Best counter-argument to video.
So XXX Corp was stopped at Elst by ONE self propelled gun for days yet you think they could have fought through the entire 10th SS Panzer division north of Nijmegen in 36 hours?? No way, no how… Read what the Dutch thought about fighting up that road in “A Bridge to Far”.
And XXX Corp didn’t make it to Nijmegen on time…only the Guards Armored division did. The infantry they needed to fight on to Arnhem were FAR behind. As the British and Dutch both said, you couldn’t fight up that road without infantry so yes, XXX Corp were very late as the Guards Armored division is not XXX Corp.
By placing blame on Gavin, you are substituting your OPINION that XXX Corp could have fought on to Arnhem in 36 hours. That is not a FACT and I highly doubt it as Beevor does as well.
As for what the 82nd troopers said and did after crossing, might try reading a book by a guy that was there. James Megellas wrote “All the Way to Berlin” and gives a first hand eyewitness account of what happened on the north side of the Nijmegen bridge. Again, your OPINION on a he said/she said is not a FACT. And I guess you didn’t realize an 82nd airborne trooper won the Medal of Honor defending the Nijmegen bridge the next day while British were STILL waiting around. Research John R. Towle a bit. The British couldn’t even launch an attack for 18 hours after the bridge fell, while waiting on the XXX Corp INFANTRY that were very late.
The 1000 tanks comes from not knowing where the 9th and 10th SS Panzer divisions were refitting. There was good intelligence those two divisions were refitting but no one knew where. Gavin played it safe while the British 1st Airborne took a chance and got wiped out.
And what does it matter who came up with the priority first, Gavin or Browning?? Browning was the officer in command and if he didn’t agree, he would have changed it. Obviously they both agreed the Groosbek heights were the first priority because without that, the road north is cut and having the Nijmegen bridge would be irrelevant.
The argument you make against Beevor is the same I make against you. You say if the bridge was taken on the first day, XXX Corp would have been able to get to Arnhem on time yet you never give any facts just your OPINION they could have. All the evidence from Grabner arriving and possibly taking the bridge back, the amount of reinforcements that poured into Nijmegen that would have been in defensive positions north of the bridge and the eventual trouble the British had trying to fight north show there is no way the Guards Armored division fights through to Arnhem in the 36 hours they had before Frost surrendered. Please, tell me WHY you think that one division with tanks and little infantry could have fought up that road that both the Dutch and British said couldn’t be taken by tanks but only by infantry. Give me YOUR evidence they could have done it. My evidence they couldn’t is Grabner, the reinforcements, the FACTS of the eventual British advance toward Arnhem and the late arrival of infantry that were the ONLY way to fight up that road according to EVERY opinion on the subject.
I disagree but still love your videos and the debate!! Sincerest Thanks!!!!
With the war still in progress, it was not surprising that some of the early reports on the results achieved by `Market Garden’ were meretricious. One example was Churchill’s reply to Field-Marshal Smuts, who had ventured to express his grief and sympathy at what he saw as a failure. The British Prime Minister was brazen:
As regards Arnhem, I think that you have got the position a little out of focus. The battle was a decided victory, but the leading division, asking, quite rightly, for more, was given a chop. I have not been afflicted by any feeling of disappointment over this and am glad our commanders are capable of running this kind of risk.
Montgomery was to claim 90 per cent success for the battle on the spurious grounds that the advancing troops had covered 90 per cent of the allotted distance. Generaloberst Student, hardly an impartial witness, airborne enthusiast as he was, agreed with his enemy, judging the battle to have been a `great success’ for the Allies: his grounds were that it had left them with vital bridges and valuable territory, and that the capture of Nijmegen had created a good jumping-off board for the oftensive that contributed towards ending the war.
The truth, of course, was that the aims of the operation had not been attained: the flank of the West Wall had not been turned, the German Fifteenth Army had not been isolated, and the Ruhr had not been encircled. Above all, the hoped-for collapse of the German armies, not specified as a formal objective but implicit in the plan, had not happened. Instead the Allies had been left with a sixty-mile salient into Holland in which a succession of unhappy divisions were to spend a frigid winter, some of them fighting a web-footed war in the flooded Betuwe. The eight-day battle had cost Browning’s Airborne Corps over 11,000 casualties, as many as the total American and British losses on the first day of the Normandy invasion. Few would disagree with Brigadier’s Hackett’s verdict on `Market Garden’. `If you did not get all the bridges’, he wrote, `it was not worth going at all’.
