Operation Market Garden......Mission Impossible?

Not sure if anyone has already posted this but here you go....
Listen, from 14.55, to a recording of fighting in the Battle of Arnhem followed by the voice of Arnold Ridley (aka Private Godfrey in 'Dad's Army') relating an account of being wounded on the Somme.

BBC Sounds
 
Also...who was coming up with some of those names? BENEFICIARY? TRANSFIGURATION?

AI understood it there is a list of predecided names (conforming to certain requirements) which are randomly assigned and not reused to maintain a distance between the meaning of the name and anything about the nature of the Op. Fair enough. However apart from Market Garden there are 2 other 2 word names there. I believe that MARKET and GARDEN referred seperately to the air and land elements of MG. Did WILD OATS and HANDS UP have a similar function?
 

OneTenner

LE
Book Reviewer
AI understood it there is a list of predecided names (conforming to certain requirements) which are randomly assigned and not reused to maintain a distance between the meaning of the name and anything about the nature of the Op. Fair enough. However apart from Market Garden there are 2 other 2 word names there. I believe that MARKET and GARDEN referred seperately to the air and land elements of MG. Did WILD OATS and HANDS UP have a similar function?
MARKET and GARDEN were indeed separate operations, one land, one air. I suspect they were chosen from the list of availables to coincide neatly if / when successful.
 
Operational names, selected from a random number system on the OED. Page and then entry. List drawn up. Assigned as needed.
 
was there no strafing or rocketing ahead of XXX corps?
Rocketing by UK/US aircraft in NW Europe - we know now from close post-war analysis of wartime data - was much less effective against armour than was supposed at the time.

Strafing? What does that mean?

It was a wartime slang term, not a tactic.

Perhaps you mean artillery support, or aerial bombardment, or both.

Artillery fire wasn't (still isn't) particularly effective except where carefully directed against clearly identified targets.

As for aerial bombing - you might find it instructive to research why there were no bomb craters on OMAHA Beach on D-Day, or - more directly relevant - what happened to XX Corps advance later in the year, when Brian Horrocks 'strafed' the bejeezus out of Cleves (Kleve).
 
Agreed.

Could a single Airborne Division really have held such a large area.......?
Given that the advance had gone so far, and so fast, since the Normandy breakout in August, that the UK planning/execution cycle couldn't get ahead of it, it's possible to understand why UK planners found their way into a mindset of "at last the Hermans are a spent force" (an easy mistake to make, if one is fully signed up to the notion that "The British Army Is The Finest In The World" )

There's also the question of resources: at this stage in the war, with victory in sight, and dealing with the post-war economy beginning to make demands on available manpower that competed with what the Army had planned, BL Montgomery (taking aside his all his vanity and arrogance*) musta been pretty keen (bordering on desperate) to close down the war. However nasty a person he may have been to work with, he's not exactly legendary for gambling with the lives of his troops.

* If "Passing the buck when your decision goes to ratsh!t" were an Olympic sport, you'd find nobody better qualified to coach you than Monty. But the poisonous little cnut wouldn't do it - just in case you turned out better at it than him ^~
 
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Pteranadon

LE
Book Reviewer
I think Op Comet was aimed in a slightly different direction - due East. I suspect the direction and urgency of Op Market Garden were driven by a British imperative to eliminate the threat posed by the V2 rockets from Holland. In early September 1944 the British government were very worried by the potential of the V2 SSBM to inflict more damage than the V1 cruise missile. Londoners were showing a lot less Blitz spirit in 1944 now it looked as if we were going to win - e.g. people were leaving London and productivity dropped by 25%. Cruise missiles could be shot down. Rockets could not. I don't think this was something that was committed to paper or shared with the Americans. It is possible that this is why Montgomery set the direction of Op Market Garden north.

For what its worth, a jokey thread on ARRSE offers quite a profound interpretation of what went wrong on Op Market Garden
I have tried to get funding to carry out academic research into this dark side of doctrine and military history. Sadly I can't get anyone to take it seriously as they all think I want an excuse to use the err military expletive in an academic paper..
 
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Rocketing by UK/US aircraft in NW Europe - we know now from close post-war analysis of wartime data - was much less effective against armour than was supposed at the time.

Strafing? What does that mean?

It was a wartime slang term, not a tactic.

Perhaps you mean artillery support, or aerial bombardment, or both.

Artillery fire wasn't (still isn't) particularly effective except where carefully directed against clearly identified targets.

