British Airborne '' Red Devils 1944 '' '' 1/16 WARRIOR SERIES ''
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- British Airborne "RED DEVILS" Arnhem 1944.
Before Operation Market Garden, 1st Airborne had never fought as a single unit. However, in this operation, it was ordered to seize the Rhine river bridge in the city of Arnhem , while XXX Corps advanced from Belgium . In the initial planning stages, Gen. Urquhart had requested a defensible, flat area to land his division. Although a few areas seemed somewhat suitable, they all had disadvantages, and 1st Airborne was forced to land about 12 km from the extremely important bridge it was tasked to defend, counter to key lessons from the D-Day and Sicily about landing airborne troops as close as possible to their objectives.
Also, reconnaissance aircraft and the Dutch resistance had spotted some enemy tanks in woods near Arnhem. However, the21st Army Group command disregarded these photographs, stating that the tanks were "unserviceable". Much of the Allied spy operation in the Netherlands had been turned by the Germans, leading to a distrust of the information. In fact, twoWaffen SS Panzer divisions had recently been moved to Arnhem for refitting, where "nothing was going on." These two divisions where the seriously understrength 9th SS Panzer division Hohenstaufen and 10th SS Panzer division Frundsberg, both recovering from their beating in Normandy. The Dutch resistance correctly identified these divisions and passed the information on to the Allies by 10 September. However, 1st Airborne dropped as planned on 17 September 1944.
In order to quickly take the bridge, a jeep-mounted unit had been sent as part of 1st Airborne. However, most of this unit's jeeps were lost when 38 gliders failed to arrive on the drop zone. Remaining vehicles were slow to move out after landing, and its leading vehicles were ambushed on the way to Arnhem. Therefore, 1st Airborne was forced to advance into Arnhem on foot. Also, only half of the division had arrived on the first day due to the decision by 1st Allied Airborne Army to make only one drop on the first day. The Divisional commanders all requested two drops on the first day. All three battalions of the 1st Parachute Brigade was sent into Arnhem; however, only 2nd Battalion was able to push through to the bridge. This battalion, underLieutenant Colonel John Frost, occupied the buildings near the north end of the bridge for the fight ahead. Frost made two attempts to seize the south end of the bridge, but both ended in failure.
The division made attempts to reinforce Frost at the bridge approach; however, the Germans, operating just over the border from Germany, received substantial reinforcements steadily, and were able to hold the British attacks, and then push the rest of 1st Airborne back, away from the key bridge at Arnhem, held by John Frost and 2nd Battalion. On 20 September, the decision was made to abandon Frost, and for the 1st Airborne to occupy a defence position near Oosterbeek. The 1st Airborne had landed on the north side of the Rhine, while XXX Corps was advancing from the south. It was hoped that when XXX Corps arrived, it could secure the south side of the river and cross the bridge to relieve 1st Airborne on the north side.
Col. Frost's lightly-armed men continued to hold the north end of the bridge inside the city of Arnhem, defending their position from several houses surrounding the bridge approaches. Although German tanks and artillery continually barraged and attacked the British positions, they staunchly held. However, by 21 September, the battalion's ammunition was all but gone. Early that day, Frost's battalion finally surrendered. Trained to operate with minimal or no support behind enemy lines and against numerically superior forces, they had held the bridge area for three days and four nights, which was about as long as Allied command had estimated the entire division, consisting of 10,000 troops, could hold it. Frost's force was made up of approximately 745 men, of whom some 100 survived to be taken prisoner, apart from some 200 wounded who had previously been evacuated.
The Airborne division, with no armoured force and few anti-tank weapons, was able to defend against a force about four times as large, which had tremendous armoured and artillery support. It was an extraordinary achievement that has rightly become famous; the bridge was later named in Frost's honour. The main force of the Polish Parachute Brigade and XXX Corps had arrived on the south side of the river on the 22nd, about three days late. However, the forces were unable to cross the river, except for about 200 Polish paratroopers who were a welcome reinforcement of the Oosterbeek perimeter. On the 25th, the 1st Airborne was ordered to withdraw across the river. Leaving radiomen, physicians, and the badly wounded behind, Gen. Urquhart and the 2,300 survivors of the 1st Airborne retreated across the river.