In his report to Generals Marshall and Amold, Brereton commented as follows:
Despite the failure of the 2nd Army to get through to Arnhem and establish a permanent bridgehead over the Lower Rhine, Operation `Market’ was a brilliant success. The 101st Division took all its objectives as planned; the 82nd Division dominated the southern end of the bridge at Nijmegen until noon of D-plus-l, by which time it had been planned for the Guards Armoured to be there; the 1st British Division similarly dominated the Arnhem bridge from its northern end until noon of D-plus-3, 24 hours later than the time set for the arrival of the 2nd Army. Hence the Airborne troops accomplished what was expected of them. It was the breakdown of the 2nd Army’s timetable on the first day – their failure to reach Eindhoven in 6 to 8 hours as planned – that caused the delay in the taking of the Nijmegen bridge and the failure at Arnhem.
It is a sad catalogue of half-truths. The 101st Division did take `all its objectives as planned’, but it failed to prevent the Son bridge from being blown; it was the morning of D-plus-2 before that structure had been replaced, by which time XXX Corps should have been approaching Arnhem. At no time did US 82nd Division `dominate’ any part of the Nijmegen bridges until Guards Armoured arrived to help in their capture, and this was not accomplished until the evening of D-plus-3. `The breakdown of the 2nd Army’s timetable on the first day’ did contribute towards the delay in crossing the Waal, but it was certainly not the major factor. In describing `Market’ as a `brilliant success’, Brereton was speaking as an airman rather than as the joint commander of air and ground formations. The delivery of the three divisions into battle could in no way have been bettered. The first major Allied daylight airborne operation of the war had been carried out with precision, and with no more than marginal losses to aircraft and their crews.
It had been shown that strong supporting air formations could either eliminate or neutralise flak, so allowing safe passage to the vulnerable transport fleets. The extent to which the execution of the air plan matched the needs of the passengers was quite another matter, and one upon which Brereton failed to comment. Gavin afterwards reflected `There was no failure at Arnhem’. In a limited but vital sense this was true. The northern end of the Arnhem bridge had been held, not for forty-eight but for seventy-two hours, thus denying the Germans the use of it, and it had been held, not by a complete division as planned, but by Frost’s battalion-sized force. Brereton’s report would have been rather less removed from the truth if he had described Frost’s battle as a `brilliant success’ and `Market’ as the utter failure it was.
Brereton was a general whose fellow-countrymen seem to have had even less to say in his favour than had his allies. Bradley criticised him for being neither sincere nor energetic, enthusiastic nor co-operative, and the American historian Russell Weigley has described him as being perpetually discontented and querulous. Granted that the concept of a joint commander to take charge of both ground and air forces was new in 1944, and that senior officers had been neither trained nor prepared mentally for such responsibilities, Brereton was an odd choice to head an inter-Allied command so complicated as First Allied Airborne Army. He can hardly be said to have measured up in any way to the challenge.
Errors compounded by ill fortune produced the failure of `Market Garden’, a strategic defeat despite the individual tactical successes gained during the eight-day battle. Luck, as Napoleon insisted, is an essential ingredient of successful generalship, but luck was conspicuously absent during this operation. What could go wrong did, except for the German failure to blow one or all of the three major bridges, and this was an important failure indeed on the part of the enemy. If just one thing fewer in the planning and execution of `Market Garden’ had gone wrong then the outcome might have been very different. How was it, though, that, at this stage of the war, so many errors could be made by commanders and staff officers who were experienced, highly trained and of proven ability?
Few would not agree that the major mistake in the plan was to land British 1st Airborne Division so far distant from the centre of Arnhem. This was the prime cause of the virtual destruction of the three brigades of the division in their various attempts to force their way through to reach the vital bridge across the river. The plan as produced effectively negated Brereton’s admonition that the bridges must be grabbed with `thunderclap surprise’. If Frost could succeed in holding the north end of the Arnhem bridge with his small force for three days, there is small doubt that two parachute brigades, preceded by a glider-borne coup-de-main party, could have seized and held the bridge until xxx Corps arrived, one of the brigades landing immediately to the south of the bridge and one as near as possible to the northern end.