As for aerial bombing - you might find it instructive to research why there were no bomb craters on OMAHA Beach on D-Day, or - more directly relevant - what happened to XX Corps advance later in the year, when Brian Horrocks 'strafed' the bejeezus out of Cleves (Kleve).

I appear to have misdirected you. What is important is the road not the target that on the road.

Strafing?
 
I appear to have misdirected you. What is important is the road not the target that on the road.

Strafing?
No misdirection at all.

I'll say it again: the evidence shows that air to ground rocket attacks against armour were substantially less effective than was reported by pilots flying those missions in 1944.

I can't see detail in your video (old myope/small phone), but I doubt that what the gun cameras show are conclusive proof of effect against tanks.

Trains - hell, Yeah! Tanks: not so much.
 
No misdirection at all.

I'll say it again: the evidence shows that air to ground rocket attacks against armour were substantially less effective than was reported by pilots flying those missions in 1944.

I can't see detail in your video (old myope/small phone), but I doubt that what the gun cameras show are conclusive proof of effect against tanks.

Trains - hell, Yeah! Tanks: not so much.

A fascinating look at the quality of maps around Arnhem and the effect on command decisions.

Have you read the paper that this link that @MoleBath posted in the quote above points to? Thats what I am talking about. Forget the tanks and rockets and insert trucks and guns then, the targets and weapons are tangential.

This quote is from it.
I don’t even intend to argue that, had the maps been better, the outcome would have been different. I do intend to argue that the maps ought to have been better and that, with better maps available for one key decision, the outcome might have been different.

The nub of what I am asking about is that, apart from the mapping, there does not seem to have been any method of establishing what the roads between Nijmegen and Arnhem were like until the lead elements of XXX corps were actually on them. As others have noted PR and so on takes time to put product on the desk of decision makers. Thats fair enough, but was there not even an ad hoc activity that might have picked up on the difference between the mapping and the ground truth?
 

Pteranadon

LE
Book Reviewer
The nub of what I am asking about is that, apart from the mapping, there does not seem to have been any method of establishing what the roads between Nijmegen and Arnhem were like until the lead elements of XXX corps were actually on them. As others have noted PR and so on takes time to put product on the desk of decision makers. Thats fair enough, but was there not even an ad hoc activity that might have picked up on the difference between the mapping and the ground truth?
IRRC the issue was not the condition of the road between Nijmegen and Arnhem but that this was a head on approach up a road between polders that could easily be stopped. Somehwere I read this was a pre war Dutch army TEWT. Take the direct route = fail. The DS solution was a left flanking approach which is that used by the Dorsets for their river crossing.
 

MoleBath

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
IRRC the issue was not the condition of the road between Nijmegen and Arnhem but that this was a head on approach up a road between polders that could easily be stopped. Somehwere I read this was a pre war Dutch army TEWT. Take the direct route = fail. The DS solution was a left flanking approach which is that used by the Dorsets for their river crossing.
Withy bags of smoke ?
 

exMercian

Old-Salt
I think Op Comet was aimed in a slightly different direction - due East. I suspect the direction and urgency of Op Market Garden were driven by a British imperative to eliminate the threat posed by the V2 rockets from Holland. In early September 1944 the British government were very worried by the potential of the V2 SSBM to inflict more damage than the V1 cruise missile. Londoners were showing a lot less Blitz spirit in 1944 now it looked as if we were going to win - e.g. people were leaving London and productivity dropped by 25%. Cruise missiles could be shot down. Rockets could not. I don't think this was something that was committed to paper or shared with the Americans. It is possible that this is why Montgomery set the direction of Op Market Garden north.

SNIP
Not sure where you got the idea that COMET was oriented to the east, as moving in that direction from the GARDEN start point leads straight across the neck of the Maastricht Appendix and into the Ruhr, precisely what the advance into Holland was intended to avoid. FWIW I think avoiding crossing into German territory was a wise move, given the reaction the 82nd Airborne provoked south-east of Nijmegen.

The COMET line of advance and objectives were the same as MARKET and was scheduled to go in on Sunday 10 September 1944. The river crossings from Eindhoven to Grave were to be secured by the 4th Parachute Brigade, those at Nijmegen by the 1st Airlanding Brigade and the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade, and the road and railway bridges at Arnhem by the 1st Parachute Brigade. All landings were to go in just after first light apart from a pre-dawn glider coup-de-main by a company from the 2nd South Staffords to seize the Arnhem bridges.

