The Netherlands / Audiospot

A bridge too far

FightingLiberationVictory and defeat




Seizing the bridge over the Rhine in Arnhem, the key objective of Operation Market Garden, proved to be an impossible mission. 750 lightly armed paratroopers managed to get a foothold near the bridge, held out for four days, but the bridge – and the city of Arnhem - remained in German hands.

The Battle of Arnhem, 17-26 September 1944, was the last episode of Operation Market Garden. This bold attempt to achieve a swift breakthrough to heartland Germany beyond the Rhine, came to a halt in Arnhem. Bad luck seemed to guide the operation. There were no usable dropping areas closer to the bridge. Seasoned SS Panzer (armored) units happened to be in the Arnhem region to rest and reorganize, so the lightly armed paratroops met with unexpected and heavy resistance. The German tanks blocked the access roads to Arnhem, so no supplies and reinforcements could reach the small British combat group under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Frost near the bridge in downtown Arnhem.

The failure of the operation was also due to bad weather conditions in England. It was very foggy. The resupply aircrafts could not leave as scheduled and arrived in Holland much later than planned. By that time most of the selected drop zones had been reconquered by the stronger German forces. To add to the confusion radio communication between the Allied forces failed. And of course the worst problem: the land forces – Operation Garden – did not arrive in time to relief their airborne comrades. After the Battle of Arnhem, on 26 September, 95.000 citizens of Arnhem and surrounding towns were forced to leave their homes as the Germans wanted to turn the North bank of the Rhine into a heavily fortified line. Arnhem became a ghost town.