A possibility for Market Garden

This is a hypothetical, but an interesting scenario… If Montgomery and other senior British Commanders had taken intelligence reports more seriously before launching Operation Market-Garden and decided to send in the 17th Airborne Division along with the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade into Arnhem alongside the British 1st Airborne on day one, would this have ensured the Allies could have held Arnhem until 30 Corps arrived? Or would this have just made for a greater number of lost Allied troops?


I think the problem would have been lift capacity, which is why the Poles were dropped later than the 1st Airborne … and against fully alerted enemy AA. I don’t think they had enough planes and gliders to drop yet another division.


Ok well what if they had dropped the 17th Airborne and Poles in a second wave at night on the first day or the next day? Do you think this would have ensured the Allies holding onto Arnhem until 30 corps got there or more force would have just made for more casualties?


Interesting question, but I highly doubt it. Paratroopers are most effective when used with surprise. The poles were dropped at Driel maybe with the intension of fortifying the bridgehead, but really as a rescue operation to the 1st airborne trapped at Oosterbeek. The 1st Airborne was encircled by German forces and the idea of a breakout was a mere fantasy by this point. The 1st was battered by sustained combat and barely combat ready, it would not be able to support such an operation by other forces either.

Sending in the 17th airborne would have been like sending a knife to a gunfight. They were light infantry not capable of breaking entrenched German positions.


Another major problem at Arnhem was that the British were up against German panzers without good anti-tank weapons. If the British took Dutch underground and intelligence reports more seriously they could have properly prepared their paratroopers. If they had been armed with more M20 bazookas instead of PIATs perhaps that could have made somewhat of a difference as well.

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So it sounds like you guys think it wouldn’t have mattered and/or would have just made for more casualties if we had sent in the 17th Airborne and Poles alongside the British 1st Airborne. Is that it?


You have asked an excellent question about why the Allies didn’t do something different with Operation Market to land more paratrooper and glider units on the first day of the offensive.

The answer to why 1st Allied Airborne Army didn’t do anything different is very simple. They were forced by the necessity of launching Operation Market-Garden as fast as possible by attacking on the worst day for the launching of an airborne assault. They attacked on September 17th, 1944. Field Marshal Montgomery in the September 10th Conference at Brussels wanted Operation Market-Garden to start on September 14th but Air Marshal Trafford Leigh Mallory (Commander, Allied Expeditionary Air Force), US Air Force Lieutenant General Lewis Brereton (Commander, 1st Allied Airborne Army), and British Lieutenant General Frederick Browning (Deputy Commander, 1st Allied Airborne Army) objected to the 14th so an additional 48 hours were given for preparation.

The day of September 17th, 1944 was the New Moon Day for the moon’s rotation around the planet Earth. There was no moonlight for the nights of September 16th, 17th, and 18th. Moonlight was essential for nighttime airborne operations in World War 2. Moonlight allowed the pilots and co-pilots to look out their windows to see if they are flying in tight a formation as possible so they can land the airborne troops in a small an area as possible so the units could rapidly reassemble when they land. Moonlight illuminated the earth so the paratroopers and glider pilots can see the ground so they can safely land at night.

US Airforce Major General Paul Williams (IX Troop Transport Command) rightfully objected in the first conference about Operation Market on 6:30 PM, September 10th to a 2 lift drop on September 17th. He pointed out the fact that the squadrons under his command had not trained in nighttime operations in the last 90 days. The only squadrons under his command that had received the training were the ones that had returned from Italy without their ground crews after successfully landing the 1st Allied Airborne Task Force in Operation Dragoon. Additionally, he pointed out in the conference that none of the replacement crews sent from the US to replace the crews lost in Operation Overlord had received training in dropping paratroopers or towing gliders at night. Finally, he correctly stated that any attempts to conduct any attempt to conduct air operations at night would result in the troop carrier formations falling apart in the moonless night resulting in the airborne forces being scattered over the Dutch countryside.

