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On This Day… Operation Market Garden

Written by: George Chittenden : 03 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 17th Sept, back in 1944 when the largest airborne invasion in history began with the commencement of the Allied military operation, Operation Market Garden. The daring operation was to surround the heart of German industry in a pincer movement, and it was fought in both the Netherlands and Germany. It was planned and led by the British, but unfortunately wasn’t completely successful. The operation consisted of an airborne assault to seize control of the key bridges ‘Market’, and a ground attack ‘Garden’.

RAF Lancasters and about one-thousand US Flying Fortress bombers prepared the way for the invasion by attacking airfields, German gun positions and barracks, which allowed gliders to land in relative safety. The initial drop consisted of more than 16,500 paratroopers, and a further 3,500 in gliders. The Allies underestimated the German defences in the area, unaware of two divisions of 1st SS Panzer Corps who were in the area and had been practising how to tackle an airborne attack.

The success of the operation depended on taking a series of nine bridges, the last being at the city of Arnhem over the Rhine river. The British captured only the north end of only one bridge at Arnhem and were soon pinned down under a fierce attack. The fighting continued until September 25th when the British were ordered to withdraw from Arnhem. In total around 1,130 paratroopers were killed and 6,450 were captured.

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