Incidentally while the COMET landing areas at Arnhem and Nijmegen were translated straight across to MARKET, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division Maxwell D. Taylor refused to use the COMET drop zones because he was not willing to scatter his men across a series of battalion DZs at Eindhoven, Son, St Oedenrode and Veghel. When Taylor dug his heels in Browning reportedly took him to see Dempsey at 2nd Army HQ (I suspect a British commander would have been told to accept as given or be replaced) who agreed to allow Taylor to use three landing areas, two astride the Willems Canal at Veghel and a much larger joint one just north of the Wilhelmina Canal. I think Maxwell was the only MARKET commander to succeed in getting major alterations to the MARKET plan, although he was not the only one to raise objections to the details of COMET. Hackett complained about the main Arnhem landing area being seven miles from the objective bridges although he didn't offer up any practical alternative presumably because there wasn't one, and COMET was the origin of Sosabowski's famous enquiry 'what about the Germans'; he was so unhappy with COMET that he threatened to refuse to join the operation unless Browning gave him his orders in writing.

exMecian
 
Ex Mercian, can you comment as to why the coup-de-main option in Comet was not applied in Market Garden?

I recall reading that the CO of the Glider Pilot Regiment volunteered to lead it, but was turned down.
 

exMercian

Old-Salt
IRRC the issue was not the condition of the road between Nijmegen and Arnhem but that this was a head on approach up a road between polders that could easily be stopped. Somehwere I read this was a pre war Dutch army TEWT. Take the direct route = fail. The DS solution was a left flanking approach which is that used by the Dorsets for their river crossing.
Fair point, as I think the whole state of the roads thing is a red herring, part of the smokescreen put out to avoid the placing of blame for the failure of MARKET GARDEN. As far as I can see the only road-connected problems over the bulk of the Airborne Corridor were traffic volume and enemy action in specific places and times at the Eindhoven end especially; the real problem was lack of urgency and application at the upper levels of 30 Corps and the Guards Armoured Division, and later the 43rd Division.

The one thing I would raise though is that when the Grenadier Guards tanks reached the north end of the Nijmegen road bridge at 19:15 on Wednesday 20 September 1944 reportedly the only thing between them and Arnhem to implement the DS solution was an SS Kampfgruppe HQ in Bemmel and an SS artillery battery at Oosterhout according to Harmel, although I think he may have been underplaying things a little. Whether or not, by the time the advance was resumed by the Irish Guards at 13:30 on 21 September eighteen hours had passed and the Germans had erected a blocking line that brought the attack to a close after just twenty minutes. I don't think it would have been an uneventful night drive up to Arnhem on the night of 20-21 September, but just sitting place condemned the Guards Armoured to days of fierce house-to-house fighting around two miles north of the Nijmegen road bridge.

exMercian
 
Fair point, as I think the whole state of the roads thing is a red herring, part of the smokescreen put out to avoid the placing of blame for the failure of MARKET GARDEN. As far as I can see the only road-connected problems over the bulk of the Airborne Corridor were traffic volume and enemy action in specific places and times at the Eindhoven end especially; the real problem was lack of urgency and application at the upper levels of 30 Corps and the Guards Armoured Division, and later the 43rd Division.

The one thing I would raise though is that when the Grenadier Guards tanks reached the north end of the Nijmegen road bridge at 19:15 on Wednesday 20 September 1944 reportedly the only thing between them and Arnhem to implement the DS solution was an SS Kampfgruppe HQ in Bemmel and an SS artillery battery at Oosterhout according to Harmel, although I think he may have been underplaying things a little. Whether or not, by the time the advance was resumed by the Irish Guards at 13:30 on 21 September eighteen hours had passed and the Germans had erected a blocking line that brought the attack to a close after just twenty minutes. I don't think it would have been an uneventful night drive up to Arnhem on the night of 20-21 September, but just sitting place condemned the Guards Armoured to days of fierce house-to-house fighting around two miles north of the Nijmegen road bridge.

exMercian

Wheelers article addresses just the point you raise as an exception. See the quote below:
The outstanding one was: how does one get from Nijmegen to Arnhem? The small-scale maps showed a new motorway supplementing, indeed replacing, the old road. However, the standard map for army tactical use in the Netherlands was the 1:25,000, namely GSGS 4427, actually produced by the US Army Map Service as their M831 series. This showed the new autoroute as incomplete (figure 1); the armour would be forced to take the old route through Elst. This village offered excellent potential for a blocking position: a water obstacle to the east preventing outflanking there; to the west a moderately built-up area, well suited for holding by infantry with anti-tank weapons.
 

exMercian

Old-Salt
Ex Mercian, can you comment as to why the coup-de-main option in Comet was not applied in Market Garden?

