Arnhem Rail Bridge part 2

18th September 1944, 12:00

Situation:  3rd Polish Parachute Battalion (3 PP) and 7th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers (7KOSB) had joined forces across the rail bridge west of Arnhem.  Two companies of 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Division (3/9SS) were still holding out in bunkers at each end of the bridge.  A flight of German fighters was threatening the allied troops.

General Urquhart sent his congratulations and ordered that the remaining enemy troops in the bunkers be eliminated.

Forces.  7KOSB.  3 companies, 10 platoons.  3PP. 4 companies, 14 platoons, including 2 mortars and 1 HQ.  3/9SS. 2 companies, 7 platoons.

Turn 1. 12:00

7KOSBs – Move Out (4 infantry units)  The three companies moved to positions to close assault the northern pill box.  A. 2 infantry. 2 hits  B. 1 infantry, 1 star. 1 hit. Unit eliminated and pill box captured.

3/9SS – Behind Enemy Lines.  Fighters left the table with no appropriate command card.  The company in the south bunker made a break-out.  Moved 1hex,  attacked a Polish rifle company in a defended position. 1 flag, so Poles retreat.  Moved 3 +1 for the road and exited the board, so a successful break-out was acheived.

Casualties.  Germans: 2 of 14=14%.  Allies: none.

Arnhem-Oosterbeek Road, 18th September 1944

Battle Report

Arnhem-Oosterbeek, 18th Sept 1944, starting at 08:00.

Three Companies of 10th Parachute Battalion from 4th Parachute Brigade, advancing from the Oosterbeek area towards Arnhem, encountered a blocking line consisting of three companies of 2nd Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Regiment and two companies of 9th SS Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion.

The Panzer Grenadiers were astride the main road, while the railway line was blocked by a company of obsolete French S-35 tanks “liberated” during the retreat from Normandy.  To the rear was Hauptsturmführer Gräbner’s HQ, including his captured Humber armoured car.

The Para’s deployed and halted, calling for reinforcements from 1st Airlanding Brigade, holding the drop zones to their rear.  Pushing on to Arnhem was paramount, but they had insufficient strength on their own.

German deployment, viewed from the East

Gräbner assessed the situation and also called for support from 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion, holding the Rhine railway bridge to his left.  At the same time he ordered the tanks to probe forwards.

Luckily for the paratroopers, they had a troop of 17pr Anti-tank guns in tow, which deployed  and made short work of two platoons of S-35s.  The third platoon was caught by a mortar “stonk”, which put them out of action too.

So much for the tanks! The ciows seem undisturbed by the noise.

10th Parachute Battalion deployed their 3rd company, with Vickers MG support, to their right to guard the railway line.  The intention was to use the support weapons to keep the enemy’s heads down until reinforcements arrived.

The Germans had no intention of letting that happen, so one rifle company was moved to the top of the low hill to their left flank.  Opening fire on the British before they could deploy the Vickers guns, they forced them away from the railway line.

However this forward move put the German company within range of the British mortar platoon, which swiftly retaliated.

“That’ll teach you to stand on top of a hill in a battle.”

The remains of the company moved down to the road to take some shelter in the trees that lined it.  A second company, with a MG platoon, advanced to the railway crossing near their centre.

By now the British had established their own machine guns and fired at the company in the roadside trees, causing some damage.  But this success was short-lived, for just after 08:30 two companies of 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion arrived across the railway bridge to the British right flank.

The British mortars fired again at the enemy sheltering beside the road and put the last platoon out of action.  Things were going well for the Para’s, if it were not for this new threat from the south.  But where the hell were the glider boys?

German reinforcements swarm across the bridge

The two newly-arrived German companies used their machine guns to great effect against the enemy machine gunners.  The parachute company fell apart.

The Germans were now able to advance and deploy, allowing two more reinforcing companies across the bridge.

It was now 09:00.  Three companies of the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment arrived on the northern road (British left flank).

