Operation MARKET GARDEN
This operation, which was really a combination of two, merits special mention for three reasons;
Firstly that it was undertaken at a time when the administrative resources (support troops) of Second Army were strained to the utmost, but the administrative risk involved was considered to be worth the tactical advantage that might be gained;
Secondly it was the first large-scale operation by airborne troops in front of forces already established on the ground in an attempt to secure a large slice of enemy-held territory to which the advancing ground troops could come up to re-organise;
Thirdly two US airborne divisions were involved as well as 1 British Airborne Division.
The airborne part of the operation was entitled operation MARKET while that of the ground forces was operation GARDEN for which 30 Corps was made responsible.
In the middle of September stocks in No. 6 Army Roadhead were not only low but the roadhead itself was too far behind and suffered from the dis-advantage of having BRUSSELS interposed between it and the forward troops.
As already stated, the lines of communication to the RMA at BAYEUX were stretched. to the limit. It would have been desirable to have had a pause in order to re-establish the administration of both Second Army and First Canadian Army on a sound footing. However, no such pause was possible if operation MARKET GARDEN was to be launched successfully before the enemy had fully recovered from the effects of their retreat.
The administrative build-up was not helped by the fact that the operation involved heavy bridging commitments which meant that in addition to the bridging companies which had to be transported forward it was necessary to make available nearly eight hundred three-ton vehicles to assist in lifting forward bridging equipment from the RMA.
This involved six and ten-ton lorries being employed on lifting supplies and other uneconomical loads for such vehicles. However, part of a fast road convoy designated “Red Ball” was made available by US forces to bring five hundred tons daily into No. 6 Army Roadhead.
The main delivery from this method consisted of MT 80 and special requirements of ammunition and stores for 82 and 101 US Airborne Divisions. Tank transporters modified for load carrying were also successfully employed and actually, in the eight weeks commencing on 14 September, they lifted a total of 22,450 tons over a distance of 194,000 loaded miles.
These methods in conjunction with the air lift mentioned in para 6 proved successful in mitigating the administrative difficulties of the operation.
MAINTENANCE OF US FORCES
82 and 101 US Airborne Divisions were maintained from BRITISH stocks as far as common user items were concerned e g. POL and supplies, although later US rations were obtained and issued.
Non common user items such as ammunition, ordnance, signal and engineer stores were delivered from Communication Zone in daily packs either by the “Red Ball” route or by rail to No. 6 Army Roadhead whence they were lifted to 61 FMC at BOURG LEOPOLD.
Until 16 September all formations and corps troops under command 30 Corps were based on 160 FMC in the BRUSSELS area while ammunition was drawn from No. 6 Army Roadhead.
On 17 September 161 FMC was to be opened in the BOURG LEOPOLD area for the maintenance of the US airborne divisions, corps troops and the seaborne element of 52 Division.
It was planned to open 162 FMC in the ARNHEM area on D+3 for the maintenance of Guards Armoured Division, 43 and 50 Divisions, 1 Airborne Division, 8 Armoured Brigade and corps troops forward of the river Waal. The maintenance of corps, army and GHQ RE attached to divisions was the responsibility of the divisions concerned.
With the exception of Guards Armoured Division who were ordered to hold eight days’ supplies and two hundred miles of POL and all corps troops who were restricted to four days’ supplies and one hundred and fifty miles of POL, all the formations within 30 Corps were to hold six days’ supplies and two hundred and fifty miles of POL per vehicle.
They were also ordered to carry double second line holdings of 2-5 pr ammunition but were warned that after that they might have to carry on with depleted second line holdings due to shortage of stocks.
MAINTENANCE OF AIRBORNE TROOPS
The airborne formations were to be maintained by air from D to D+5 but plans were also made for maintenance in an emergency of 82 and 101 US Airborne Divisions from 161 FMC with effect from D-day and of 1 Airborne Division from 162 FMC with effect from D+3.
In the event of extreme emergency First Allied Airborne Army were prepared to land one hundred and fifty tons of US ammunition at BRUSSELS airport which would then be carried forward to the US formations by road.
Owing to lack of army transport still stretched to the limit along the L of C, 30 Corps were made responsible for their own third line transport lift from the roadhead to FMCs.
This extra responsibility was partially met by ordering first and second line transport of the seaborne element of 52 Division to dump its commodities and G.1098 equipment, thereby providing eight platoons of transport lift.
All troop carrying transport less DUKWS was ordered to revert to 30 Corps control after transporting formations to their areas.