Being stuck with only a single lift per day, it required 6 days to fully transport the British 1st Airborne Division, the US 82nd Airborne Division, the US 101st Airborne Division, the Polish Parachute Brigade, the US 878th Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion, and the British 52nd Lowland Air Portable Division. So, the airborne forces landed on September 17th was the maximum number of men that could be transported.

Even if the 17th Airborne Division was substituted for the 52nd Lowland Division, the earliest that the 17th Airborne could have been flown to the Netherlands was September 20th. As you are going to see by events, the 17th Airborne Division would have never left England.


Honestly the biggest change that could have been done to Market Garden was to cancel it. It was far too ambitious an idea that was cobbled together too quickly against a too entrenched enemy. The supplies used in Market Garden should have gone to the Canadians clearing the Sheldt Estuary around Antwerp. It would have allowed the Canadians to advance quicker and with fewer casualties and by extension allowing Antwerp to be opened much sooner than it did. Market Garden should just have never happened.


100% agree here, nothing to add. That it happened may have been inevitable, but it was the poor choice regardless.

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Operation Market Garden was inevitable in September 1944 over optimism rose tinted perspective of Allied public , press and SHEAF and Army Group headquarters was dominant trend when victory seemed just around the corner if one more big push towards East was made and Rhine river barrier was breached. It was an illusion since Allied drive had been so fast in France and Belgium (Montys 21st Army Group advanced 320 miles from Seine to Antwerp in nine days during 25 August - 3rd September) it outran the supply lines so when Germans seemed like in rout there was a conviction that it could advance further 70 more miles in one or two days with airborne support and cross Rhine , march Northern Germany plains and Ruhr industrial basin. Premature Allied press releases full of triumph and victory propaganda influenced and convinved many that after Rhine was crossed Germany would give up in November like November 1918. (a repreat Hitler did everything he could to avoid since November 1918 damaged his psyche) If MG was not attempted then everyone including us 80 years later would judge and critise that why a daring push was not attempted by SHEAF in September 1944 that could end the war etc when elite 1st Airborne Army (three elite airborne divisions thst were raised , trained and equipped specifically for that kind of purpose of risky operations) was staying idle in UK. There was considerable pressure from Marshall and US War Department to use airborne divisions for a bold deep behind the enemy lines strike. And eventually at the end of Market Garden , Allied front advanced 60 miles , not 70 , enough distance for strategic failure of operation though actually Nazi goverment would no way throw the towel like German military did in November 1918 even if Allies established a bridgehead across Rhine river. The press and public expectation that war was about to end did not match with reality on the ground.

That is what happens when the leaders (Marshall , Eisenhower , Bedell Smith , Montgomery , Bradley etc) believed their own propaganda though if we look in hindsight it was no way the catastrophe Hollywood history summarised as such. Even 60 mile long advance considered great back then despite high casaulties for Western Front standarts. (16.000 casaulty level in nine days is a friction of casaulty level in Eastern Front in 1941-45 or trench warfare of WWI)


Well as you probably know, I think the Allies tried to go a bridge too far


It certainly makes a great deal of sense in hindsight, but there were other factors that need to be taken into account.

First, Montgomery wanted to be the general whose forces defeated the Nazis … and he considered the First Canadian Army to be less than 100% his, as the Canadian government had a say in how the army could be used unlike his British units.

Second, and probably more important, is that he had a very low opinion of General Crerar, the Canadian officer commanding the First Canadian Army (and in my opinion, he wasn’t wrong in that … Guy Simonds was head-and-shoulders above Crerar as a military commander, but Crerar was an extremely good political general). Montgomery couldn’t fire Crerar, and if Crerar objected to Montgomery’s orders, he had the option of appealing to Ottawa.

This meant that Montgomery was extremely unlikely to give First Canadian Army a leading role in any offensive, and it’s clear that he didn’t realize (or didn’t care) that Antwerp could not be fully effective as a logistical supply base without the river approaches being cleared.