Gräbner took control of the situation.  Spotting that the advancing British could outflank his position and march on into Arnhem, he ordered the 3rd Panzer Grenadiers to take over blocking the left flank while he shifted the two companies of the 2nd Battalion to the right, including the mortar platoon which was in the farmyard.  He moved his own HQ swiftly to block the roadway on his right flank.  Although unable to take serious offensive action he hoped this might delay the enemy long enough for 2nd Battalion to get to grips.  He also called Division HQ for support.

While the South Staffs. made their best speed along the road a company of 7th King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSBs) arrived along the Utrecht railway line in the British centre.   A few minutes later a second company of KOSBs arrived.

Under fire from the Germans moving to block them, the follow-up companies of the South Staffs abandoned the road and moved up the hill into the heavily wooded area.  

The mortar platoon of 10 Para shelled the nearest Germans in support of the KOSBs.

At 09:30 three batteries of 10th Panzer Division field artillery in Arnhem were released to Gräbner for support.  Spotting for them from his armoured car he was able to halt the South Staffs.  The whole battalion made for the woods, but continued to advance slowly around the German right flank.

They now received the attention of the German mortars, but only a few casualties were suffered.

Effective artillery and mortar fire strikes the South Staff’s.

10 Para, on the right flank, now attacked the 3rd Battalion Panzer Grenadiers

In support of the the lead Company of 7 KOSB, who swung right and took the road toward the now abandoned farm, reaching the eastern level crossing.

3rd Bn Panzer Grenadiers retaliated against 10 Para with concentrated MG and rifle fire and the Para’s gave up after severe casualties.

Two companies of South Staffs. advanced to the edge of the woods, from where they opened fire on the German HQ.  No serious damage was inflicted, but Gräbner pulled back 250 yards.

On the German side 2nd Battalion continued to attack the enemy in the woods, while a company of 3rd Battalion raced to cut off the advance of the KOSBs.

They were too late as the determined glider troops beat them to the farm.

A second company of KOSBs advanced to attack the intercepting Germans.

One company of South Staffs managed to get past the Germans and moved on towards Arnhem.

Shortly after 10:00 a second artillery barrage drove the remaining South Staffordshires back into the woods with further casualties.

As the lead KOSB company continued to advance down the main road Gräbner realised that he was outflanked and pulled the rest of 2nd Battalion back to form another blocking line further east.

3rd Battalion dug in to defend the rail bridge from further attack from the north side.  Firing could now be heard from the south bank of the Rhine, but that is another story.

Total losses during this engagement (killed, wounded and missing)

Germans: 27%, British 33%

The cost had been high, but the British were one step closer to relieving their friends on the road bridge.

Battle at Arnhem

18th September 1944.  06:00.  Dawn, Weather: good.

The battle for the Arnhem road bridge continued with elements of 2nd and 3rd Battalions, Parachute Regiment of 1st Brigade, 1st British Airborne Division, combined with the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron holding the northern approaches.

From the west 1st and 11th Battalions of the Parachute Regiment were trying to break through to the bridge to support the defence and to bring much needed  supplies.

On the German side 16th SS Training Battalion, supported by the Bridge Defence Company, were trying to block any reinforcements from the west.

At the same time 1st (armoured) Battalion, 9th SS Panxergrenadiers, attacked from the north-west.

9th SS, aware of the need for speed in cutting off the enemy attack, charged down the road in their half-tracks until the first vehicle was knocked out.  At that point the infantry de-bussed and deployed to attack the enemy in house-to-house combat.

The battle see-sawed back and forth.  The Bridge Defence Company was soon wiped out, but the 16th Battalion kept up the pressure until 9th SS could take up the attack.  The British reinforcements struggled on and made contact, but were soon pushed back, struggling to hold the road to the drop zone.

The artillery of 10th SS Panzer Division began to register, not only again the British paratroopers, but also on the homes of the citizens of Arnhem, as street after street burst into flames and fell into ruins.  This became as much of a hindrance to the Germans’ advance as did the defence of the enemy.

