September is a very important month for the city of Arnhem. It’s the month where we remember the British Airborne troops who landed around the city for Operation Market Garden. Their goal was to take the bridges across the Rhine.
ArnhemLife is paying attention to the commemoration of the battle by posting a serie of blogs in the upcoming weeks about the Battle of Arnhem. Guest blogger Joey van Meesen, World War 2 investigator/expert, blogger/vlogger and tour guide writes about the route and struggles of the troops in a four part serie.
Joey also is the tour guide of the 'Liberation Route Tour' that ArnhemLife offers in September. There are limited tickets available so make sure you don't wait too long to purchase a ticket. 'Early Bird' tickets are on sale as of NOW! Dates & times: September 16th 10AM September 16th 2PM
Continuing The Story Of The Battle Of Arnhem...Stalled at Arnhem
In the previous post we talked about how the 1st Parachute Brigade and their battalions tried to fight their way in to Arnhem on September 17 1944. The 2nd battalion under Lt. Col Frost was the only one to make it and set up their defenses at the northern end of the bridge. Both the 1st and 3rd battalion were heavily beaten by the German troops of the 9th SS Armoured Artillery Regiment under command of Ludwig Spindler. The British paras would try again the next day.
When night fell in Arnhem on the 17th Spindler’s force grew stronger as more German reinforcements arrived in Arnhem and took up positions on the western perimeter. This also meant that they took the southern road that led to the bridge. Lt. Col. John Frost was now cut off from the rest of the division. The 1st and 3rd battalion moved south at Onderlangs to attempt a breakthrough to reach the bridge. Their attack started early in the morning of the 18th but they were stopped between the St. Elizabeth Hospital and the museum. Nowadays the park at Onderlangs seems very quiet and peaceful. A little further is the ArtEZ College for Arts and people go to class there every day. Back on September 18 1944 this park was filled with killed men from both the British and Germans.
Utrechtseweg: Men of the 2nd South Staffordshire Regiment anti-tank platoon are sent towards Arnhem on September 18.
The British Need More Strength In Arnhem
The British paras needed more strength at Arnhem. They decided to send one battalion from the 1st Airlanding Brigade and one battalion from the 2nd Parachute Brigade. These were the 2nd Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment and the 11th Parachute Battalion. Brigadier Hicks, commander of the 2nd South Stafford’s set up his HQ at the corner of the Oranjestraat and the Utrechtseweg.The plans to attack into Arnhem were finalized that evening and at 04:00 on September 19th the battalion would attack.
The plan for the South Staffords was to move along the Utrechtseweg in to the upper part of Arnhem, while the 1st and 3rd Para Battalion would move along Onderlangs. D company of the South Staffords led the attack, but as soon as they reached the open area west of the Elizabeth Hospital everything let loose. Machine guns and mortars opened up at about 60% of the company became casualty. A and B Company continued their advance and A company moved into the museum and the row of houses north of the Utrechtseweg. Here the attack stalled. The remains of D company moved down the slope to the park at onderlangs to fill the gap with the 3rd Parachute Battalion.
Many Casualties Amongst The Paratroopers
There was only one problem for the South Staffords trying to reach Arnhem. The paratroopers of the 1st and 3rdpara battalion had received so many casualties that their attack was broken down. Around 07:00 on the 19th of September the battalions no longer existed. The remaining men fell back to the crossroad at Onderlangs and the Utrechtseweg. The flank of the 2nd South Staffords was left open along the river. The South Staffords set up their defenses in and around the museum and waited for support of the 11th Parachute Battalion. However, due to communication problems they did not receive the news that they were sent north. The fights at the museum became deadlier by the minute.
Utrechtseweg, Arnhem, September 19th1944.
Utrechtseweg, Arnhem 2017
Museum Arnhem Under Attack
The Germans in Arnhem drove their halftracks and tanks down the Utrechtseweg to the museum. They set the houses on fire and blasted through the walls. Infantry followed the tanks and together they became a big challenge for the paratroopers. The tanks were so close that the paratroopers had their mortars fire almost vertically. German resistance just became too strong and the British paratroopers had to fall back. Major McCain and his B company were ordered to withdraw while A company would cover them. As soon as they were out, the Germans burst through the museum entrance and captured the men that were still there.
For those visiting the museum, imagine that on that day a tank was standing right in the hall of the museum shooting it’s rounds while the paratroopers were spread across the building. The fight became every-man-for-himself. Cain and his men reached the St. Elizabeth hospital. The commander of the South Staffords, Lt. Col. McCardie, and the rest of the Battalion HQ were captured at where today the Montessori College stands.
The last attempt to reach Lt. Col. John Frost at the bridge in Arnhem was stopped by the Germans. From now on the 2nd South Staffords would join the other remaining forces to defend the area west of the St. Elizabeth Hospital. The men were tired and exhausted, but there were more fights to come. They had only about a hundred survivors.
Utrechtseweg, Arnhem, September 19th 1944
Utrechtseweg, Arnhem 2017
Better Understanding About The Battle Of Arnhem
Today’s post was meant to give you a better understanding of why the other British paratroopers could not reach John Frost who was defending the Arnhem Bridge with his own 2nd Battalion. Our 4th last post is going to be about John Frost and the fight for 2ndBattalion at the Arnhem bridge.
Read more about the Battle Of Arnhem in our upcoming blog in this serie, blog number 4! Thank you for reading!