Pathfinder Platoon - and Arnhem

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#1
Having read the review at http://www.arrse.co.uk/content/696-magnificent-disaster-failure-market-garden-david-bennett.html , long ago seen ( and read) 'A Bridge Too Far' and various other Arrse and non -Arrse threads about the Battle of Arnhem, I appreciate that it is still being fiercely debated.

As I was driving past Duxford the other day, a question occurred to me which hopefully somebody with a deeper knowledge of Airbone history may have a quick answer to.

As I remember, much was made in the film ( yeah Hollywood's version and doubtless full of glaring errors) of the fact that Intelligence on the presence of the SS Panzer Division in the area was ignored.

Did the current Pathfinder Platoon exist in 1944 ?

Given the momentum of the Operation, had they dropped prior to the main effort, would their recce report

' Take a pause of two marching paces General B - the place is stiff with Tiger tanks and leary swept-up Eastern front vets '

have actually prevented the Op going ahead ?
 
P

PrinceAlbert

Guest
#3
The intelligence was there, and ignored. Not "not gathered," and they went ahead anyway. I suspect the outcome would have been the same.

It took a lot of forward planning to get everything in place for the drops. They'd postponed enough times prior due to poor weather, so they got a good window and put the operation into action.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#4
Exam question - when was the Pathfinder Platoon formed?
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#7
Yup a pair of the notorious Arrse undercrackers http://www.arrse.co.uk/other-half/170705-novel-gift-other-half-arrse-pants-3.html

medium or large for Modom ? PM me a suitable address.

I understand that, due to the extensive compromise of the Dutch resistance networks, there may have been reluctance to believe the Int. I also understand that an operation this complex, planned so far in advance aquires a momentum of its own which can be irresistible.

What I did not understand was the role of the pathfinders.

Alles Klaar - vielen Dank


Don Cabra
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#10
Thanks J-D - every day a College day

The Pathfinder Company also acted as an early warning if the selected drop zone was heavily defended, possibly enabling diversion to an alternative. Once the main force was down the pathfinders were employed as a small reserve or reconnaissance force.
Given the text in bold, I guess that the Pathfinder element who landed at Arnhem just didn't come into contact with any of the Panzers until after the main landing had taken place.
 
#11
The 21st (Independent) Parachute Company was the Pathfinder force deployed at Arnhem. They arrvied shortly before the first main wave to mark and clear the DZ's. Like so many other units they were gradually chewed up over the course of the battle and finished up on the Oosterbeek perimeter. I may be mistaken but it could have been 21 Para Coy members that led the only Coy of 3 PARA who made it through to link up with 2 PARA at the bridge.

The Pathfinders primary duties included the marking and clearance of DZ's, setting up the directional beacons for Aircraft (named Eurekas?) and snooping about the immediate area. Once the main force landed PF became either a recce asset or reserve force. I don't think the recce role of WW2 era PF was as evolved as the modern day PF platoon.

Their recce role only began after the drop and only covered their immediate AO so its fair to say they couldn't of done much to prevent the operation from going ahead. Although I do believe they had the power to abort certain DZ runs if they had good reason to. Only the Polish DZ's at Arnhem were in need of initial aborting, the others went quite smoothly.
 
#12
The picture I posted is of the PF chaps laying a wreath at the crossroads in Oosterbeek just opposite from the Schoonord bar, it's pretty much where they made their last stand.
 
#14
The 21st (Independent) Parachute Company was the Pathfinder force deployed at Arnhem. They arrvied shortly before the first main wave to mark and clear the DZ's. Like so many other units they were gradually chewed up over the course of the battle and finished up on the Oosterbeek perimeter. I may be mistaken but it could have been 21 Para Coy members that led the only Coy of 3 PARA who made it through to link up with 2 PARA at the bridge.

The Pathfinders primary duties included the marking and clearance of DZ's, setting up the directional beacons for Aircraft (named Eurekas?) and snooping about the immediate area. Once the main force landed PF became either a recce asset or reserve force. I don't think the recce role of WW2 era PF was as evolved as the modern day PF platoon.

Their recce role only began after the drop and only covered their immediate AO so its fair to say they couldn't of done much to prevent the operation from going ahead. Although I do believe they had the power to abort certain DZ runs if they had good reason to. Only the Polish DZ's at Arnhem were in need of initial aborting, the others went quite smoothly.
No I wouldn't think so, seeing that 1st Airborne Div also included a jeep-mounted recce squadron while 6th Airborne Div had a whole recce regt which included a tank sqn and a scout car/carrier/infantry sqn, as well as 3-in mortars and MMGs :

1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron | ParaData

6th Airborne Armoured Recce Regiment RAC | ParaData
 
#15
The question has been pretty much answered but to clarify, the pathfinders from WW2 had a different role than the ones today, essentially their role was securing and marking the DZ matter of hours or even minutes before the main landing force, not the early HALO long range recce job they do today.

Many attribute the first troops into D-Day as D Coy 2nd Ox and Bucks, but they were the first formed unit, pathfinders landed before they did

So to the original question, could the PF not warn of German troops in and around Arhnem, possibly but by then the main force was committed and landing shortly, even the above mentioned recce units wouldn't of helped either as they pretty much landed with the main party.

