Market Garden - Why No Sappers

#1
Bit of revisionist history chat

Wondering if anyone can answer me a question.

Market Garden was all about bridges but why didnt the Royal Engineers provide bridging as the main body pushed forward.

No heroics, no disaster.

We knew about assault bridging and Percy Hobart had proven armoured combat engineering with the 79th Division all the way from Normandy so why weren't they combined in the push North
 
#2
Probably the same unimaginative thinking that led to them being dropped 8 miles from Arnhem bridge, for example.

....and why didn't they use the tactics/troops employed at Pegasus bridge?
 
#3
I was under the impression the tasks were to seize the bridges quickly in order to reach their objectives on the other side before the Germans could put in a concerted counterstrike. P1ssing around putting bridges up would have sort of defeated the object of a lightening strike.

I could be wrong!
 
#4
meridian said:
Bit of revisionist history chat

Wondering if anyone can answer me a question.

Market Garden was all about bridges but why didnt the Royal Engineers provide bridging as the main body pushed forward.

No heroics, no disaster.

We knew about assault bridging and Percy Hobart had proven armoured combat engineering with the 79th Division all the way from Normandy so why weren't they combined in the push North
You may find this of interest:

http://www.remuseum.org.uk/campaign/rem_campaign_market-garden.htm
 
#5
trackbasher said:
Probably the same unimaginative thinking that led to them being dropped 8 miles from Arnhem bridge, for example.

....and why didn't they use the tactics/troops employed at Pegasus bridge?
because, if memory serves, the troops employed on pegasus bridge were kept in the field for the next four months til after the breakout from normandy, slowly being whittled down until there were less than 40% left. when arnhem came around they had just been pulled out and sent back to reform.
 
#6
Did a Bailey bridge not get thrown up near the start in the 101st AOR :?


The Wilhelmina Canal at Zon had a bridge constructed in 10 hours.
 
#7
I realise that speed was the essence of the operation but wonder if a more incremental approach might have achieved better results. We had the kit and specifically the 79th Armd Div had proved the concept of armoured combat engineering but was strangley absent from the orbat for Market Garden
 
#8
meridian said:
Bit of revisionist history chat

Wondering if anyone can answer me a question.

Market Garden was all about bridges but why didnt the Royal Engineers provide bridging as the main body pushed forward.

No heroics, no disaster.

We knew about assault bridging and Percy Hobart had proven armoured combat engineering with the 79th Division all the way from Normandy so why weren't they combined in the push North
They did, in at least one case. Royal Engineers built a Bailey bridge over the Wilhemina canal at Son when the original one was blown by the Germans before the 101st Airborne Div could capture it. But building a bridge takes time, and not everywhere is a suitable site for one.

In my opinion there were bigger problems than the bridges. One was the narrowness of the salient up which XXX Corps was advancing, which made it extremely vulnerable to German counter-attacks. The other was the unexpected speed at which the Germans brought in reinforcements into the battle area.
 
#9
they could have still used the tactics though (in relation to Arnhem Bridge) . Can't remember where I read it - it might have been Ambroses 'Pegasus Bridge' , but I'm sure Major Howard expressed the same sentiment when talking about Arnhem.
 
#10
As TT has shown plans where in force to bridge all the major rivers & canals. The problem is, as already mentioned, is building these bridges whithout controling both sides of the river is next to impossible.

The Secondary objective for 1st British Airborne Division was to form a bridgehead on the north side of the Rhine, if they could not capture either the road or rail bridge. Once it became apparent that the 1st Airborne could not reinforce Frost's 2nd Battalion at the Arnhem road bridge the remanents of 1 Para Brigade, 4 Para Brigade & 1 Airlanding Brigade formed such a bridgehead around Oosterbeek waiting for XXX Corps to bridge the Rhine.

Of course they never did. It was decided not to 'reinforce a failure'.

Also, don't forget that due to the blowing of the bridge at Son a Bailey bridge was built there by Royal Engineers.
 
#11
I realise the RE was involved but what I was trying to get at is why Armoured Combat Engineering, gap crossing and obstacle breaching under armour was not employed.

It was used in spades and according to a quote to Eisenhower was instrumental to the success of Overlord.