After two hours or so, the British had fallen back to a small perimeter stretching from the bridge approach to the road north of the river.

Continue reading Battle at Arnhem

Arnhem 18th September 1944: forces

It is 06:00, dawn on the second day of Operation Market Garden.  The British airborne forces hold the main road bridge at Arnhem, but are under severe pressure from German forces of 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions.

Forces deployed are as below:

British forces.

1st Airborne Recce Sqn. with machine guns, 1 rifle company of 2nd Bn, Parachute Regt., 2 rifle companies of 3rd Bn, Parachute Regt. (one supported with 3” mortars).  These forces hold the northern approach to the road bridge across the Rhine.

1st and 11th Battalions, Parachute Regiment, approaching from the west.

German forces

1st Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Regt., approaching from the north:

16th SS Training Battalion, now including the Bridge Defence Company,  in the centre of Arnhem:

1st Artillery Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Division, in the east of Arnhem, north of the Rhine.

Purists will note that many of the German forces are equipped with 1940 period uniforms and vehicle paint schemes, and that some of the British airborne forces, particularly machine gunners,  are represented by regular infantry.  Also that many bases still need to be scenically completed.

In the interests of pushing the campaign forwards, I intend to overlook these minor issues for the time being.

Too much to do

It has occurred to me that I have not posted anything for some time.  This is mainly because nothing has been completed.  I have my finger in too many pies.

However, I have been making progress in various directions.  On the reenactment front I have been trying to obtain buttons, buckles and bows for my role as a major in the British army at Waterloo in June.  I have been appointed Assistant QMG to 2nd Brigade Allied Army, despite spending 25 years as a French soldier in this period.  (Not so odd – at my first Waterloo in 1990 the current commander of the British army in the UK was my French sergeant).  The 2nd brigade, one of four infantry brigades on the allied side, including the German brigade and the Royal Dutch Army, will have around 300 muskets on the field.  While small by US (i.e. Gettysburg) standards, this will be one of the biggest European re-enactment events ever staged.

While thinking of Napoleonic re-enactment, I would like to pay tribute to Peter (Tiny) Castle, Sergeant and commander of the 32nd (Cornwall) Regiment, who died last Sunday.  A large man with a huge personality and a commanding voice who will be sadly missed.  A shame he could not make it to the finale.

On the wargaming front, in my World War Two campaign I have the troops prepared for another battle in Poland on 2nd September 1939, but needed some more marsh terrain.  This is nearly ready…

Awaiting a spray of varnish to fix everything, then another gloss coat on the water.
Awaiting a spray of varnish to fix everything, then another gloss coat on the water.

In the bottom left of the picture are two strips (=1 base, 1/4 unit) of “Red” light cavalry being painted.  I hope that by mid May I will have all the necessary models ready for a display of my “pre-Reisswitz” wargame depicting Waterloo at a Town Council sponsored event in Horsham, UK.  Despite restricting the toy uniforms to red, blue, white and black, plus horse and gun colours, these seem to take a long time to get ready.

I have also been preparing for the second Donald Featherstone tribute weekend (21-23 March) at the Wargames Holiday Centre, where we will be playing Arnhem with Rapid Fire rules.  I own the first edition rules, but have never completed a game with them or used them competitively.  I have been toying with some reduced-scale scenarios, but I await the postman with the edition of the rules that we will be using, as if owning and reading the rules will grant me any greater success!

I have asked for command of 130 Brigade, 43 Division if it’s included in the game, as these are the lads from the counties where I grew up.  Otherwise I will take what I am given, Allied or German.  I’me not sure if we are playing just Arnhem or Market Garden, or somewhere between the two.  Whatever, with something like 650 square feet of table to play on it will be a challenge.

I have a lot of literature about the Market Garden operation and last year ran a 3 day real-time PBEM game which was a wonderful but exhausting experience.  However it’s played, this mini campaign reveals how easy it is for plans to fall apart on both sides, and the futility of war.

I hope to post some photos of the Arnhem game next week.