It is not about Canadians or low opinion of them etc I think. (First Canadian Army was also tasked and complated the sieges and capture of other Channel ports like Calais , Boulogne , Le Havre , Ostend etc in short time successfully during August September 1944.) The Scheldt approaches were tough nut to crack due to two reasons 1) geography , only a narrow istmus connected Scheldt and two causeways to Walcharen to mainland that meant not only your axis of advance was plain to see to all (British Army also landed there in 1809 during Napoleonic Wars , during War of Fifth Coalition but failed to advance also due to terrain) 2) Unlike weak German garrisons with low quality troops in Channel port garrisons which gave up quickly and surrendered to Canadians in a few days except Dunkirk (German garrison besieged there held out till April 1945) , 15th German Army left a very strong rearguard force in Scheldt and Walcharen , almost two full corps left to defend Scheldt and Walcharen behind to delay the opening of the estuary by Allies as long as possible and it took time to clear them out.

The real reason why Antwerp was not opened before…well if 30th Corps or Second Army was diverted to Scheldt in September 1944 to capture it that would mean a diversion towards west due to need to capture a port which meant the campaign would extend to 1945 for logistical necessity for build up AND in September 1944 no body in Allied ranks wished to hear that in premature victory disease frenzy. As 30th Corps commander General Horrocks candidly admitted in his memoirs “Everyone’s eyes including mine were fixed on Rhine (east) , crossing it , nothing else was seen”


There was only one at the time. Zeeland’s geography has changed fairly significantly after the second world war and the floods of 1953


It wasn’t the Canadians as a whole … it was the top leadership. Montgomery apparently had a very positive impression of Canadian troops, but felt that their officers above the battalion-to-brigade level were poorly trained and borderline competent at best. Given his druthers, he’d have had every Canadian brigade/division/corps commanded by British officers. Guy Simonds was the only high-ranking Canadian officer that Montgomery liked and respected professionally.

It took very hard fighting in almost WW1 conditions to winkle the last of the German defenders out and even longer to undo the sabotage, mines, booby traps, sunken blockships and all the other devilishly ingenious ways the defenders tried to further delay the Allies.

If Montgomery had taken his eyes off the Rhine for long enough, the approaches to Antwerp could have been easily cleared and the Allies’ logistical woes eased, but as you and General Horrocks point out, the leadership were smelling victory just over the next river crossing…


On September 10, 1944; Antwerp was not even considered by the Allied commanders to be opened up as a supply port exactly for the reason that you have stated about driving the German 15th Army away from the Scheldt Estuary. There was a better port to supply 21st Army Group 79 km to the north of Antwerp and an optimistic second port to be seized 133 km to the north of Antwerp through Operation Market Garden.

Operation Market Garden was never an invasion of Germany. The operation was supposed to setup the springboard to launch an offensive across the North German plain to Berlin in a final fall offensive. Unfortunately, too many history books and Hollywood have given the false impression that Market Garden was supposed to be an invasion of Germany. A picture speaks a thousand words. This would have been the end goal of Market Garden if it had succeeded. (I had to use a modern map for clarity.)
market garden.PNG


If the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam were the goals, then why bother with Arnhem? Could have gone in a much straighter line through Breda and Dordrecht. Going over Arnhem also meant the Germans could just pull back to the Vesting Holland positions of the pre-war Dutch army if they failed to defend there. The west of the Netherlands would be far from open and I have trouble believing Allied high command was unaware if this.
In conclusion, the direction of market garden clearly showed the actual goals of Allied high command.


