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Paratroopers over Holland

65th Anniverary of Operation Market Garden
By Mike Haught

Today is the 65th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. We here at Battlefront would like to take a moment to honour the soldiers and civilians that fought during Operation Market Garden on this historic anniversary.

Sixty-five years ago today on a sunny Sunday afternoon, hundreds of Allied aircraft loomed into view over the skies of Holland. On the Dutch-Belgian border a terrible artillery barrage ripped into the earth, shattering the German line. Operation Market Garden had begun.

The plan was bold and aimed to end the war by Christmas. Three Allied airborne divisions parachuted into history near the cities of Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem. They were to secure a corridor 60 miles (96km) from the Dutch border to the crossing over the lower Rhine River at Arnhem. They needed to capture the vital main bridges at Son, Grave, Nijmegen and Arnhem.

Further south, the British XXX Corps (30th Corps) would punch through the German defences on the border and speed to Arnhem, linking up with the paratroopers along the way.

The operation began exactly as planned. The paratroopers all landed on target and most managed to secure their objectives quickly. Meanwhile, XXX Corps smashed through the German crust and raced up the road.

However, cunning German counterattacks delayed the tanks from reaching Nijmegen on time. Kampfgruppe Walther and the 107th Panzer Brigade launched limited attacks along the road aimed at disrupting the British advance. The American 101st Airborne division fought hard to relieve the pressure, running up and down the road to meet threats as they appeared. It was the paratroopers of the 101st ‘Screaming Eagles’ that would christen the road ‘Hell’s Highway’, a testament to the hard fighting.

After securing the Grave bridge, the American 82nd Airborne Division fought the tenacious German defenders in Nijmegen. When XXX Corps finally arrived, the two launched a concerted assault, capturing the bridge in a brilliant assault. But Market Garden had already fallen seriously behind schedule.

Operation Market Garden
British Paras unload their gliders

The British 1st Airborne Division, known as the ‘Red Devils’, faced challenges straight away after landing. The operation planners anticipated heavy anti-aircraft fire from Arnhem itself so the division’s drop zones were positioned 6 miles (9km) west of the city. The division would have to head in on foot.

One of the division’s battalions, commanded by Lt Col John Frost, managed to sneak into Arnhem and capture the northern end of the road bridge. They fought a heroic battle against terrible odds before being forced to surrender but only after having spent their last bullet.

As Frost fought these battles the rest of the division attempted to relieve them but were thrown back by Kampfgruppe Spindler and forced to form a defensive perimeter west of Oosterbeek. There, they would await the arrival of XXX Corps.

The 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade landed late on 21 September due to weather and transport problems in England. They arrived south of the encircled 1st Airborne Division and attempted to reach them using a handful of rubber rafts. Their attempts failed and they too were forced to sit back and wait for XXX Corps.

The British armour column finally reached the Polish on the evening of 22 September. One last amphibious assault was made to reach the Red Devils in Oosterbeek, but this again failed. The Allies then decided to cut their losses and attempt to withdraw the paras back across the Rhine.

A daring withdraw was undertaken as the British paras carefully pulled back, trying to not alert the Germans of their plans. During the night of 25/26 September, the division snuck across the river, leaving its wounded behind to cover their withdrawal.

Irish Guards advance up Hell's Highway
Irish Guards advance up Hell's Highway

In the end the operation failed to secure a crossing over the Rhine River. The Allies now had a massive thumb-shaped corridor up to the river that it would have to now defend.

Many theories have been put forward analysing the operation and pointing the finger at certain units. Was the 82nd to blame for not securing Nijmegen early enough? Perhaps the British should have dropped closer to Arnhem? Why didn’t XXX Corps press on to Arnhem after securing Nijmegen? There are many questions and the excuses are as plentiful as they are complex. But there is one explanation that seems to be missed or overlooked.

The single most compelling reason why Market Garden failed was the fact that the German army was no where near defeated and still had a tremendous amount of fight and verve left in it. They organized themselves rapidly, launched timely attacks and maintained constant pressure so that the Allies were always fighting up hill against a very determined enemy. Above all else, Market Garden failed because the Germans fought well and won.

Today we honour those that fought and those that died, during the battles of Arnhem. We remember their deeds on the battlefields of Holland and we appreciate their sacrifices that ensured the freedom from tyranny that many of us enjoy today.  

English Grave at Arnhem
Hell's Highway

In Flames Of War

Operation Market Garden is about to be launched on your gaming tables with the release of Hell’s Highway next month. With this release, you will command the Irish and Welsh Guards and the 2nd Household Cavalry from XXX Corps and lead the charge up ‘Hell’s Highway’. Jump into occupied Holland with a Parachute Rifle Company from the 101st ‘Screaming Eagles’ or the 82nd ‘All American’ Airborne Divisions. Or fight as the 6. Fallschirmjäger Regiment of Kampfgruppe Walther or the 3. Fallschirmjager Division positioned east of Nijmegen.

Further Market Garden releases and books include Firestorm—Market Garden and A Bridge Too Far. Firestorm will give you and your friends the opportunity to fight the whole operation from the Belgian Border to Arnhem. A Bridge Too Far will give players force organizations for the British and Germans in Arnhem.

An exciting assortment of new product releases will accompany the Market Garden books.

September's New Releases

In Shops 12 September
GBX13 10.5cm Artillery Battery (new staff teams)
BBX09 25pdr Artillery Battery (new staff teams)  

In Shops 19 September
BBX08 Armoured Platoon (new stowage)
BB106 Entrenchments
BB107 Log Emplacements
BR601 Sherman ARV

In Shops 26 September
Wargames Illustrated 264

US Paras and Dutch Resistance members
Arnhem October's New Releases

In Shops 3 October
FW212 Hell's Highway
BR043 A30 Challenger
BR885 Colonel Vandeleur & Forward Observer
TD023 Irish Guards Gaming Set
TD027 British Guards Gaming Set

In Shops 17 October
UBX18 Parachute Rifle Company
UBX15 Parachute Field Artillery Battery
US728 .50cal AAMG on stand (x4)
BB108 Sandbag Implacement
TD024 82nd Airborne Gaming Set
USO113 Para Pathfinder team
USO114 Para Snipers
USO115 Turner Turnbull
USO116 Para Supply Cart

In Shops 31 October

BBX12 Cromwell Platoon (new stowage)
GBX10 Panzer IV H Platoon (new stowage)
BR812 Guards Rifle Platoon
US729 Airborne Bazooka teams
BSO104 Guards Rifle Command (2 teams)
BSO189 Guards Head Sprue (x3)
BSO105 Guards Rifle PIAT (x3)
Wargames Illustrated

Arnhem Bridge after the battle

Last Updated On Friday, September 18, 2009 by Wayne at Battlefront