This is part two of a three part Osprey series on Operation Market Garden, looking at the British airborne attack on Arnhem itself, famous as the ‘bridge too far’. It follows the normal format for an Osprey campaign book, with a look at the opposing plans, commanders and forces followed by the campaign itself. In this case the Allied commanders section focuses on the airborne leadership, mainly those who fought at Arnhem, rather than on the overall command for Market-Garden, as does the troop section.
One gets the impressive of an RAF that was being rather too dogmatic, refusing to carry out two lifts on the first day for reasons that might make sense in normal operations, but totally failed to take into account the urgency of the situation. Once the operation had begun, everything possible should have been done to make sure that later airlifts were carried out as planned, even if that meant operating in iffy weather. Instead key operations were delayed or cancelled, or in the case of the Poles only partly cancelled (the fact that two thirds of the aircraft involved were able to carry out their mission shows that the cancellation was in error).
As far as the fighting itself goes, two things stand out – the first is the speed with which the Germans improvised a strong defensive line, and the second is how long the airborne forces were able to hold out – many days longer than the plan had called for. Although the fighting at Arnhem gets most of the attention, and much criticism, it was XXX Corps, pushing north along the road to Arnhem, that actually under-achieved, only reaching the river opposite Arnhem once it was too late to do much more than evacuate the survivors.
There are plenty of more detailed accounts of the battle of Arnhem, but for the general reader this book is probably about right. It gives you a good idea of the events of the battle at Arnhem without getting bogged down in too much detail. The text is supported by some excellent maps that help illustrate the details of the battle, and there is enough information on the progress of XXX Corps to put the fighting in Arnhem in context.
Origins of the Battle
The Battlefield Today
Author: Ken Ford