1st Airborne Division
The landing had gone very good. 5.191 men had landed without incident. One mayor setback is the loss of the jeeps that had to arrive by glider.
The railroad bridge is blown and at that point the roadbridge at Arnhem is for the British the only way they know about to cross the Rhine near Arnhem. The ferry in-between the railroad bridge and the roadb ridge had been overlooked by the planners of the operation.John Frost reaches the road bridge on September 17th with 500 men and occupies the houses on the north side of the bridge. He commands the second Para battalion. The 10th SS panzerdivision had already crossed the bridge on its way to Nijmegen when Frost and his men arrive.
The other elements of the British airborne division also advance towards te bridge but they are held back by kampfgruppe Krafft.
This German group is a mixture of luftwaffe soldiers and soldiers of other units.
Frost and his men are unable to cross the bridge and in the evening and night of the 17th they stop the first German attempts to cross the bridge from the south side.
At the same time General Urquhart is cut of from the British main force and is forced to hide with a Dutch family while Germans are in the area. On arrival the British find that their radio connections are terrible, most of the time the units are not able to contact each other. The main force has sporadic radio contact with Frost at the bridge but it is completely cut off from all contact outside of Arnhem.
Urquhart faced with the inability to contact his battalion commanders tries to reach them by jeep and at that point ends up in enemy territory and has to hide.
On the second day the British try to reinforce Frost\'s small group at the bridge, but all attempt fail. The Germans have built a large defensive ring in Arnhem. Four British battalions are halted not more than one mile from the bridge.
On the 19th General Urguhart manages to get back to his headquarters where everybody is very surprised to see him. Everybody had assumed that the General had been killed when he didn\'t return to his headquarters on the 17th. The General finds his forces in a very bad position. All attempts to reach the bridge have failed and German Tiger Tanks have pushed the British lightly armed forces back into a perimeter around Oosterbeek.
The British still haven\'t been able to reach the allied forces at Nijmegen and so they couldn\'t let England know that they have been driven from the drop zones.
The allied air forces drop fourteen hundred ton supplies in spite of heavy anti aircraft fire over the drop zones. Of these supplies only two hundred tons are dropped within the lines that are then held by the British.
The third paratrooper drop that is scheduled for this day is postponed due to the bad weather (fog) in England. This day the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade was scheduled to drop at Driel on the south side of the Rhine.
The British are forced to shrink their defensive lines into a perimeter in Oosterbeek. The Hartenstein hotel in Oosterbeek is the Divisional Headquarters with an aid station in the cellars. The perimeter has at that point only a dept of four square kilometres with Hartenstein in the middle.
On the 21st the Irish Guards advance towards Arnhem, after it had captured the Waal bridge at Nijmegen on the day before. Not long after its advance the guards are halted at Elst. At the same time the British forces at the bridge in Arnhem have to stop their defence of the bridge. Frost surrenders with is men. At that time of the surrender his small force is almost completely without ammunition and food.
The British 1st Airborne Division looses the high ground at Westerbouwing which means that from that point on the Germans are able to overlook the British perimeter and the original ferry crossing point between Oosterbeek and Driel.
The Polish brigade is dropped on Thursday afternoon. The land right into the fire line of the German forces and as soon as the Polish leave their aircrafts they can see tracer bullets all around them.
The dropping of supplies for the British airborne forces is still no success. Little supplies reach the men while many aircrafts are shot down by German fire.
The next day the situation is getting worse for the British at Oosterbeek. They are pushed back further towards the river and they are running low on ammunition and even drinking water.
On this day the Polish try to cross the Rhine at the ferry crossing. The ferry is lost and the crossing is made with small inflatable boats. The crossing is no success and only 250 Polish have reached the British lines by the end of the day.
During the day the first elements of 30rd Corps (the British Wessex division) have finally made contact with the Polish at Driel.
The situation says unchanged during the weekend the British Airborne soldiers fight for every meter around Oosterbeek until they receive the order to withdraw on Monday the 25th. That same night British and Canadian Engineers row across the Rhine to pull the remnants of the British 1st Airbone Division back. The retreat is covered by an artillery barrage of the British from the south side of the Rhine.
The Airbone soldiers try to pull back as silently as possible while wounded men take the positions of the men that retreat.
1.700 Airborne soldiers and 420 glider pilots are pulled back across the Rhine in the night of the 25th. Most of them cross in the boats but some of the men swim across. Three hundred men remained on the north bank when the retreat was halted.
The British had flown into Arnhem with ten thousand men and after nine days of combat they came out with little more than two thousand.
The Germans loose 3.300 men at Arnhem.
Destroyed OosterbeekDestroyed Tiger tank in the Weverstraat, Photo courtesy: Airborne museum Oosterbeek
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