It is worth to consider that opening up a second big harbour was an absolute need. At this moment a lot of men were deployed on the Western front, which all needed to be supplied and fed. The advance was very quick at the end of August/Early September (Paris was liberated 25. August, Brussels on 3rd of September and on the 4th of September Antwerp was taken. At that moment Horrocks (XXX Corps) was order to stay put for a few days as the supplies that still needed to come all the way from Normandy couldn’t reach his army anymore on time. Also take into account that the liberated towns and cities needed to receive food for the citizens. In hindsight he should have continued for another 20 kilometres to cut off the escaperoute for the Germans from Beveland (15th Army). This could have been the prelude to opening up the Harbour of Antwerp. He later took the blame for it, although orders come from higher up. It was already the task of the Canadians to first liberate a number of smaller ports and after that clear the Schelde area and opening up the Antwerp harbour. (as a side note: Le Havre which doesn’t have a complicated Delta, like Antwerp and Rotterdam was only liberated on the 12th of September)

On the 6th of September Horrocks was ordered to continue but the enemy had regrouped and already from the start the resistance was stronger than the previous week and progress was slower but he reached Neerpelt in 4 days, getting to the starting point for Market Garden.

Drawn on a 1944 map
Zeeland 1944

I don’t completely agree with the statement that Rotterdam was the real objective for Market Garden. What I do agree with is that Arnhem for sure was not the endpoint, that most likely was reaching the ‘Zuiderzee’ and by doing so cutting off the German troops stationed in Holland. Would it be likely that a follow up operation would follow to mop up these troops? Yes very likely, but this very thin, very stretched corridor would need to be defended. Already in the early days of Market Garden there were attacks on this corridor (a.k.a. Hell’s Highway) which were repelled but costed valuable time in reaching Nijmegen and Arnhem. So that might have been an obtainable goal on itself. But I doubt if liberating Rotterdam and opening up the harbour could be done faster as the three months it took to get Antwerp opened.

Interesting as well is the report from Admiral sir Bertram Ramsey, who wrote to SHAEF with 21st Army (Monty) in cc, on the 3rd of September that opening either Antwerp or Rotterdam would be hard and prone to blockades and mining by the remaining 15th Army. He urged Eisenhower and Monty to prioritize the Battle of the Schelde. A day later Hitler ordered that the Schelde area could not fall into Allied hands. Montgommery knew this as he received the intel as Ultra messages could be read and ordered the Canadians (Crerar) to take one of the Pas de Calais ports as that is all that he needed. (not nearly enough for the American and Canadian troops.) Requests from Crerar to add 12th Corps (Ritchie) to the forces as his disposal to clear this feat were denied by Montgomery as he would need them in Market Garden.

It has become a bit of a long post but what I wanted to add that the British under command of Montgomery had the choice of what to do first in early September. Keeping in mind the rapid progress and believing, backed by some intel, that the German Army was in a same kind of state as in November 1918 and yes his pride choose to go for Market Garden and quick defeat of the German army. In hindsight it is pretty obvious that he choose the wrong option and you can speculate on alternate histories.

One last thing to add is that the 1st Airbourne Division was one of few divisions that were still in reserve in the UK and as I have seen it been discribed were like burning coins in the trousers of SHAEF. Fresh troops that were passed over and over again as when a plan was created to use them they were no longer needed as the targets were already met, or weather made using them impossible.


Apologies for going a bit off-topic on this, but it’s a bit ironic that the 1st Airborne were kept in reserve so long, because highly specialized forces like that are supposed to be used for critical operations … and after the breakout from the Normandy beach heads, the battle moved so quickly to the east that no sooner were possibilities identifed, but the situation changed and the operation was shelved.

As far as off-topic … one of the biggest issues with highly trained specialized troops like the British Parachute Regiment is keeping them at that pitch of training when there isn’t an operation available to use their very specialized skills and training. A few weeks ago, the Chief of the General Staff had to yank 3rd Bn of the Parachute Regiment from their next scheduled deployment due to “incidents” at home:

The reports of recent incidents in Colchester, involving alleged orgies (albeit consensual) and wider disciplinary failings while in Macedonia highlight a real challenge for the Army – how do you keep a highly aggressive and motivated unit ready for operations, while ensuring that behaviour doesn’t cross the line?

