‘Operation Market Garden’ (17-25 September 1944) was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands. The operation was split into two sub-operations which when combined gives the operation its name.
Market refers to the airborne forces of the First Allied Airborne Army, who would drop behind German lines and seize a number of bridges. The final bridge being Arnhem Road Bridge which crossed the Rhine.
Garden refers to the ground forces consisting of the British XXX Corps. They would pass over the carpet of Airborne troops, across the seized bridges and into Germany.
Field Marshal Montgomery’s (pictured left) plan was to encircle the heart of German industry, the Ruhr, in a pincer movement. The northern end of the pincer would circumvent the northern end of the Siegfried Line giving easier access into Germany. The aim of Operation Market Garden was to establish the northern end of a pincer ready to project deeper into Germany. Allied forces would project north from Belgium, 60 miles (97 km) through the Netherlands, across the Rhine and consolidate north of Arnhem on the Dutch/German border ready to close the pincer.
The operation made use of airborne forces and was the largest airborne operation up to that point. The airbornes’ objectives were to secure the bridges and allow a rapid advance by the armour of XXX Corps, her ground units to consolidate north of Arnhem. The operation required the seizure of the bridges across the Maas (Meuse River), two arms of the Rhine (the Waal and the Lower Rhine), together with crossings over several smaller canals and tributaries.
Several bridges between Eindhoven and Nijmegen were captured at the beginning of the operation. Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks’ XXX Corps ground force advance was delayed by the initial failure of airborne units to secure bridges at Son and Nijmegen. German forces demolished the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Son before it could be secured by the 101st Airborne Division. The 82nd Airborne Division failed to capture the main road bridge over the river Waal at Nijmegen before the 20 September which also delayed the advance of XXX Corps.
The furthest point of the airborne operation was at Arnhem. The British 1st Airborne Division encountered initial strong resistance here as they had to land miles from the bridge and an SS Division was re-fitting in the area. This coupled with the delays in capturing the bridges at Son and Nijmegen gave time for German forces, including armored divisions, to be moved into Arnhem from Germany. Only a small force from the 2nd Parachute Battalion commanded by Lt Col John Frost (pictured right) managed to capture the north end of the Arnhem road bridge. Airborne troops were unable to fight their way through to the bridge and reinforce Frost’s men.
By 21 September, Frost and his men at the bridge were overrun and the remainder of the British 1st Airborne were trapped in a pocket with their backs against the Rhine. With XXX Corps unable to get through and relieve the hard pressed airborne troops they were evacuated on 25 September.
The Allies had failed to cross the Rhine and the river remained a barrier to their advance into Germany until offensives at Remagen, Oppenheim, Rees and Wesel in March 1945. The failure of Market Garden to form a foothold over the Rhine ended Allied expectations of finishing the war by Christmas 1944.
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