The story was much the same at Nijmegen. There US 82nd Airborne Division was faced with problems very similar to those of British 1st Airborne Division – DZs and LZs many miles distant from the bridges over the Waal, the need to defend those DZs and LZs for the arrival of the second lift, and a consequent long approach march through closely wooded and built-up country.
As it was, DZs and LZs were chosen that offered small chance of success unless the German opposition proved to be derisory. Success might still have been gained, however, if two sorties had been flown on the first day. With his whole division in action on the Sunday, less the Polish Brigade, Urquhart could hardly have failed to reach Frost with a force large enough to hold the Arnhem bridge for a week. In the same way, if Gavin had been able to land his fourth regiment on the Sunday evening, he would have had the extra troops required to capture the bridge over the Waal as well as that over the Maas at Grave.
In a file of miscellaneous Cabinet papers lodged in the Public Record Office is a diary kept by a senior RAF staff officer concerned with the planning of Airborne operations. His name is illegible and his appointment nowhere revealed. His summing up of `Market Garden’ concludes with the following words:
The Air Plan was bad. All experience and common sense pointed to landing all 3 Airborne Divisions in the minimum period of time, so that they could form up and collect themselves before the Germans reacted. All 3 Divisions could have been landed in the space of 12 hours or so, but F. A. A. A. [First Allied Airborne Army] insisted on a plan which resulted in the second lift (with half the heavy equipment) arriving more than 24 hours after the Germans had been alerted.
As the RAF was afterwards to admit, the flak intelligence proved to have been inaccurate. Furthermore, the escorting fighters showed themselves well capable of coping with what flak there was. With the intelligence such as it was, however, it is hard to blame the air forces for not dropping 1st Airborne Division closer to Arnhem – after all, 40 per cent losses had been forecast even if the defences around Deelen, Arnhem, Nijmegen and Eindhoven were avoided. So far as is known, the possibility of landing US 82nd Division closer to Nijmegen was not even considered. Nor, from a strictly air standpoint, was the American refusal to fly the double sortie on the first day unsound in theory, given their limited resources for aircraft maintenance. With more time to press his case, however, Browning might surely have persuaded Brereton to act with greater decision and question Major-General Williams’s advice, especially as Air Vice-Marshal Hollinghurst was willing to fly the double sortie.
If this extra time had been available for careful thought and discussion, Brereton might also have been persuaded to examine the basis for the flak intelligence and to ask for the aircraft loss estimates to be justified. And, even if Brereton had done nothing, it is all but certain that Montgomery himself would have intervened to ensure that a realistic plan for the operation was produced. As it was, his staff did not see the `Market Garden’ plan until two days before take-off. By then, it was far too late to make major changes, although the Field-Marshal did attempt to persuade Brereton to produce a double sortie for British 1st Airborne Division. The wide separation of the many headquarters, combined with often inadequate communications, did not make for speedy consultation and quick decision. Montgomery was to admit afterwards that `The airborne forces at Arnhem were dropped too far away from the vital objective – the bridge. It was some hours before they reached it. I take the blame for this mistake.’ It was a rare example of the Field- Marshal confessing to error – an error which would hardly have happened if time had been available to consider the full implications of the decision.
It is simple now to stroll across the hills above Nijmegen, and to judge at leisure and with hindsight that the city and its bridges could have been defended from the Germans by holding a smaller area of ground, thus making troops available to tackle the Nijmegen bridge with the despatch which attended the capture of the one across the Maas at Grave. At the time, however, Browning and Gavin were making their plans from maps and air photographs, and hours not days were at their disposal for considering the problem and making these plans. Nevertheless (and this is a subject upon which strong divisions of opinion exist), if Browning had given Gavin the task of defending a closer perimeter around Nijmegen, and had insisted also that the immediate priority of US 82nd Division was to seize and hold a crossing over the Waal, it is all but certain that the Nijmegen highway bridge could have been secured straight away. The flak around the city could then have been silenced, and the second and subsequent lifts landed in the flat country nearby, thus eliminating the need to hold the LZs and DZs on the Groesbeek Heights. With the Nijmegen bridge in American hands when Guards Armoured Division (late though it already was) arrived in the city about midday on the Tuesday, 19 September, the chances of reaching Frost before he was overwhelmed would have been that much the greater, given that 10th SS Panzer Division was then only starting to build up its strength in the Betuwe.
