Market Garden - Horrocks

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by canuck, Nov 20, 2011.

  1. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    In reading various accounts of Market Garden and the Battle for the Schelte, I've noted some interesting observations from Sir Brian Horrocks.

    Antwerp was captured on 4 September 1944, and Horrocks wrote that there was almost no organized opposition between 30 Corps and the Rhine. Further, that had he known Antwerp was useless without control of the approaches, he could have sent 11 Armored Division 15 miles northwest and cut off the Beveland Isthmus, thus cutting off the retreating Germans of 15th Army.

    He further claims that no one from higher headquarters bothered to inform him of the importance of the Antwerp approaches, so also none bothered to inform him of the retreating Germans, who were in the Canadian sector and therefore not his responsibility.
    Did he not have a map in his HQ? Intelligence assessments?

    Horrocks is also critical of the Market Garden operation and makes several assertions on the failure of not only that operation but it's effect on the entire campaign:
    • "Though we did not know it, 4 September, the day Antwerp fell, was the apogee of "Overlord" and at the same time it was, as will be seen, the day we lost the Battle of Arnhem. He calls it the "turning point in the whole campaign".
    • Horrocks thought that if the transport planes which sat on the ground for nearly two weeks, while getting ready for Market-Garden, had been used to supply Montgomery and Patton then the momentum of the Allied advance could have continued, and the war could have been over in 1944. "The fortnight's delay before the complicated Arnhem operation could be launched proved fatal, for the enemy was growing stronger every day."
    • Market-Garden had a significant strategic effect on the war. Not because it was a failure, but because it was launched in the first place. The resources it needed, and the planning and anticipation for it, prevented proper attention to the ground war as it was in the two weeks before MG was launched.
    • It was a strategic distraction, and a strategic failure of the first rank.
    So, the question for you Arnhem experts, was Market Garden a worthwhile risk or do you agree with Horrocks?
    Peccavi and 17thDYRCH like this.
  2. Philip Reinders

    Philip Reinders Very Senior Member

    Easy talking, and like you said, did he not have a map or any other source, just putting the blame on somebody else.

    And have said it hunderd times now, it is easy talking for us with all the information and documentation available now
  3. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member

    Earlier in the week you asked who was to blame for the needless lives lost in the taking of the Scheldt Estuary. Had Horrocks XXX Corps moved earlier to Antwerp instead of being directed to Arnhem to reinforce 6th British Para Division, would the blame then lie with Montgomery?
  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Looks like you're dabbling in what-if-ery.

    In general terms, I weary of these types of blame games. They tend to be circular, rankle folks no end, and offer nothing new. Picking over decisions made by individuals - either using information not known at the time or in ignorance of the options/full intelligence available to the decision makers - invariably ends up being a battle to prove which of the allied leaders was worst.

    However, here's my take: Hitler. He was to blame.

    The other Antwerp thread, running at the same time:
    The Unnecessary Battle
    kopite and Rich Payne like this.
  5. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I'm sure of one thing. It would be much easier to discuss the campaign in NW Europe in a civilised manner if that wretched Market-Garden operation had never taken place.
    Rob Dickers and canuck like this.
  6. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    There were far too many people involved to attach proportionate blame to any individual. Horrocks was refreshingly humble and candid in his assessment. Besides, there were organizational, philosophical and political components as well that influenced the decisions and outcome. My curiosity is not in finding scapegoat but more a study of how an obvious opportunity was missed.
  7. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member

