While the 6th British Airborne Division fought in Normandy the 1st Airborne Division was on constant stand-by for further airborne operations. There were 16 cancellations before 17 September when they flew to Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.
1st Allied Airborne Corps, which included the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, was tasked to secure the main canal and river crossings between Eindhoven and Arnhem. The aim was to provide an ‘airborne carpet’ along which the ground forces spearheaded by 30 Corps would break into the Ruhr and end the war.
The 1st British Airborne Division, which included the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 10th, 11th and 156th battalions of The Parachute Regiment under the command of Major General R E Urquhart was dropped near Arnhem to seize the road bridge over the Neder Rijn.
Due to insufficient aircraft to fly the division complete, the Air-Landing Brigade had to be used to protect the drop zones and landing zones for the second lift, leaving only the three battalions of the 1st Parachute Brigade to secure the bridge.
Despite the initial surprise the lightly equipped parachutists were soon encountering unexpectedly heavy German resistance, because elements of the II SS Panzer Corps happened to be refitting in and around the Arnhem area. Only the 2nd Parachute Battalion commanded by Lt Col J D Frost and elements of the Royal Engineers squadron and Recce Company reached the bridge and secured the northern end. They were soon cut off.
Though under constant attack by armour and infantry the Arnhem bridge was held for three days and four nights. The division task had been to hold for 48 hours until relieved by ground forces.
Meanwhile, the rest of the division, depleted by its attempts to fight through to reinforce at the bridge, were compressed into a small perimeter across the river at Oosterbeek. They held on against overwhelming odds for nine days until ordered to withdraw across the river during the night of 25/26 September.
Of the 10,095 all ranks that landed, fewer than 3,000 got out across the river. The ground forces failed to link up and the bid to end the war in 1944 failed.
Five Victoria Crosses were won during the battle, two by members of The Parachute Regiment.
Battle Honour conferred: