Operation MARKET GARDEN was a major allied assault into German occupied Holland, 17-25 Sep 1944. This week marks the 70th anniversary of the concluding phases of this operation. It was a combined ground and airborne forces operation designed to seize vital river crossings across rivers in Holland with the main prize… of Arnhem Bridge, the crossing over the Rhine at the end of it. ‘Market’ were the Airborne forces and ‘Garden’ were the ground forces, provided by 30th Corps of the British Army.
The operation was ambitious; with 30th Corps expected to reach Arnhem in four days to relieve the Airborne Forces, the airborne troops expected to hold on with light equipment for that period and then to support 30 Corps in a break out, to bounce over the rhine into German.
The plan became unhinged quickly with 30th Corps facing stiffer opposition on the advance than estimated and the Airborne forces finding themselves engaged with 1st line troops from an SS Panzer Division which was on rest and maintenance in the area, rather than the 3rd line auxiliaries and reserves which the opposition had been expected to be.
The American Airborne troops at Eindhoven (82nd Airborne Division) and Nijmegen (101st Airborne Division) achieved their objectives with heavy casualties and were relieved by 30th Corps but behind the original planners schedule. The British 1st Airborne Division was forced to hold on for 8 days, with intense fighting around the bridges in Arnheim and in the town suburbs. Eventually after heavy losses and lacking vital combat supplies they were forced to withdraw from Arnhem as the troops of 30th Corps couldn’t get through in the face of ferocious resistance from German forces.
RIFLES antecedents took part in the hard fought ground forces battle which is often overlooked by the Airborne forces battle.
4th & 7th Somerset LI, 4th &5th Bns Wiltshire Regiment, 1st 4th & 5th Dorset Regiment, 2nd Devons, 5th DCLI and 6th 8th & 9th Bns The Durham Light Infantry were all to endure heavy losses in 30 Corps hard fought advance.
The accompanying picture shows troops of 4th Wiltshires in the town of Valkenswaard during Operation Market Garden.