Market Garden was a military operation by the allied forces at the end of the Second World War in September 1944. It is considered to be the biggest military operation on Dutch territory during the Second World War. The operation consisted of two parts; one large-scale airborne operation (Market) and a ground offensive from Belgium (Garden). The airborne troops’ most important task was to capture the most important bridges crossing the Dutch rivers. The ground troops were then instructed to advance into the Netherlands to free the Dutch from the Germans.
‘’Dolle dinsdag’’ (mad Tuesday)
Shortly before operation Market Garden commenced, the allied forces conquered Belgium a couple of days after D-day. The quick recapturing of Belgium made people believe that the Netherlands would be liberated in just a couple of days. The British BBC even reported that Breda had already been liberated on 4 September. The Dutch people were all over the moon because of this. Rumours were spread across the country; the people of Rotterdam were told that the Canadian troops were already near Moerdijk, while people in Amsterdam got the news that Rotterdam and The Hague were liberated.
The Germans that were located in the Netherlands received urgent news to evacuate back to Germany on 2 September 1944 because the war was coming to an end. Large amounts of German civilians, soldiers, and NSB members attempted to flee the country. This evacuation wave gave the Dutch people the idea that the end of the war was approaching and that they only had to wait for the first allied forces to arrive. However, these troops arrived much later than was expected.
The Resistance soon found out that Breda was far from liberated and it even became clear that the British troops had not even crossed the Dutch border. The German army was able to regain its strength, because the allied supply lines from Normandy were moving rather slow.
The British Field Marshal Montgomery crafted a plan to defeat the German army in the Netherlands. He gave this plan the codename ‘Market Garden’. The plan consisted of two parts. The first part was named ‘Market’. This part consisted of the dropping of more than 35.000 airborne troops near important bridges (crossing the Meuse, the Waal, and the Rhine) between Eindhoven and Arnhem, to keep them occupied. The second part was called ‘Garden’, which was a codename for the British ground offensive. In this offensive, the British army would move over land from Belgium to Arnhem to aid the airborne troops. This would clear the way for the allied forces to liberate the rest of the Netherlands and the Ruhr area, which was the centre of the German war industry.
The allied forces
The plan was very ambitious and had to be carried out very soon. British Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks and his 30th Army Corps were assigned to advance from Belgium to Arnhem in three days. All of the bridges they found on their way had to be conquered too.
The American Major-General Maxwell D. Taylor and his 101st Airborne division got the order to secure all the bridges between Eindhoven and Veghel. The American Brigadier-General James Gavin and his 82nd Airborne division were ordered to capture all the bridges between Grave and Nijmegen.
The British Major-General Roy Urquhart and his 1st Airborne division received orders to capture the bridges crossing the Rhine in Arnhem. They received support from the Polish Major-General Stanislaw Sosabowski and his 1st independent Parachute brigade. This part of the operation is often referred to as the Battle of Arnhem.
The course of Market Garden
The operation started on Sunday 17 September 1944 when thousands of planes and gliders with 35.000 airborne troops flew from England to the Netherlands. These airborne troops all landed near the cities of Eindhoven, Nijmegen, and Arnhem. They moved towards the bridges as soon as possible. The Germans were totally surprised and the allied forces recaptured the first bridges without too much problems.
However, the German army did not give up without a fight. The German forces turned out to be much bigger and stronger than expected. They managed to stop the allied advance from Belgium, which caused the allied forces to lose a lot of valuable time. Besides this, newly arriving allied parachutists landed in dropping zones that were in the hands of the German army. A lot of soldiers died after landing and weapons and goods fell into the hands of the Germans.
Things started to take a turn for the worse for the allied forces near Arnhem. The allied ground army should have been in Arnhem in two days, but the parachutists were still waiting for them after four days. Most of them were already wounded, imprisoned, or dead. After nine days of fighting, the situation for the allied forces near Arnhem had become rather hopeless. The main objective, the Rhine bridge near Arnhem, was still in German hands.
The plan did not turn out the way it was hoped. Operation Market Garden stranded near the end of September 1944 in the Batavia (Betuwe). This did not put an end to the war. The general consensus exists that Market Garden was a failure. The main goal to liberate the Netherlands and to advance into the Ruhr area was not realised. The most important reason for this was that the bridge near Arnhem was never captured.
The Dutch famine and the liberation
The failure of the operation, especially the Battle of Arnhem, is generally regarded as the main reason why the war was extended with nine months. This is why the northern and western part of the Netherlands experienced a long and harsh winter. Sadly, 20.000 Dutch citizens died that winter because of the shortage of food. This period is often referred to as the ‘Dutch famine of 1944-45′. The allied forces were not able to beat the Germans until May 1945, when the Germans in the Netherlands also surrendered. Peace negotiations took place in ‘De Wereld’ hotel in Wageningen on 5 May. The western and northern parts of the Netherlands were the last to be liberated. The reconstruction of the Netherlands commenced.