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Why was the Polish 1st Parachute Infantry Brigade dropped at Driel on the South bank of the Rhine?

Why was the Polish 1st Parachute Infantry Brigade dropped at Driel on the South bank of the Rhine?

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While the deployment of the Polish 1st Parachute Infantry Brigade started on 18 September 1944 on the North bank of the river, the rest was dropped at Driel on the South bank of the Rhine on 21 September 1944.

This seems like dissolution of troops, which may not be good especially when the rest of allies were already in defending positions.

The Poles were supposed to be dropped in on the 19th, the third day, near Elden and attack the southern approaches to the bridge. A lack of gliders and transports meant they could not be dropped on the first. Bad weather and a further lack of transport delayed this drop until the 20th when the plan changed suddenly.

… a little before 7 a.m. on the 20th, Major-General Stanislaw Sosabowski [commander Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade] learned that his drop zone had been changed. The Polish Brigade would now land in an area a few miles west of the original site, near the village of Driel…

There was still very little news from Arnhem but, as Stevens briefed him on the new plan to ferry his troops across the Rhine from Driel to Heveadorp, it was obvious to Sosabowski that Urquhart's [commander British 1st Airborne Division] situation had taken a turn for the worse…

A Bridge Too Far, Cornelius Ryan, p 328-329

At this point on the 20th the drop zones in Arnhem, open fields, were overrun or under German observation. The remnants of the 1st Airborne Division had fallen back to Oosterbeek where they intended to hold onto a bridgehead until XXX Corps arrived, already late. Only Lt-Col Frost's 2nd Battalion had made it to the bridge, and they would lose it in the night.

Rather than cross the bridge, the plan was now to reinforce 1st Airborne's position with the Poles by using a ferry across the Rhine. Driel was near Oosterbeek across the Rhine, and there was a nearby ferry at Heveadorp large enough to carry tanks. The Poles were to take the ferry, use it to cross the Rhine, reinforce 1st Airborne, and hold until XXX Corps could cross in force.

The Polish drop on the 20th was aborted due to bad weather, but they were finally off on the 21st.

On this Thursday [the 21st], the outlook was slightly brighter… The Nijmegen bridge was safe and open; the tanks of the Guards Armoured were on the way--and, if the weather held, 1,500 fresh paratroopers of General Sosabowski's First Polish Brigade would land by late afternoon. If the Poles could be ferried quickly across the Rhine between Driel and Heveadorp, the bleak picture could well change.

A Bridge Too Far, Cornelius Ryan, p 370


But they found the ferry missing, the approaches covered with German AAA and fighters, and the drop zones crawling with Germans. The planned crossing of the Rhine failed.

Ironically a morning patrol by 1st Airborne discovered the ferry was missing, but the Poles were already en route. The ferry was found later, its moorings had been cut by artillery, just a few hundred yards beyond the search area.

The Germans recognized the threat to their flank and counter-attacked the Poles sapping German strength away from Oosterbeek. Over the next couple days they got a few hundred men across, only enough to cover the 1st Airborne's withdrawal.

Operation MARKET GARDEN was forced to make drops on separate days because they couldn't drop an entire airborne corps in a single day. Not enough aircraft, not enough airbases, not enough drop zones, the airspace getting crowded over the drop zones.

When it became a bridge too far, as the movie put it, it became a question of helping to extract the paratroops on the north bank.

The Americans published Airborne Operations in World War II, European Theater. This is from the US viewpoint, but it puts the various problems into context.

Chotie Darling

‘There was considerable enemy activity during the early hours of this morning.  Motorised and horse drawn transport was heard moving in the area 6776 and digging at 6876.  In addition there was a certain amount of Machine Gun and Mortar harassing fire.

A company raid by 6 Durham Light Infantry* took place on area 7074 through the “B” Squadron troop established there.  “B” Squadron neutralised enemy fire on the flanks of the attack with Light Machine Gun and Mortar fire.  Few Germans were encountered and our own troops had no casualties.  It is apparent that the enemy is holding the line very thinly and it is believed that all active patrolling is being carried out by SS troops held in reserve.  Certainly the 47 Fortress Battalion has shown none of the aggressive qualities which are apparent in the patrols.

At 0940 hrs “C” Squadron reported 12-15 men moving at 706759 and the artillery engaged the area effectively.

During the day orders were received for our relief by elements of 101 US Airborne Division and much of the preliminary work in the hand over was done.  The relief is due to take place tomorrow night and the Regiment, less “A” Squadron , is to concentrate in the WINSSEN** area.

“A” Squadron go under command of 501 RCT (Regimental Combat Team?) and are to hold a sector of the ZETTEN*** area with outposts forward on the river line and an Armoured car patrol daily to OPHEUSDEN****.’

*Anthony Rampling had met the Durham Light Infantry when he got lost after landing on the Normandy beaches: “They were tough – all they’d got was what they carried.”

**Winssen is a village on the south bank of the Waal, north-west of Nijmegen.

***Zetten is on ‘the Island’ west of Elst.

****Opheusden is west of Zetten on the south bank of the Neder Rijn/Lower Rhine.

27 December 2014

‘Forward on foot alone and under fire’

On 27 th December 1944 61 st Recce were in the Celles area between Dinant and Rochefort.

Sergeant William Henry Hollingworth of 61 st Reconnaissance Regiment earned the Military Medal for his role in the Ardennes.  On 27 th December he took his troop to recce the blown bridge at Villers-sur-Lesse, west of Rochefort. Going forward on foot alone at the bridge he discovered several Germans and narrowly escaped an enemy patrol.  Re-positioning his armoured car he then attacked the next patrol, killing or wounding all the enemy.

On 28 th December 1944 ‘C’ Squadron’s Lieutenant Patrick Laing removed a road block of 10 trees while under mortar fire and, encountering another road block, went forward on foot under fire to locate the enemy outpost (a house being used as the HQ for a garrison) and estimate their strength. Lieutenant Laing returned to Val de Poix (south of Rochefort and east of St Hubert) later in the Ardennes conflict and, finding the village still occupied by Germans, put the information to good use.

(From Sergeant Hollingworth and Lieutenant Laing’s citations – see 61st Recce Battle Honours.)

On 28 th December the American 1 st Army divisions successfully defending the Elsenborn-Monschau area launch a counter-attack against the Germans gaining valuable ground.

The Tipping Point

The limit of the German advance was reached on 25 th December and from the 26 th December the German army started to withdraw.  Bastogne was reached and relieved by the US 3 rd Army from the south.  11th Armoured Division was replaced by the British 6 th Airborne, having pushed the enemy back from Celles near Beauraing, the tip of the salient.

61 st Reconnaissance regiment remained in the Ardennes and Dick’s troop shot five Germans on 26 th December. 

Watch the video: . Parachute Infantry Regiments 1942-1945 - origins, development and deployment (August 2022).