THE 3 DISCISIVE FACTORS FOR ARNHEM LANDINGS
1: It was thought that the enemy flak from
Deelen airfield and the town of Arnhem was likely to be too intense to permit aircraft
carrying parachute troops or towing gliders to pass over or close to those areas.
Therefore the landings could not be carried out on the open ground south of Arnhem and
close to the bridges. The only alternative landing areas were the large open spaces north
and south of the railway west of Wolfheze station.
consideration of these and other factors the Divisional Commander decided upon a plan the
outline of which was as follows. The Division would land by daylight in three lifts on
three consecutive days. On the first day the lst Parachute Brigade would land by parachute
in the area west of Wolfheze with the task of advancing rapidly into Arnhem and seizing
the road and the railway bridges over the river. At the same time part of the 1st
Airlanding Brigade, Divisional Headquarters and as many supporting troops as could be
fitted in would land by glider in the area immediately North West of Wolfheze Station.
The task of the Airlanding Brigade was to secure the dropping and landing zones for the second lift on the next day. Thes upporting troops consisted of parts of the Divisional Artillery both field and anti-tank guns, Engineers, and the Divisional Reconnaissance Regiment with a proportion of Administrative troops. To lift the lst Parachute Brigade and this force 161 parachute aircraft of the U.S. 9th Troop Carrier Command and 297 gliders and tug aircraft of 38 and 46 Groups RAF were required.
With the second lift on the second day would come the 4th Parachute Brigade landing on a dropping zone between Planken Wambuis and the railway, and the remainder of the Airlanding Brigade. They would be carried in 126 parachute aircraft and 305 gliders. A further 35 aircraft would drop supplies at the same time. And on the third day the lst Polish Parachute Brigade Group were to land South of the main bridge, it being estimated that by that time enemy flak in Arnhem would no longer be operative.
They would be carried in 114 parachute aircraft and 45 gliders. At the same time 163 aircraft would drop supplies for the 1st Airborne Division. The task of the Airlanding Brigade, when the landing and dropping zones no longer needed to be secured, the 4th Parachute Brigade and the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade Group was to form a perimeter round Arnhem leaving the 1st Parachute Brigade holding the bridges and in reserve. The sectors to be held by them were respectively West, North and East of the town, the Polish Parachute Brigade crossing the river on arrival to reach their sector.
D-DAY: 17 SEPTEMBER
|The day selected for the
operation was Sunday, 17th September, 1944. The weather was fine and the flight from
England uneventful. Landings commenced at one o'clock in the afternoon, were most
successful and accomplished practically without opposition, the troops being
enthusiastically received by the local population. Within
two and a half hours of the start of the landings, battalions of the 1st Parachute Brigade
had started their advance to capture the bridges. And by half past eight that evening
after overcoming and bypassing a certain amount of opposition the 2nd Parachute Battalion
under command of Lieutenant-Colonel J. D. Frost had captured the north end of the main
One company of this Battalion had been detached to capture the railway bridge, but this was blown up as they arrived at it. Thereafter the company were surrounded, forced to break out and were never able to reform and join their Battalion at the main bridge. The major part of the Headquarters of the 1st Parachute Brigade however reached the bridge later that night.
Unfortunately they were without their commander, Brigadier Lathbury, who with General Urquhart had been visiting the 3rd Parachute Battalion and had been forced by enemy activity to remain with it. This Battalion and the 1st Parachute Battalion had also both advanced eastwards, the former to support the advance of the 2nd Parachute Battalion and the latter to seize certain high ground north of Arnhem so as to deny the enemy observation on the town of Arnhem. Both these attacks met with serious and increasing resistance, which held up this advance. During the night and morning of the 18th September, determined efforts were made by both battalions to advance, and some progress was made despite heavy casualties, a position near the St. Elizabeth Hospital being reached. On the 17th September the remainder of the troops in the first lift had comparatively quiet night.
Early on the morning of the 18th enemy activity in the area of the dropping and landing zones increased and at the same time, though information was very scanty, it was clear that all was not well with the 1st Parachute Brigade. Brigadier Hicks, who had by now taken over command in the absence of General Urquhart, decided to reinforce the 1st Parachute Brigade immediately, and on the arrival of the second lift to divert part of the 4th Parachute Brigade to this task also. The latter were due to start landing at ten o'clock on the morning of the 18th, but due to the weather in England their take-off was delayed, and they did not start dropping until about three o'clock in the afternoon. Although there was more opposition than on the previous day, the landings were carried out south of Planken Wambuis very satisfactorily.