Too much has perhaps been made of the failure to provide the airborne divisions, before the operation, with an accurate and up-to-date summary of the available intelligence about enemy strengths and possible intentions in eastern Holland. The dramatic details of the tale has caught the public imagination: suppression of information, whether by incompetence or design, is excellent material for headline or filmscript. What are the facts? The intelligence summary issued for the abortive Operation `Comet’ (produced without the benefit of the subsequent Ultra information regarding the movement into the area of 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions) forecast one broken panzer division resting and refitting north of Arnhem. That for `Market Garden’ predicted about fifty to one hundred tanks in the whole of Holland; and, at about the same time as the intelligence summary was issued, Browning told Urquhart to expect nothing more than a German brigade group supported by a few tanks. In the event, the strength of each of these two so- called panzer divisions equated to about a brigade group, and, at the start of the battle, each possessed a few tanks, 9th SS Panzer having about a company’s worth of twenty or so Mark V Panthers. The fact that the information about the presence of these two broken divisions in the Arnhem area was not passed to the Airborne divisional commanders, and that it probably did not reach Browning either, made hardly any difference, adding as it did little to what those concerned already knew about the size of the enemy forces they were likely to meet. With the greater part of 10th SS Panzer directed towards Nijmegen as soon as the battle began, the estimate of enemy strength passed to Urquhart was not too wide of the mark. Whether or not Browning did suppress some of the information he had received from his intelligence staff about the presence of German tanks near Arnhem is hardly material to the issue. In any case, the need to protect Ultra as a source could well have debarred everyone involved from being told the exact designations of the two German formations.
Over the years, Montgomery has been criticised for the risk he took with the Airborne divisions, aware as he was of the presence of enemy armour in the area. The stakes for which he had been playing could, however, hardly have been higher – the end of the war in Europe in 1944. On 15 September, two days before ‘Market Garden’ started, Eisenhower had written to his army group commanders: `We shall soon, I hope . be in possession of the Ruhr, the Saar and the Frankfurt area . Clearly, Berlin is the main prize.’ Given such a prize, the risking of the lives of a few thousand Airborne soldiers was justifiable. Such risks involve harsh decisions, but they lie at the root of a senior commander’s responsibilities. There was, indeed, another and similar example. In March 1944 Major-General Orde Wingate (as he had then become) learned, immediately prior to taking-off on his second deep penetration into Burma, that one of his glider landing-grounds had been obstructed with tree trunks. He was certain that the operation had been betrayed, and therefore urged his commander, General Bill Slim, to cancel it. Slim, however, decided that the assault should go in, making use of the other two landing-grounds, but later he spoke of `the weight of responsibility crushing in on me with an almost physical pressure . a burden a commander himself must bear.’
Although he recognised both the prize and the responsibility, it is strange that Montgomery, having staked so much on `Market Garden’, remained so uncharacteristically remote from its actual execution, once the operation had been launched. Bill Williams recollects that the normal tension of battle was absent at the time, perhaps because of the summer euphoria, and that he observed `a lack of grip surprising in Montgomery’; he also noticed how the army group commander appeared to let things go their own way. If this was so, it is possible that the attitude spread further down the chain of command, and that this could be one of the reasons why XXX Corps did not move with the speed expected.
Despite the difficulties of moving a complete corps along a single vulnerable artery, and the delay and confusion caused by German attacks against that artery, Horrocks could well have succeeded in covering the sixty- four miles to Arnhem on schedule, thanks in great measure to the work of Taylor’s 101st Airborne Division in helping to keep the road open. If the Guards had not halted on the first night at Valkenswaard, a quicker start could have been made in replacing the bridge at Son, and if the bridge over the Waal at Nijmegen had been seized with similar despatch to that over the Maas, XXX Corps could have reached the Betuwe in thirty-six hours. It could then have tackled the final stage of the journey before 10th SS Panzer had brought sufficient men and armour across the Pannerden ferry to stop the British advance.
