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1 panorama by gerard kuster
Operation Market Garden
Market Garden was the code name for the operation in September 1944 which aimed to bring the Allies in a rapid thrust from the Belgian border to across the Rhine at Arnhem. Airborne troops were to capture the bridges over the Waal and the Rhine in surprise attacks, after which, ground troops of the British Second Army were to drive a decisive wedge in the German defences. Optimists expected that this operation would bring the war in Europe to a close in 1944. The start of the operation, on the afternoon of Sunday, 17th September, was still promising.
In Arnhem, only one battalion of parachute troops under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Frost, managed to reach the Rhine Bridge. Because it proved impossible to take the bridge, the British occupied the houses and buildings around the northern bridge ramp and awaited reinforcements, but these did not arrive.
The Germans, who unexpectedly proved to have tanks and motorised artillery at their disposal, had quickly recovered from their surprise. They built a blocking line across the western approach roads to Arnhem. On Tuesday, 19th September, four battalions, two via Onderlangs, made a final attempt to break through to the bridge, but were beaten off. Frost’s troops could now only hope to be relieved by the Second Army, but they were already forty-eight hours behind schedule.
Why the bridge is called The John Frost Bridge
Lieutenant-Colonel John Frost was the commander of the 2nd Parachute Battalion. He had been given the task of taking the Rhine Bridge at Arnhem and holding it for two days. The battalion which reached the bridge on the Sunday evening was incomplete; some unit had remained behind on the route from the landing sites to Arnhem, although the staff of the brigade of which Frost’s battalion formed a part did accompany him.
Frost himself set up his command post in a house on Eusebiusbuitensingel, nearer the bridge. The British, who totalled about 600 men, initially occupied twenty houses and buildings on both sides of the bridge ramp. There were three buildings on the glacis on the east side. The most southerly of these, the Van Limburg Stirum School, was defended by a group of Royal Enigineers. They Succeeded in repulsing one German attack after the other until the building was set on fire by shelling on the Wednesday and they were forced to leave it. The majority of them had been wounded, so they were taken prisoner. The Van Limburg Stirum School was the last support on the east side of the bridge ramp that the British were forced to abandon. Not long afterwards the fighting on the west side was also stopped. On Thursday morning, the area around the bridge ramp was again in German hands. Frost’s battalion had held out for four instead of two days. The Rhine Bridge was officially renamed the John Frost Bridge in September 1978. John Frost, who was made an honorary citizen of Arnhem, died in 1993.
A bridge too far
The bridge in Arnhem was, as some people had already feared before the start of Operation Market Garden, a bridge too far. At Arnhem, the Allies suffered their last defeat of the Second World War. For the Dutch to the north of the great rivers, who had longed for liberation for over four years, the most difficult winter of the war began.
© 2004 Gerad Kuster