Major General Stanisław Sosabowski and Operation Market Garden
by Stan Sosabowski
It was Montgomery's masterplan to shorten the war by six
months by bypassing the Sigfried line. It involved securing ALL the key
bridges over the Rhine the Maas the Waal and a number of canals using
elite American British and Polish Airborne forces backed up on land by
the swift advance of an armoured brigade. The most important bridge, the
gateway to the industrial heartland of Germany, was the 600m long Arnhem
bridge over the Lower Rhine a mere 64 miles due north of the front line.
The deciding factors would be surprise, and feeble German resistance and
the very fast link up with the Sherman tanks of XXX Corps.
It was to be the largest airborne troop landing in history.
The First Allied Airborne Army was composed of two Corps.
As the day approached General Sosabowski became increasingly anxious. From the start he had been vehemently opposed to the whole idea and had made his objections abundantly and in fairness, abrasively clear at staff meetings and at a last minute private meeting with Browning. His protests were of no avail and made him even more unpopular with Browning who after the battle would get his own back on this troublesome thorn in his side.
"Market Garden" began early on Sunday morning
September 17th with 1400 bombers carpet bombing numerous military targets.
Soon in the region of 20,000 allied soldiers would find
themselves on the ground fighting to seize their allotted objective and
keep their bit of the corridor open until the arrival of the tanks of
the Irish Guards led by Horrocks.
Then, hell was unleashed.
Day 2 Monday the 18th, more reinforcements were dropped
but General Urquart had gone missing and was presumed dead!
Day 5. Thursday 21st, weather conditions allowed the dropping of further reinforcements but by then Frost's group had been overwhelmed on the fated bridge. His incredibly brave stand had not been in vain. He had prevented any panzer reinforcements from crossing the bridge. XXX Corps had meanwhile received orders to continue their advance! Sosabowski's Polish Parachute Brigade was dropped on the south side of the river at Driel nearly opposite to where the main British forces were. They had effectively ceased as a fighting unit bottled up in a cauldron 3 km by 1500 m and shelled continuously from three sides for days. But there was no immediate way of helping Urquart [see his comments] no way to ford a 400m wide fast flowing river under German observation and fire power. Even the RAF masters of the air had refused repeatedly to help their comrades in need.
Day 6. Friday 22nd.Advance reconnaissance from XXX Corps linked up with Sosabowski but 2 Sherman tanks were knocked out by Polish mines of all things. The first attempt to cross the Rhine late that night failed miserably. Only 50 soldiers, made it.
Day 7 Urquart’s laconic radio telegram to Browning reads thus: “under continuous attack from infantry artillery tanks and flamethrowers. HQ under fire. Situation unchanged but defense weaker. Still no communication with our forces on the south side. Today’s supplies drop a failure. Little ammunition no food no water – everyone is filthy. Moral is high but the constant battering is taking its toll. We are holding out in the hope of better days”. What incredible courage! British stiff upper lip at its very best! At 0100 hours the Poles tried once again using American pontoons but under the continuous German barrage incur heavy losses and only 200 manage to join their British comrades.
Day 8 Sunday 24th. German artillery continued hammering the British and the supplies drop once again failed. After a staff meeting with Horrocks it was decided [ hic?] that the third traverse attempt was to be lead by a battalion? of the Dorsets. Trucks arrived with boats without oars followed by 6 amphibious craft soon to be stuck in the mud. The Germans had by now got used to this turkey shoot. By daybreak only 100 men had made it.
Day 9 Monday 25th. Operation Berlin! Defeat and retreat
back across the cursed river to the welcoming Poles. Out of the 10,000
men who originally went in, only 2,000 made it back.
|Authors: Hal Sosabowski & Stan Sosabowski
Pictures of the Virtuti Militari and Orzel by kind permission of Prof. Z. Wesolowski. All other content copyright Sosabowski.com, all rights reserved.