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The Battle of Arnhem was a battle of the Second World War at the vanguard of the Allied Operation Market Garden. It was fought in and around the Dutch city of Arnhem, the town of Oosterbeek, the villages Wolfheze and Driel and the vicinity from 17 to 26 September 1944. The Allies were poised to enter the Netherlands after sweeping through France and Belgium in the summer of 1944, after the Battle of Normandy. Operation Market Garden was proposed by Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, who favoured a single push northwards over the branches of the Lower Rhine River, allowing the British Second Army to bypass the Siegfried Line and attack the Ruhr. US Airborne troops were dropped in the Netherlands to secure bridges and towns along the line of the Allied advance. Farthest north, the British 1st Airborne Division landed at Arnhem to capture bridges across the Nederrijn (Lower Rhine), supported by men of the Glider Pilot Regiment and the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade. The British XXX Corps were expected to reach the British airborne forces in two to three days.
CM battle normandy.full.rar
As the battle progressed, more and more forces would become available to the Germans. Adolf Hitler, stunned by the attack, agreed that the defence of the Netherlands should receive priority and reinforcements streamed in from Wehrkreis VI, the Wesel area and Armed Forces Command Netherlands (General Friedrich Christiansen). Model arranged for units to be sent straight to the units in action and rushed in specialist urban warfare and machine gun battalions. Each day of the battle, the German military strength increased whilst the British supplies diminished. By 21 September, the fifth day of the battle, German forces outnumbered the British by 3:1 and continued to increase.
As the second day dawned, the 9th SS Panzer Division continued to reinforce the German blocking line. Krafft's unit withdrew overnight and joined Spindler's line, coming under his command. Spindler's force was now becoming so large as more men and units arrived at the new front, that he was forced to split it into two battle groups: Kampfgruppen Allworden and Harder. The defensive line now blocked the entire western side of Arnhem and had just closed the gap exploited by Frost alongside the river the previous evening.
At the road bridge, German forces of the 9th SS had quickly surrounded Frost's battalion, cutting them off from the rest of the division. At around 09:00, the 9th SS Reconnaissance Battalion headed back toward Arnhem from south of the river, having concluded that it was not needed at Nijmegen. Though aware of the British troops at the bridge, it attempted to cross by force. In the resultant two-hour battle, it was beaten back with heavy losses; 12 out of the battalion's 22 armored vehicles involved in the assault were destroyed or knocked out and its commanding officer, Viktor Gräbner, was killed in action. German attacks carried on around the British perimeter at the Arnhem bridge for the rest of the day, but the British continued to hold.
A break in the weather allowed the RAF to finally fly combat missions against the German forces surrounding Urquhart's men. Hawker Typhoons and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts strafed German positions throughout the day and occasionally duelled with the Luftwaffe over the battlefield. The RAF attempted their final resupply flight from Britain on the Saturday afternoon, but lost eight planes for little gain to the airborne troops. Some small resupply efforts would be made from Allied airfields in Europe over the next two days but to little effect.
In Oosterbeek, the situation was desperate; Hackett was wounded in the morning and had to give up the eastern command. The RAF attempted some close support around the perimeter which just held but shelling and sniping increased casualties by the hour. The aid stations were occupied by 2,000 men, British, German and Dutch civilian casualties. Because many aid posts were in the front line, in homes taken over earlier in the battle, the odd situation was created where casualties were evacuated forward rather than rearwards. Without evacuation, the wounded were often injured again and some posts changed hands between the British and Germans several times as the perimeter was fought over.
Arnhem was a victory for the Germans (albeit tempered by their losses further south) and a defeat for the Second Army. Many military commentators and historians believe that the failure to secure Arnhem was not the fault of the airborne forces (who had held out for far longer than planned) but of the operation. John Frost noted that "by far the worst mistake was the lack of priority given to the capture of Nijmegen Bridge" and was unable to understand why Browning had ordered Brigadier General James M. Gavin, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division to secure the Groesbeek Heights before Nijmegen Bridge. In his analysis of the battle, Martin Middlebrook believed the "failure of Browning to give the 82nd US Airborne Division a greater priority in capturing the bridge at Nijmegen" was only just behind the weakness of the air plan in importance.