    Let`s ask the question in a different way. Were there were reasons for XXX Corps being directed to Arnhem instead of to Antwerp.
    Without Antwerp the Allies had to truck supplies from Normandy.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2017
  8. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    I do not think so. MG was nothing more than a lost battle. Some you win some you lose. It was a gamble and it failed. Lessons learned and move forward whilst adapting to the new facts on the ground. Without MG the Monty-bashers will just move back to the 'failure to take Caen' and beat him over the head with that or default right back to his overwhelming numbers at Alamein that meant he could not loose. Truth is there are those who think Monty was the Devil incarnate and they will never ever miss any chance to attack him. I find the best tactic is to meet them head on be as unpleasant about it as they are.
  9. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    The Allied problem was that they had not expected to be this far forward until spring of 1945. All the planning had assumed a slow consolidation in central France whilst the bulk of the US Army arrived via the French Atlantic ports or CHASTITY. The total German collapse in August 1944 meant the Allied 'Phase Lines' were reached far too soon to be able to be fully sustained. The problem was not one of Allied inefficiency of bumbling but rather the unexpected rout of the German Army meant risks had to be taken to be able to profit from the victory. By grounding some infantry Divisions to make others mobile and leaving (for example)the Churchill Units behind the front line could be held but a period of quiet was needed to get the whole of the Allied Armies forward. MG was seen as a fleeting chance to make even greater gains and sadly it failed. After the MG failure wiser heads prevailed and consolidation became the priority .
    MG should be seen as the high-water mark of the Normandy campaign where a run of risky Allied moves finally came unstuck.
    wolfhezeparas1944, Owen and stolpi like this.
  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    M Kenny - completely agree. Not pausing at the Seine, for a build up phase as SHAEF had initially planned, but instead exploiting the situation by continuing the advance was a deliberately taken (logistical) gamble by the Allied High command. It was the momentum gained by the Victory in Normandy that carried the Allied Armies almost to within reach of the Rhine.

    Look at the time frame: the battle of Falaise ended about August 21st (?), Market Garden was over around Sept 25th. Most of France, Belgium, Luxemburg and part of southern Holland had been captured by the latter date and all that within 4 - 5 weeks.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
    O'Boogie likes this.
  11. smdarby

    smdarby Patron Patron

    I think the general view of the Allied high command at the time is often overlooked. Remember that the Allies had just advanced a couple of hundred miles or so from the Seine in two weeks. Many officers believed it was just a case of keep pushing towards Berlin and the German Army would collapse. Memories of the Hundred Days in WWI, when exactly this had happened, were still fresh in the memory of many officers.

    In such an atmosphere, all eyes were on crossing The Rhine and advancing into Germany. Everything else was overlooked. It is entirely understandable that the Allied high command had this view following the rapid pursuit across France and Belgium. Hence, Market Garden was launched to try and achieve a quick advance into Germany and other objectives (clearing The Scheldt) were sidelined.

    The main problem in my view is that the western Allies severely underestimated how much fight the Germans had left in them. But, like I say, this was understandable given what had happened in late August/early September 1944.
    O'Boogie and canuck like this.
  12. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Horrocks may have wrote that there was "almost no organised opposition between 30 Corps and the Rhine" in the first week of September 1944 but subsequent analysis has shown this was not true. Indeed, one only has to look at 11th Armoured Division's attempt to seize a bridgehead over the Albert Canal at Antwerp to realise that 30 Corps advance had culminated and it was back to hard pounding!

    Additionally, I've never understood how cutting off 15th Army would have helped clear the approaches to Antwerp? The Breskens Pocket, for example, would still exist! There are also other routes further north off Beveland as well, so 15th Army would not be "cut off".

    Operation Market Garden has certainly been used as a distraction - yes, it was an operational failure - but the strategic failure was that Op Market Garden failed, whilst the simultaneous attempt to launch offensives by both 1st US Army and 3rd US Army also failed. It is worth noting that during Op Market Garden, 21 Army Group actually cleared Boulogne, began preparations for the capture of Calais and the German cross-channel guns nearby, began to clear Le Havre and also began the task of preparing Antwerp for the task of unloading. A study of the transportation diaries of the logistic units sent there in September 1944 show how much work needed to be done before stores unloaded there could actually be moved out of the docks and city.

    The whole Antwerp - Arnhem debate is, to my mind, treated by many historians in such a simplified way that one wonders why they cannot get passed the childish, petulant Ingersoll version of the NW Europe campaign.



    PS - sorry, had to get that off my chest.
  13. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    The statement "almost no organised opposition between 30 Corps and the Rhine" was absolutely accurate on September 4th, when the 11th arrived in Antwerp. It was no longer true by the 7th-8th as Kurt Student was ordered to defend the area and began bringing in reinforcements. The open window of opportunity to seize a bridgehead over the Albert Canal, against light opposition, at Antwerp existed for only 2-3 days. There were no orders to push across the Albert Canal, no appreciation of the situation and the pleas from the Belgian White Brigade were ignored.
    It was a mere 15 miles from Antwerp to Woensdrecht and the narrow 2 mile Beveland isthmus against feeble resistance.