As Urquhart, however, commented twenty years ago, with much justification, `. it is possible that for once Horrocks’s enthusiasm was not transmitted adequately to those who served under him, and it may have been that some of his more junior officers and NCOs did not fully comprehend the problem and the importance of speed.’ Undoubtedly this same criticism can also be levelled at some of Horrocks’s more senior commanders. Guards Armoured Division was slow in exploiting success, not only at Valkenswaard, but also after the crossing of the Waal. It is equally difficult to justify the performance of 43rd Infantry Division. As with the Guards, this division had recently absorbed large drafts of reinforcements to replace casualties, and its units had been resting and refitting for nearly three weeks after their successful crossing of the Seine. This had been a peaceful interlude, one that perhaps persuaded them, as it did others, that the war was all but over. Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that the division would not have moved with greater speed if it had been led with a vigour similar to that displayed by the commanding officer of the DCLI in that battalion’s dash to Driel on the evening of Friday 22 September. In the Reichswald and beyond during the coming winter, after the euphoria promised by easy victory had evaporated, this tough line division was again to show its formidable fighting qualities.
If the two British corps flanking the advance of XXX Corps had moved more quickly, the task of US 101 st Airborne Division in keeping the main artery open would have been much less difficult. The commanders concerned may not have pushed their men too hard in the early stages of the battle, but given more time to concentrate VIII Corps along the Meuse-Escaut Canal, and to accumulate the supplies to provide a proper punch, the story might have been different. What should be noted is that the fighting in which these two corps were engaged was a great deal more severe than has sometimes been represented. During the eight days of `Market Garden’, VIII and XIII Corps between them lost 3,874 officers and men; by comparison, XXX Corps suffered 1,480 casualties during the same period. In aggregate, the two British flanking corps lost as many men during `Market Garden’ as did the two American Airborne divisions. 15th (Scottish) Division was part of the left-hand corps, and the account of its fight to retain its bridgehead over the Meuse-Escaut Canal is revealing:
The long ordeal of the Aast bridgehead was over. What had been endured by all in it can never adequately be described. Packed together in that tiny patch of ground barely four hundred yards in depth, pounded by a ceaseless bombardment, and assaulted by swiftly recurring counter-attacks pushed with fanatical courage, the 44th Brigade and then the 227th Brigade in its tum had known no respite in this inferno. They had lost over 700 men in six days.
Between 13 and 21 September this line division suffered 924 casualties, and in the fighting around Best during the subsequent ten days a further 925 names were added to its casualty lists.
In the nature of things, Browning’s part in the battle was limited, and it is not easy to justify the use of a battalion-sized glider lift to land his headquarters on the Groesbeek Heights on the first day. If he had remained with his main headquarters in England, he would have been able to provide, if nothing else, help and encouragement to Sosabowski. With 1st Airborne Division’s communications with England functioning better than those with the Nijmegen area, he would also have been better placed to control the use of the available reserves waiting to fly in on the subsequent lifts. As it was, he was faced with no major decision until the afternoon of Monday, D-plus- 1. That decision was whether to allow Gavin to tackle the Nijmegen bridges again in strength on the same afternoon. Why Browning should have refused to do so, after 82nd Division’s second lift had arrived safely, and after it had become for the time being apparent that the reports of German armour in the Reichswald were untrue, is hard to explain. Nevertheless, Montgomery retained his confidence in Browning’s ability as a commander in battle, informing the CIGS when it was all over that he would like to have Browning as a corps commander if a vacancy occurred – high praise indeed.
The outcome of the battle to reach the Arnhem bridge might have been different if the radios of 1st Airborne Division had worked better, and if, as a result, Urquhart had not been cut off from his headquarters at a vital stage of the battle. For the state of the communications, Urquhart must take his share of the blame. As he has admitted, `signal failures were no new phenomenon’, and like all else in his division, this particular buck stopped with him; signal officers can be sacked if they do not produce the expected results. But it was not just a question of inexpertly handled or malfunctioning sets. Better sets were needed, and this was a matter for Browning’s headquarters and for the War Office. The problems which would arise when operating over extended distances in enclosed country had been foreseen, and time and again the division’s requests for more powerful radios had been rejected. When, both for `Comet’ and for `Market Garden’, such conditions had to be faced, there was no way of obtaining new, more powerful sets at short notice, or of packing and loading them if they had been available. There was just not time for such changes.