My question is, why wasnt it adapted for the mission and used later on.
 
#12
trackbasher said:
Probably the same unimaginative thinking that led to them being dropped 8 miles from Arnhem bridge, for example.

....and why didn't they use the tactics/troops employed at Pegasus bridge?
Colonel George Chatterton, Commander Glider Pilots, suggested just that, a glider-borne coup de main on the Arnhem road bridge. His suggestion was turned down.

Another good question is whether two lifts could have been flown in the first day. Some have suggested that with a take-off during the dark that it could have been. Would it have made a difference in the end?
 
#13
A Coup de main operation was mooted but rejected due to the high quality of German troops in the area. Greabner's 9th SS Recce Battalion was the most potent force in the Arnhem region - mobile and heavily armed.

In any case, Major Howard's Coup de main force was only a Company strong. John Frost's heavily reinforced 2nd Battalion could only hold out for 3 days. It would have been suicide.
 
#14
meridian said:
I realise the RE was involved but what I was trying to get at is why Armoured Combat Engineering, gap crossing and obstacle breaching under armour was not employed.

It was used in spades and according to a quote to Eisenhower was instrumental to the success of Overlord.

My question is, why wasnt it adapted for the mission and used later on.
First there probably wasn't time to adapt it. Second a lot of the places they needed to bridge were probably beyond the capability of an AVRE. Third a large part of 79th Armoured Div was busy with the reduction of the German-held channel ports.
 
#15
meridian said:
I realise the RE was involved but what I was trying to get at is why Armoured Combat Engineering, gap crossing and obstacle breaching under armour was not employed.

It was used in spades and according to a quote to Eisenhower was instrumental to the success of Overlord.

My question is, why wasnt it adapted for the mission and used later on.
There were no bunkers or casemates to speak of at Market Garden. The only obstacles were fast flowing rivers and lots of nasty Germans.
 
#17
I would guess that erecting a fixed Bailey Bridge or similar would have been out of the question due to the width of the river - looks to be well over 100m - 130 m depending on where you cross – perhaps someone could confirm this or let us know the maximum length such a bridge can be used on?

Trying to build a pontoon bridge would also have been very tricky I think, what with having to secure both banks, preparing the approach to the crossing for traffic, getting the bridging kit forward and launched in the river and set up etc all while under fire from artillery or mortars.

Also, thinking about the possibility of a coup-de-main operation as was done at Pegasus Bridge, I think that would have been very tricky to set up too.

I seem to recall that the troops who seized Pegasus Bridge were rehearsed for weeks beforehand, practising on two bridges similar bridges near Exeter, and looked hard at what they would do if this glider failed to land or that glider went astray while the pilots landed on a replica target, using night simulating amber/blue lenses something like forty plus times.

Market Garden was set up in a matter of two or three weeks at most so there would not have been time to plan, prepare and rehearse such a landing, even if there had been glider landing zones within reach of the bridge.
 
#18
With hindsight, a better option would have been to drop 1 Parachute brigade just south of Arnhem bridge on the soft polder land - this is where 1 Polish Parachute Brigade was scheduled to land. This would have meant there was a complete brigade holding Arnhem road bridge rather than just a battalion.

The only downside to this plan is that all the heavy gear such as 17pdr & 6pdr anti-tank guns would be 8 miles away with the rest of the division. The area around Wolfheze was the only suitable ground for gliders and the gliders would bring in the Airlanding Brigade and anti-tank guns.
 
#19
We were involved......What is not well known is that market garden offensive was a two pronged attack Northwards. We did the Escaut canal assault, before driving North leaving it to be bridged properly by the follow up forces. This was planned to be a lightening thrust. Where the para s would capture the bridge intact.

It was a long chance. but the golden opportunity to end the war by Christmas lay before us. tens of thousands of young lives would be saved..... WE strove might and main to get there. But that one chance.That long shot of success had to be taken The rewards were so great that no matter what it had to be attempted.
We would have been in Berlin first and captured great swathes of Germany.