Each division was also ordered to be prepared to accept corps tasks for five platoons of transport for an indefinite period.
In addition to the above four US truck companies had been ordered to report by 18 September to 161 FMC whence they would be used to deliver commodities to US airborne divisions.
An interesting point to note is that in addition to the normal medical arrangements on a corps level the help of the DUTCH civilian authorities was obtained through the medium of Prince Bernhardt.
Evacuation from divisional medical units was to be initially to civilian installations at BOURG LEOPOLD and later to CCSs to be established at ARNHEM and NIJMEGEN.
For airborne units evacuation was to be initially into field ambulances of 30 Corps or direct to the CCSs mentioned above, while 9 Troop Carrier Command prepared to evacuate up to 750 casualties daily from BRUSSELS on the return journeys from supply missions.
Medical supplies for airborne troops were to be dropped until D+4 inclusive.
Ordnance stores were received by both road and air, and arrangements were made for maximum loads to be forwarded to divisional, armoured and infantry Ordnance sub parks.
These sub parks were attached to their formations and supplemented the tank and MT spares position. Arrangements were made for delivery by air of urgent demands such as MT spares, wireless valves etc.
In addition, approximately one hundred tons of ordnance stores were landed at BAYEUX in three “bricks” each of about thirty-four tons. The critical transport situation delayed the arrival of these “bricks” in the operational area, but at least one was expected by D-day.
For repair work not more than one brigade workshop was to move with each formation but certain formation workshops were to remain on wheels while the remainder stayed in existing locations. The principle for recovery was that all casualties were to be removed from the road for forward recovery only.
The APM 30 Corps was allotted two light recovery sections for work at traffic control posts.
THE MOVEMENT PROBLEM
The movement problem for 30 Corps was a very difficult one as it involved the tactical movement of approximately 20,000 vehicles across HOLLAND along one route supplemented by a subsidiary route. This subsidiary route did not avoid bottlenecks and so was not a complete second route.
Quite clearly the whole essence of the success of the operation lay in an efficient traffic control organisation and good march discipline.
Traffic control was exercised through three regulating HQs each of which controlled three traffic control posts with wireless communications between the TCPs and the regulating HQ.
The importance of speed in the advance was impressed on all ranks. It was laid down that movement would take place by day only.
Formations and units would harbour along the road each night retaining their order of priority. They would be fed into the axis as road space became available. For the first forty-eight hours rearward movement was to be restricted to an absolute minimum.
D-day was 17 September and the automatic drop for all formations of the airborne corps was successfully carried out.
On 18 September, however, maintenance by air of 1 British Airborne Division was not successful owing to intense enemy flak making the dropping inaccurate.
82 US Airborne Division was successfully supplied while 101 US Airborne Division had taken with them sufficient supplies and ammunition for the first forty-eight hours.
By 20 September the US truck companies had arrived. All three airborne divisions continued to be maintained by air although not adequately due to inaccurate dropping as a result of heavy flak and misty weather.
On 21 September it was obviously operationally impossible to establish 162 FMC in the area of ARNHEM and so an alternative site was chosen in the GRAVE area.
During this day the L of C was cut by the enemy but luckily a large GERMAN supply dump was captured at OSS and this proved of great value.
On 22 September the maintenance lift for 82 US Airborne Division was held up owing to the “cut” across the L of C but the lift to 101 US Airborne Division arrived successfully.
The L of C was cleared on 23 September and the lift was then delivered to 82 US Airborne Division. Four platoons carrying POL which had been held up until the L of C was clear and seven ammunition platoons were despatched to stock 162 FMC at GRAVE.
10 CCS was established at NIJMEGEN as also was 3 CCS which had been originally scheduled for ARNHEM.
163 Field Ambulance moved forward to DRIEL (6875) to evacuate airborne casualties in DUKWS over the River NEDERRIJN.
The L of C was again cut on 24 September and three of the ammunition platoons despatched the previous night failed to reach 162 FMC while the other four were prevented from returning.
A Gilbertian situation occurred on this day at the GERMAN supply dump at OSS as the second line RASC company of 8 Armoured Brigade took seventy-five prisoners of war from enemy elements they routed whom they discovered trying to use the dump at the same time as they were.
As forward maintenance was proving impossible, all available transport resources were concentrated on the task of building up stocks in 161 FMC.
The L of C to GRAVE was eventually restored on the evening of 25 September but by this time it had been decided to withdraw 1 British Airborne Division and the operation came to a halt.
The total number of prisoners of War captured during the period was, officers-26, ORs-1,040.