    As for the 15th army in Beveland and Walcheren, the Germans took until September 21st to evacuate the Breskens pocket. That was only a 45 minute trip across to Flushing. If the Beveland isthmus had been blocked a further seaborne evacuation to Dordrecht and Rotterdam would have entailed a 12 hour journey for the German forces trapped there. Two totally different propositions. That was the constant fear of the German command but not with the Allies until it was too late.

    The French channel ports, which distracted the attention of the Canadian forces, were so thoroughly destroyed that they would be useless for months. Antwerp, the second largest European port, with much larger capacity, had been captured completely intact. The capture of Antwerp would have solved all supply problems. The port could handle 1,000 ships at a time weighing up to 19,000 tons each. Antwerp had 10 square miles of docks, 20 miles of water front, and 600 cranes. Senior Allied commanders counted on Antwerp handing 40,000 tons of supplies a day. Any comparison with French port capacity or logistics is illogical. Regardless of the Market Garden priority, how could Antwerp not have been the primary strategic objective?

    "On 1 October, Calais surrendered. The 7,500 man garrison had been reduced for a cost of only 300 Canadian casualties. Here too, though, the port facilities had been badly damaged - a major factor for the Allies who were still trying to break out of the Normandy bridgehead.With the conclusion of fighting for the channel ports, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division began to move into Belgium, and participation in the Battle of the Scheldt. With the failure to open significant working port facilities, the need to open the water route into Antwerp had become acute."

    Boulogne, Calais and Dieppe were all extensively damaged. Dunkirk was masked and never captured. I have seen little written about how reliant the overall military operational planning was regarding a functioning port. The fact that Antwerp could have been fully operational in advance of the channel ports should have made it an even bigger prize. The Canadian were still occupied in Calais on September 30th.

    Following the costly two month battle for the Scheldt, the first Allied convoy did not arrive in the port of Antwerp until November 28th. 2.4 million tons of supplies could have been landed during that interval with intact facilities. The chronic shortages of supplies, replacements, petrol and ammunition, which continually hampered Allied operations, would have been non-existent.
    Chris C likes this.
  14. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    I have read that the Commonwealth were able to meet their supply needs via the Chanel Ports and Antwerp was needed to supply the US Army.
    The chronic shortage were 'biting' in the US Army long before Antwerp. Both tanks and ammunition were in very short supply and that had nothing at all to do with unloading facilities. Even if they had 20 Antwerps functioning they could not have improved those issues until 1945.
    The UK even transferred 350 Shermans to the USA in December 1944 without suffering any lessening of her own supply requirements. Sure Antwerp was a bonus but it only became a problem after the CHASTITY port was abandoned because the rapid advance was too good a chance to forsake to stop and build a port in Quiberon Bay. Likewise MG. The chance presented was too good to pass up. It failed but that does not mean it was any less of a gamble than the US decision to strike east into central France rather than invest and capture the Atlantic Ports.
  15. smdarby

    smdarby Patron Patron

    "Additionally, I've never understood how cutting off 15th Army would have helped clear the approaches to Antwerp?"

    This is a very good point and the answer is it wouldn't. As Canuck himself points out, the garrison at Dunkirk held out until the end of the war. The same would probably have happened with Walcheren and the Beveland peninsula if 15th Army had been trapped there, meaning the port of Antwerp might never have been opened up.

    The main benefit of trapping 15th Army was that Market Garden would have been easier, since units from 15th Army would not have been able to oppose the advance into Netherlands. But there would still have been the logistical problem of not having a large deepwater port where sufficient supplies could be landed to support the advance into Germany.
    stolpi likes this.
  16. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    "The open window of opportunity to seize a bridgehead over the Albert Canal, against light opposition, at Antwerp existed for only 2-3 days."