Here for you to get the feel of the war at that time is my recall of a bloody awful assault crossing i recall it today as clear as a bell..... HORIBBLE

The Escaut Canal.
Hell. Sheer Hell.
The next night, after the return from Brussels, we had to make an assault crossing of the Escaut canal at Petit Brogel. Some of us turning up with white gaiters from our Brussels trip to force a crossing at night for, heavens sake! There was no time to change into our dirty old denims that we used when in action. For me, one of those actions that I look back on with particular distaste. The canal had steep concrete sides and very difficult to climb, a flat concrete top for a short distance before the water, we had to ferry the infantry across in our canvas assault boats in the face of some very determined Enemy resistance. Then we had to build a light assault bridge across the top of the canvas boats. This was one of the uglier actions and one that scared the daylights out of me, the canvas boats had arrived and the crossing was to take place at 1am at night.

The Germans started off proceedings by a bombing raid on us, now, I had stated earlier, that I hated night actions and this one fulfilled all of my foreboding. A personal tragedy for me, a brave and trusted friend reached the limit of his endurance. He broke down completely and sat sobbing in the ditch, just under the banks of the canal where we were waiting to into action. Sobbing his heart out and shaking like a leaf, now I know all about shell shock or battle exhaustion, but this, to me, was quite unexpected, I never thought that this man would eventually succumb to shock. I sat with my arms around his shoulders desperately trying to comfort him, saying "come on H**** I will look after you" but it was no good, he was too far gone. The worst part of this episode, was having to leave him there, we had to get the infantry over that canal no matter what. This was a man I could rely on in the toughest of situations, I never dreamed that he would succumb. The silliest thing about all of this is, I still feel guilty for leaving a friend in direst need, all those long years ago, even to day I sometimes think about that night and still have this lingering feeling of guilt. He was sent back to a recovery unit, but on return he was a changed man, he was never the same again, not only that, but he appeared to have a personality change. That is tragic. A brave man, although I cannot mention his name, I would dearly like to see him again, that is if he is alive! I have tried several times to trace him without success. I believe that his former experiences at the Chateau de la Londe, " The bloodiest square mile in Normandy" had eventually caught up with him.

The Enemy left behind one of those fanatical SS rear guards, every time we raised our head above the canal side we were greeted by a burst of fire from a heavy machine gun that fired explosive shells, plus mortaring, and another machine gun that fired bursts of fire, down the canal! Small arms fire and a persistent sniper livened the party. Having got the infantry over in the canvas boats, they set fire to a house on the other side so that we could see what we were doing, it lit up the scene and made it easier for the sniper, even so, it did make it possible to see where we were going. I remember the scene at night, lit up with towering flames from the burning house. With the swirling smoke and leaping flames it conjured up a perfect picture of "Dantes inferno" After completion of the Assault bridge the Enemy dropped mortar bombs into the boats so that they had to be replaced. I remember this as one of the most frightening operations that I had taken part in since landing. We took casualties and then when we were over, we drove on with the infantry and stopped in the early dawn in a convent. One little cameo I remember very well was that of a German infantry man, very severely injured with half his shoulder blades torn off, in the flickering flames of this Dantes inferno and in the blackness of that night, being helped by two of our infantry men, who half carried him along with both their arms supporting him round his shoulders towards a field dressing station. He kept shouting "Luftwaff good. Luftwaff good" The two infantry men humoured him with "That's right old mate, that's right" Killing each other one minute, and helping each other the next. Oh! Lord, will humans never learn.


The Escaut Canal.
Official Version.
The blown bridge had crossed from Lille St Hubert north into the little village of Broek.The Sappers lost no time, 246 Field Company R.E. were responsible for building a class nine bridge. They had already lost Lieutenant Cadwallader, who had been killed with an anti-tank gun while reconnoitering the canal the previous afternoon.Lieutenants. Boyse. Field. Duncan, and Borrowman had crossed with the Assaulting companies. Borrowman was seriously wounded, and Sapper Smith who had been with him was taken prisoner, to be recaptured in Broek by the Ulster rifles, together with the five Germans and"Upon whom the tables were satisfactorily turned" Despite Enemy fire, construction of the bridge was begun at 1 am. It was open to traffic at 7am. Although still subject to sniping, also, some more boats had been sunk, and had to be replaced.
Its span was 160 feet. Source? Official records.
Hope this helps?

Swordman
 

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