The battle was a costly defeat for the 1st Airborne Division from which it never recovered. Three-quarters of the division were missing when it returned to England, including two of the three brigade commanders, eight of the nine battalion commanders and 26 of the 30 infantry company commanders. About 500 men were in hiding north of the Rhine and many of these were able to escape during the winter, initially in Operation Pegasus. New recruits, escapees and repatriated POWs joined the division over the coming months but the division was still so understrength that the 4th Parachute Brigade had to be merged into the 1st Parachute Brigade and the division could barely produce two brigades of infantry. Between May and August 1945, many of the men were sent to Denmark and Norway to oversee the Operation Doomsday the German surrenders but on their return the division was disbanded. The Glider Pilot Regiment suffered the highest proportion of fatal casualties during the battle (17.3 per cent). The regiment was so badly depleted that during Operation Varsity RAF pilots were used to fly many of the gliders. As glider operations were abolished after the war, the regiment shrank and was eventually disbanded in 1957.
Dutch records suggest that at least 453 civilians died during the battle, either as a result of Allied bombing on the first day or during the subsequent fighting. After the battle, the residents of Arnhem and its surrounding towns and villages were evicted from their homes, allowing the Germans to turn the north bank of the Rhine into an elaborate defensive position. Residents were not allowed to return home without a permit and most did not return until after the war. The Dutch homes were then systematically looted, with the spoils being sent to bombing victims in Germany. The Germans continued to fight Allied forces on the plains between Arnhem and Nijmegen. On 7 October, the Arnhem bridge was bombed and destroyed by Martin B-26 Marauders of 344th Bomb Group, USAAF. The buildings of Arnhem were bombarded by the Allies over the next few months and suffered further during the Liberation of Arnhem in April 1945.
Although the battle was a disaster for the British 1st Airborne Division, their fight north of the Rhine is considered an example of courage and endurance and one of the greatest feats of arms in the Second World War. Despite being the last great failure of the British Army, Arnhem has become a byword for the fighting spirit of the British people and has set a standard for the Parachute Regiment. Montgomery claimed that "in years to come it will be a great thing for a man to be able to say: 'I fought at Arnhem'", a prediction seemingly borne out by the pride of soldiers who took part, and the occasional desire of those who did not to claim that they were there.
The British and Commonwealth system of battle honours recognised participation in fighting at Arnhem in 1956, 1957 and 1958 by the award of the battle honour Arnhem 1944 to six units. After the liberation of the Netherlands, the Grave Registration units of 2nd Army began the task of identifying the British dead. They were buried together in a field that is on permanent loan to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission just north of Oosterbeek. There are nearly 1,800 graves in what is now known as the Airborne Cemetery, of which are for those killed during the 1944 battle. By 2003, there were still 138 men unaccounted for and human remains, equipment and weaponry continue to be dug up in the farmland around the city.
In Germany, the battle was treated as a great victory and afterward no fewer than eight men were awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The German dead were gathered together and buried in the SS Heroes Cemetery near Arnhem, but after the war they were reburied in Ysselsteyn.
The shattered Arnhem road bridge was briefly replaced by a succession of Bailey bridges before being rebuilt in the same style as the original. It was renamed John Frostbrug (literally 'John Frost Bridge') on 17 December 1977. On 31 May 2006, HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands conferred two honours on the Polish forces who fought at the battle. The Polish 1st Independent Airborne Brigade was awarded the Dutch Military William Order for gallantry and Stanisław Sosabowski was posthumously awarded the Bronze Lion. In February of that year, an appeal was launched to raise funds so that a memorial to General Sosabowski and the brigade could be erected. The memorial was unveiled in September 2006 in a ceremony that sought to undo the injustice of 1944. 350c69d7ab