    That is an interesting statement - although the window was not "open" and opposition was not "light" as demonstrated by the experience of the KSLI when they attempted to seize a bridgehead over the ALBERT CANAL at Antwerp on 5 September 1944

    See their war diary (WO171/1326):

    5 September 1944
    0700 The plan for the final clearing of the city [Appx D6], was for the 3 MONS and 1 HEREFORDs to clear the dock areas along the perimeter, and for 4 KSLI to push outwards from the centre. C Company was sent off, accordingly, to capture the
    1200 bridge over the ALBERT CANAL to MERXEM. They came under very heavy fire indeed from across the canal and, as they advanced, supported by tanks, the bridge was blown. The remainder of the Bn had little to do during the day, except for the rounding up of further prisoners. As the barracks was filled with these, the WHITE BRIGADE took the remainder to the city zoo. It was a good sight to see the animal cages filled with dishevelled Boche and collaborators. Orders came through in the
    2000 evening, that the Bn was to cross the canal and establish a bridgehead. There was little time for preparation and only a few assault boats were available. D Company
    2300 [“Not D – probably B – U.T.” annotated in pencil] endeavoured to cross first, but was pinned down by very heavy fire and could make no progress. A Company, however, found a crossing place, and was followed by C & B Coys. The crossing was unobserved by the enemy and a small bridgehead was established by first light.

    Clearly that also deals with your suggestion that "There were no orders to push across the Albert Canal".

    Also, Horrocks may well have written that "had he known Antwerp was useless without control of the approaches, he could have sent 11 Armored Division 15 miles northwest and cut off the Beveland Isthmus, thus cutting off the retreating Germans of 15th Army, but that would not have provided "control of the approaches" would it?

    And finally:

    "Following the costly two month battle for the Scheldt, the first Allied convoy did not arrive in the port of Antwerp until November 28th. 2.4 million tons of supplies could have been landed during that interval with intact facilities. The chronic shortages of supplies, replacements, petrol and ammunition, which continually hampered Allied operations, would have been non-existent."

    So according to your understanding, if Eisenhower had ordered 21 Army Group on say 4 Sep 44 to concentrate all efforts on capturing the city and port of Antwerp and then clearing the approaches to the city, on what date are you predicting that the ground defences would have been cleared, the sea mines cleared from the estuary and the port facilities got up and running. Obviously, even this would not have meant any supplies reaching the front line as the transportation infrastructure in Belgium and the south Netherlands was pretty badly battered before it was captured. In reality, as soon as the supplies began flowing into Antwerp, clearance forward became a major problem and the rate of unloading actually had to be slowed down.

    Frankly, you are repeating one of the greatest misconceptions of the whole war.


  17. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    #1 In late Aug 1944 no one knew whether German resistance would collapse at the German border, as it did in 1918.

    #2 The Allies knew that the Germans had a SSBM - the V2, capable of hitting London from the Netherlands. No one knew in advance how effective this unstoppable missile would be or what impact it would have on the British public.

    #3 The allies over estimated the effectiveness of their air forces in inflicting casualties on the retreating German armies.

    We can all pick the winners with hindsight.
  18. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    The inescapable fact is that the Allied supply levels were completely unsatisfactory UNTIL Antwerp was in operation. Despite logistical issues at Antwerp, are you stating that that the 450 mile supply route back to Normandy was preferable? In fact, Marseilles, a full 650 miles away, was the highest tonnage port until Antwerp became fully operational. In the last 3 months of 1944, fully one third of all Allied supplies came ashore in southern France. One important effect of that long supply chain was a chronic shortage of transport and why so many Allied divisions became static due to lack of fuel and supplies. The proximity to the front was almost as important as the port itself.
    The clearance issue you mention was exceptionally short lived and was mostly due initially to a shortage of rail cars and then the impacts of the Battle of the Bulge, where cargo was intentionally not shipped to forward depots in Liege and Luxembourg City. That was a situation confined to late November and early December. The V1 and V2 attacks were a bigger impediment to port clearance rates but still, the average discharge for Antwerp the month of December was 73%. In January the average rose to 92%. Only after Antwerp were the Allies able to sustain replenishment levels and actually achieve a surplus position.
    Neither the Ardennes offensive or the V weapon attacks were predictable in any event so would have had no prior influence on the priority decisions for Antwerp.
  19. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Could you explain this

    "The inescapable fact is that the Allied supply levels were completely unsatisfactory UNTIL Antwerp was in operation." I'm not sure I understand what you mean to be honest.

    So if there was a shortage of 'rail cars' in November and December, would that have been better in October? What about the actual rail lines and bridges across Belgium and the Southern end of the Netherlands.

    And we shouldn't forget that, fortunately, the rail system in France was reinstated relatively quickly.

    If we are going to debate this Antwerp thing, would it be better to stick to one thread?

  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron


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