Other errors can and have been blamed on Urquhart, among them the failure to appreciate the importance of the Heveadorp ferry for tackling the Arnhem bridges from their southern end, and his mistake in not informing Hackett that Hicks would assume command of the division in the event of both Lathbury and himself becoming casualties. In making criticisms of this kind, however, it is important to remember that the most complex activity known to man is modern warfare. Errors are inevitable, but success more often than not attends the commander who commits the smaller number. If Urquhart had been an American general, he might well have been fired afterwards pour encourager les autres, an expedient that has virtues at times. Instead, he was rightly appointed a Commander of the Order of the Bath, and recommended by Montgomery, again to the CIGS, as Deputy Commander of the Airborne Army if Browning moved on. It can be argued that men are better judged by those who work for them rather than by their seniors – it is difficult to hide defects from subordinates. Urquhart will be remembered by all who served under him for his rock-like qualities, his cool and clear mind, and for the care he took of his men. He was an inspiring leader.
Montgomery blamed the weather as one of the major factors that denied `Market Garden’ what he termed `complete success’. But 38 Group, RAF, judged that the weather had not `unduly hampered operations’, and this is the more accurate comment. Certainly mist at take-off airfields, combined with low cloud, did delay the arrival of 4 Parachute Brigade by four hours, and US 82nd Division’s glider infantry regiment and a battalion of its artillery were delayed for four days. The Polish infantry battalions were also two days late in entering the battle, but it was possibly fortunate for them that this was so.
These delays may have formed one element in the defeat (especially the late arrival of the reinforcements for 82nd Airborne Division), but their effect was small when compared with what would have happened if 30 per cent or more of the first lift had been shot down, something confidently predicted by the air forces. The official historian of the US Army has also blamed the weather for helping to `deny any really substantial contribution after D-Day from tactical aircraft’. But poor planning and liaison were, in fact, of greater consequence. Adequate close support, something the soldiers had every reason to expect by September 1944, was not available, a significant factor in the outcome of the fighting on the ground. Direct communications between the soldiers fighting the battle and the support aircraft did not function, nor did the arrangement for calling for air support. Equally ineffective was the liaison between First Allied Airborne Army and 83 Group, the RAF formation responsible for providing close support. Consultation between the two headquarters, separated as they were by the Channel, was not easy. In order to avoid confusion between close-support aircraft and the fighter escorts to the transport columns, Brereton’s headquarter had prohibited the flying of close-support missions when troop-carrying or supply aircraft were near the battlefield. Given the frequent changes in the timings of the planned programmes for the transport columns, it was impossible more often than not to fly close-support missions even when the airfields in Belgium and France were clear. With time for proper planning, such problems could have been settled before the operation began.
Time, in fact, seemed always to be the missing element: time for clear thought, time for consultation, discussion and argument, time for the detailed and involved planning demanded by such a large-scale operation. `Market Garden’ was the only major Airborne operation of the war to be mounted in haste. It was the only one that failed. It was, as the late Ronald Lewin remarked, `a lash-up and a lash-up between allies’ – there is no better recipe for disaster. And luck was lacking. Nearly every error had occurred because of a lack of time for proper preparation. The complexity of Airborne operations on such a scale, requiring as they did time to complete the involved planning, had destroyed the speed and flexibility supposedly characteristic of the Airborne assault.
`Market Garden’ was a gamble for a glittering prize. Given this prize, and the circumstances, the risk was justified. Only with hindsight, with the knowledge denied to those who conceived and planned the operation, does it become clear that, even if it had been successful, the break-through could not have been exploited. The operation had been based all along on the single false premise that German resistance had crumbled and that the resources of the Reich were spent. But spare manpower still existed. The Luftwaffe, the Navy and base units could, and would, be combed; slave labour and women could replace men working on the land and in industry. The German military genius could use these hidden reserves to build the fifty new Volksgrenadier divisions, their men inspired by the dual threat to the Fatherland from both east and west. This Phoenix-like recovery was something few suspected was possible, although Churchill was among those who counselled caution. What shape the battle might have assumed if Second Army had managed to reach the Ijssel no one can tell, but one thing is near certain – the war would not have been over by Christmas.