.Z. Outstanding gallantry and coolness was displayed by the crew of the "Wild Hare" which although damaged permitted the troops to jump quietly and dropped even their equipment.


All my Officers and Other Ranks are also delighted with the cordiality, help and hospitality they found all the time on your aerodromes and received from your crews.


Yours sincerely,