Part of the mythos surrounding the Parachute Regiment is its near legendary ‘bad behaviour’ – it is not seen as a gentlemanly and affable club, it is, arguably, the Millwall of the British Army infantry units. Their role is simple – to leap from the air, and land in the most difficult and demanding of circumstances, probably at night, probably amid confusion, disarray and destruction, and then fight until relieved. It calls for a uniquely aggressive and determined mindset, and a willingness to go on long after others would have stopped.

The Regimental history is littered with gallantry awards and tales of valour that are both inspirational and humbling to read. There is no doubt that within their world, the airborne infantryman can, when deployed on operations, be a ferocious foe, who few would wish to tangle with. The problem is that this aggression and drive is not something that is commonly needed outside of military operations, and the chances of these occurring are in ever shorter supply.

Similarly the Canadian army had to disband the Canadian Airborne Regiment in 1995 for even more serious leadership failures and troop “misbehaviour” (including the torture and murder of a Somali civilian during Operation Deliverance in 1992).


I have to apologize for the long delay in responding. I rarely get time to post due to work. I have now hit a timeframe where I can start posting again due to changes at work.

Victory disease.
That is the answer to the Market Garden offensive. Why arrack the German Military directly when it can be encircled and cut off.

There are several interrelated reasons why Arnhem was chosen as the crossing point for the Rhine River and the invasion of Germany.

The first is the Siegfried Line that Germany propagandized as the Westwall before the war as the equivalent of the Maginot Line. Construction on the Westwall started in 1936 on direct order by Adolf Hitler to prevent a repeat of the Franco-Belgian invasion of the Ruhr in January 1923. The Westwall ends to the east of the Groesbeck Ridge in the Reichswald forest. There is not a single German fortification from the north bank of the Waal River to the North Sea on the German-Dutch border. An Allied assault into Germany from Arnhem will leave the Germans with only two choices; leaving their forces to be outflanked and possible encircled on the west bank of the Rhine River or retreating to the Rhine to avoid encirclement.

The second reason for Arnhem is the Ijsselmeer. The Guards Armored Division is specifically tasked with the seizure of Nunspeet on the Ijsselmeer. Now this would have accomplished two things simultaneously for Field Marshal Montgomery. The first is completing a direct order from the Churchill government to try to seize the western Netherlands to end the continual assault on Great Britain by V-1 and V-2 rockets. Seizing Nunspeet would cut off the supply of German rockets to the mobile launchers on the North Sea coastline. This order is what Field Marshal Montgomery showed to General Eisenhower at the Brussels conference to get approval for Market-Garden. The second reason is that the seizing of Nunspeet would completely cut off 15. Armee and the majority of the newly forming 1. Fallschirmjäger Armee from Germany.

The third reason is Arnhem is the Ijssel River. This is the last river in which the Germans could have blown the dykes and levies to impede an Allied advance. The next major river barrier to the east is the Elbe River. All of the rivers in the German countryside between the Ijssel and the Elbe is easily crossable by engineers and infantry in rafts, boats, and amphibious vehicles. It takes an average of 90 minutes for Allied engineers to build prefabricated Bailey bridges, pontoon bridges, and treadway bridges to cross these rivers. This is why the Princess Irene Brigade was assigned to take Apeldoorn, the 43rd Wessex Infantry Division to take Deventer and Zutphen on the east bank of the Ijssel River and the 50th Northumbrian Division to take at Doesburg on the east bank of the Ijssel River with further crossing being seized over the next couple of days.

All of the above were direct orders given by General Horrocks to the divisional and brigade commanders on September 16 at the cinema at Bourg Leopold on September 16. The timetable came from 21st Army Group HQ meeting on September 12. All of this was to be achieved by the evening of September 19, 1944. (Victory Disease)