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The major success of Allied advances including the invasion of Normandy, started to see the start of the collapse and mass retreat of German forces in August 1944. Thus precipitating a headlong advance by Allied forces across the River Seine, into Belgium and eastern France. The Germans were fleeing so quickly that they even started to outrun their own supplies, and in early September after liberating Brussels, the Allied pursuit was brought to a halt so that formations could be replenished and refuelled. With Allied armies, standing at the borders of the German Reich the Allied commanders needed to agree on the best strategy to finish the war. Although this halt in the advancement gave the Germans, some much-needed breathing space to bolster their defences and re-build shattered formations.

During this time the British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery stepped forward to present his bold two-part plan, codenamed Operation “Market Garden” to the then Supreme Allied Commander, American General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He persuaded the Supreme Commander that Allied Forces could capture a number of bridges across the major Dutch rivers, circumventing the unassailable Siegfried defensive line and breach the heart of the German war machine: the Ruhr region.

The two-pronged plan consisted of Operation Market, which was an airborne assault, and Operation Garden, the ground attack. The overall plan would see ground forces having just three days to advance along the road that came to be known as the Highway to Hell, all the way from the Belgian border up to the city of Arnhem in the Netherlands. Montgomery’s hoped that his plan would see an end to the war by Christmas 1944.

A successful outcome would be led by the Allied airborne divisions being dropped into the Netherlands to secure territory and bridges in and around the towns of Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem. Creating a corridor for the British XXX (30) Corps to advance on land, whilst being supported by other formations on either flank. The three airborne divisions involved included the American 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, and the British 1st Airborne Division.

On the 17th September 1944, Operation Market Garden commenced with thousands of paratroopers and military equipment being dropped from the skies, resulting in it becoming the largest airborne operation up to that point in the war. Despite the size of this assault, and it eventually seeing the successful capture of several bridges between Eindhoven and Nijmegen, the strong resistance from the Germans did initially result in the failure of the Allies to secure bridges at Son en Breugel and Nijmegen causing delays for the ground force advance. Although they did end up successfully reaching Nijmegen on schedule, further delays due to the Germans demolishing the Bailey bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Son gave the German forces time to organise and strengthen their counterattack.

Sadly, Operation Market Garden was starting to prove to be ‘a bridge too far’.

Arnhem Bridge was the goal – and a small British force did manage to capture the north end of the Arnhem road bridge, although as a result of the ground forces failing to relieve the paratroopers on time due to challenges faced with single narrow causeways (which were vulnerable to traffic jams and strong resilient German counterattacks), they were eventually overrun on 21st September. At the same time the British XXX Corps' tanks were manoeuvring over the Nijmegen Bridge, 36 hours late! Paratroopers at the Arnhem Bridge were capitulating, unable to hold on any longer. The Arnhem Bridge was evacuated on 25th September 1944, after sustaining heavy casualties. Arnhem quite literally proved to be ‘the bridge to far’!

The operation was not a total failure as it did lead to the liberation of large areas of southern Netherlands, with the north being liberated in the spring of 1945, plus it secured several strategic bridges. However, it did fail to secure the key bridge at Arnhem, a foothold that would have allowed the Allies to cross the Rhine, and complete the invasion of Germany.


  • 75th commemoration of Operation Market Garden

  • Two-pronged air and ground plan to secure major bridges through the Netherlands

  • World War Two’s largest airborne assault

  • Strictly limited worldwide edition limit of 399

Operation Market Garden

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