The Netherlands / Battlefield

Two battalions annihilated in a couple of hours




On 18 September 1944, one day after the first British airborne landings took place and lieutenant colonel Frost managed to reach the bridge with around 750 men, the Germans have taken up solid positions in Arnhem to prevent the British from reaching the road bridge. During the night of 18-19 September and in the early morning of the 19th, British units make a desperate attempt to break through the German lines and reach the road bridge. Two parachute battalions try to mount the attack by way of Onderlangs but are almost annihilated in this action.

In the morning of 18 September 1944, part of the 3rd Parachute Battalion arrives in this area and is met by German opposition from the city. But German troops have also managed to cut the rest of the British 3rd Parachute Battalion off at Oosterbeek-Laag station. The group that is stuck here has no option but to entrench themselves until the rest will be able to join. During this day, they have to pull back a few hundred metres.

It is not until late that day that the British manage to overcome German resistance at Oosterbeek-Laag and more British troops arrive in the area; not only of the 3rd Parachute Battalion, but also of the 1st Parachute Battalion. Later, a battalion of the South Staffordshires also follows. Though the paratroopers have suffered heavy losses and are anything but at full strength, this is a considerable group. The battalion commanders agree to mount a coordinated attack to reach the road bridge.

Due to a variety of circumstances, this coordination does not work in practice. When early in the morning the 1st Parachute Battalion gets ready to fight via de open area of Onderlangs, they are amazed to see the poor remnants of the 3rd battalion coming towards them from the other side. At night, they had completely independently made an attack that failed; now there are only some 50 men left of the more than 500 who landed on Renkum Heath. The 1st Parachute Battalion, considerably thinned out as well, launches its attack. But when the sun comes up, they come under heavy fire from ahead and from the south bank of the Rhine. Although they manage to come close to the Old Port, lieutenant colonel Dobie has only 39 men left. Unable to pull back again, they entrench themselves in some houses. Around half past seven in the morning, they are made prisoners of war by the Germans. The attack via Onderlangs to reach the road bridge has failed.