I recall reading that the CO of the Glider Pilot Regiment volunteered to lead it, but was turned down.
Attempts to get the coup-de-main reinstated for MARKET came initially from Urquhart. When he was given the MARKET plan he first tried to get the landing zones shifted closer to the Arnhem bridges and on both sides of the Lower Rhine and when that failed tried to get the coup-de-main reinstated with Chatterton the Glider Pilot CO in support, I assume because he & his men had prepared for it for COMET. The main reason for that failing as well was Hollinghurst who claimed there was insufficient time to rejig the MARKET Air Plan and that there was too much flak around Arnhem although there was no mention of any of this ion the COMET planning & preparation which was only cancelled four hours before the off. The main problem here was that the British airborne set up placed the RAF in total control of airborne ops until the troops were on the ground and there was no means or machinery for Army commanders of whatever rank to force the RAF planners to alter things for Army needs. Chatterton then went to see Browning off his own bat and was told it was too late and everything had been decided. Browning did ask Gale (commander of the 6th Airborne Division in Normandy) his opinion of Urquhart's objections and swore him to secrecy when he said he agreed; Gale later said in confidence he would have resigned his command rather than execute MARKET as it was foisted on Urquhart.

Personally I'm not sure the coup-de-main would have helped, at least on the scale envisaged for COMET as I'm not sure how long a half company of South Staffords could have held the bridges. A goodly part of the reason that Frost's 2nd Parachute Battalion and the 1st Parachute Brigade column were able to reach and secure the north end of the road bridge was because responsibility for protecting it fell between the cracks in the local German command set up. A glider-coup-de-main would have seriously concentrated German minds on the matter. Putting in a larger glider coup-de-main reinforced with a Brigade parachute drop on the DZ at the south end of the bridge the Poles were supposed to use for the third lift might have done it but you would still have needed AT guns to establish a viable defensive perimeter and they had to come in at the main landing area seven miles away as the terrain south of the road bridge was too soft & riven for glider landings. Given that it might have been better to make the brigade parachute drop south of the road bridge the coup-de-main and put gliders carrying AT guns onto the bridge and highway leading to it from the south. It would have been a bit dodgy but given the calibre of the Glider Pilots and their performance at Benouville I suspect they could have pulled it off .

exMercian
 
A
Attempts to get the coup-de-main reinstated for MARKET came initially from Urquhart. When he was given the MARKET plan he first tried to get the landing zones shifted closer to the Arnhem bridges and on both sides of the Lower Rhine and when that failed tried to get the coup-de-main reinstated with Chatterton the Glider Pilot CO in support, I assume because he & his men had prepared for it for COMET. The main reason for that failing as well was Hollinghurst who claimed there was insufficient time to rejig the MARKET Air Plan and that there was too much flak around Arnhem although there was no mention of any of this ion the COMET planning & preparation which was only cancelled four hours before the off. The main problem here was that the British airborne set up placed the RAF in total control of airborne ops until the troops were on the ground and there was no means or machinery for Army commanders of whatever rank to force the RAF planners to alter things for Army needs. Chatterton then went to see Browning off his own bat and was told it was too late and everything had been decided. Browning did ask Gale (commander of the 6th Airborne Division in Normandy) his opinion of Urquhart's objections and swore him to secrecy when he said he agreed; Gale later said in confidence he would have resigned his command rather than execute MARKET as it was foisted on Urquhart.

Personally I'm not sure the coup-de-main would have helped, at least on the scale envisaged for COMET as I'm not sure how long a half company of South Staffords could have held the bridges. A goodly part of the reason that Frost's 2nd Parachute Battalion and the 1st Parachute Brigade column were able to reach and secure the north end of the road bridge was because responsibility for protecting it fell between the cracks in the local German command set up. A glider-coup-de-main would have seriously concentrated German minds on the matter. Putting in a larger glider coup-de-main reinforced with a Brigade parachute drop on the DZ at the south end of the bridge the Poles were supposed to use for the third lift might have done it but you would still have needed AT guns to establish a viable defensive perimeter and they had to come in at the main landing area seven miles away as the terrain south of the road bridge was too soft & riven for glider landings. Given that it might have been better to make the brigade parachute drop south of the road bridge the coup-de-main and put gliders carrying AT guns onto the bridge and highway leading to it from the south. It would have been a bit dodgy but given the calibre of the Glider Pilots and their performance at Benouville I suspect they could have pulled it off .

exMercian
Sadly, another case of if only.....
 

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