IN those days it was down to local int and aerial photography, maybe a few early boots on the ground may of made a difference, probably not as this was a succeed at all costs mission.
 
#16
1 Para Brigade Orders prove that the existance of 2 SS Pz Divisions in the are was known. It was know both divisions had been severely mauled in Normandy and the subsequent retreat. Hence the decision to carry on!


4. ENEMY FORCES

There is little information about forces actually in the area at present, but some estimate can be made from previous figures and the probabilities of the situation. Before last June, the area ARNHEM- ZWOLLE - AMERSFOORT was an important training area, particularly for armoured and motorised troops, including SS and Hermann Goering reinforcements units. The HQ for Pz training was at ZWOLLE, which was also the location of 20 Mobile Bde controlling seven mob bns. The whole area might contain 15,000 troops, of which perhaps 8,000 would be concentrated in EDE 5785 and ARNHEM: these break down follows (figures are mixima) :-

EDE : Inf Bks - 1900 Inf (one rect) Arty Bks - ?2000 men (one rect) (There have been SS mot arty in these bks). Labour Camp ?1000 men (at LANGENBERG 5984).

ARNHEM Willem 111 Bks (74577 ) - 700 tps Mermo varr Coehoorn Bks (757786) - 1400 tps. Larenstein Bks, Velp (780785) - 1400 tps (Two fwd bns of SS tps were here in Mar) Saxon Weimar Bks (758799) - 700 tps ( SS Junior Leader's School) Arnhem garrison - 700 tps (lorry borne) of Inf Reinforcements Bn "Germania" (?SS)

...Meanwhile a reported concentration of 10,000 troops SW of ZWOLLE on Sep 1 may present a battle scarred Pz Div or two reforming or alternatively the result of emptying the ARNHEM and EDE barracks to make room for fighting troops; though a likely role for the training units would appear to be digging the WAAL line.
http://www.pegasusarchive.org/arnhem/orders_1stBde.htm
 
#17
Each Airborne Division (1, 6 & 44 Indian) had an Independent Parachute Company for pathfinding duties. 2 Independent Para Bde had an Independent Para Platoon. Don't know what 1 Polish Independent Para Bde had in terms of pathfinders.

One curious fact regarding 22 Independent Company with 6th Airborne Division is that they were in the main, Austrian and German Jews fighting under assumed English names.
 
#18
In terms of the initial PF's landing, if they had actually encountered enemy forces, would they have had the same signals communication problems as the main force?

Not a wah.
 
#19
In the highly unlikely event that you can get a copy, read "The Cauldron" published in the 1960's. Although fictionalised with respect to characters it gives the most accurate account you'll ever read of the experiences of a pathfinder platoon at Arnhem. Each of the pathfinder units was a reinforced unit of over fifty men and their principal task was to mark dropping zones with coloured panels and deploy the top secret 'Eureka' radio guidance set for the following planes. They also protected the DZ's as best they could for the 30 minutes they had to wait for the follow up drops. Once that initial job had been carried out the Pathfinders reverted to the command of an independent company under the direct control of the Divisional Commander. About thirty members of the 200 strong company were German and Austrian Jews issued with fake identities.

The author's name of the Cauldron is given only as 'Zeno'. I believe he was an ex-para officer serving out a prison sentence for murder. At any event he was a brilliant writer. Not only does he describe the battle in every detail, but it remains perhaps the best treatise ever written on street fighting.
 
#20
In the highly unlikely event that you can get a copy, read "The Cauldron" published in the 1960's. Although fictionalised with respect to characters it gives the most accurate account you'll ever read of the experiences of a pathfinder platoon at Arnhem. Each of the pathfinder units was a reinforced unit of over fifty men and their principal task was to mark dropping zones with coloured panels and deploy the top secret 'Eureka' radio guidance set for the following planes. They also protected the DZ's as best they could for the 30 minutes they had to wait for the follow up drops. Once that initial job had been carried out the Pathfinders reverted to the command of an independent company under the direct control of the Divisional Commander. About thirty members of the 200 strong company were German and Austrian Jews issued with fake identities.

The author's name of the Cauldron is given only as 'Zeno'. I believe he was an ex-para officer serving out a prison sentence for murder. At any event he was a brilliant writer. Not only does he describe the battle in every detail, but it remains perhaps the best treatise ever written on street fighting.
I have a copy of The Cauldron and have read it many times. I have also read Zeno's novel The Four Sergeants which is not nearly as good.

The author's real name was Gerald Lamarque. He used the alias Kenneth Allerton during his WW2 service, having apparently deserted from the army in peacetime. He was a sergeant with 21 Indep Para Coy in Sicily and Italy and at Arnhem. Commissioned after Market Garden and served as an officer with 3 Para Bn and also in India. The Cauldron was indeed written while he was in prison for murder. There are several versions of the exact circumstances of his crime.

Operation Market Garden Books

» Identity uncovered: ZENO.

» ZENO, a/k/a Gerald Lamarque a/k/a Kenneth Allerton – An Update.
 
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