Operation Market Garden, Arnhem, and Montgomery's Role

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by nadend, Sep 24, 2014.

  1. nadend

    nadend Member


    As you probably know, Field Martial Bernard L. Montgomery proposed a plan to seize several bridges from a point near the Belgium-Holland border to Arnhem in September 1944. He suggested that units of the First Allied Airborne Army be deployed to seize and hold the bridges for a few days until relieved by XXX (30th) Corps advancing north from the border. Montgomery was one of the few who had access to Ultra, i.e. information gained by the breaking the German codes. In other words, he knew
    there was 2 SS Panzer (armoured) Divisions refitting at Arnhem. As we now know, the British and Polish airborne forces deployed at Arnhem suffered over 8,000 casualties, not to mention the casualties of the RAF, USAF and other units. The Netherlanders too suffered grievously due failure of Arnhem.

    Could Montgomery have stopped this operation?

    The First Allied Airborne Army was formed 2 August 1944, commanded by Lieutenant-General Lewis Brereton, USAF. He reported directly to the Supreme Commander Allied (Expeditionary) Force, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Montgomery, commander of the 21st Army Group, also reported to Eisenhower. This army group included XXX Corps. The units at greatest risk during 'Market Garden' were the airborne 'Market' forces not under Montgomery's command. The 'Garden' forces were thought to be at relatively low risk before they set off down the 'Hell's Highway' to Arnhem.

    However, should Montgomery still have used his influence to stop this operation?

    Having proposed the plan, Montgomery was in an embarrassing position, and his personal relationship with Eisenhower (and others) was poor.

    I welcome your opinion, as I am no expert on all things military.

    Thanks in anticipation

  2. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I must welcome you to the Forum - and agree with you that you are no expert on all things military - now we on this forum for more
    than two minutes might agree with me that I am sick and tired of hearing about how Monty made a mess of the battle- AFTER the plan

    was OK'd by his superior commander Ike- and also agreed by the Air force Commander Brereton who did not like Monty from their early

    days in the desert…..now I wasn't there any more than you were but - like you I have read about this battle extensively and it is

    always coming up on the forum with Monty being the bad guy - forgetting that others share the blame - BUT - the Commander was

    Eisenhower..who promised Monty 100% of all supplies….and didn't ..!

    stolpi likes this.
  3. L J

    L J Senior Member

    The plan was approved by Eisenhower(and BTW,most of the airborne units were US) and failed because the Germans were stronger than assumed : the famous window of opportunity was already closed .

    All the rest is the usual Monty bashing and the search for scape-goats .

    If one wants to blame somebody : blame the Germans .
    arnhem44 likes this.
  4. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Montgomery had been directed by Eisenhower to capture the Ruhr. They both agreed that this was the most important objective at this time, and Montgomery sought reinforcement (in both troops and logisitics) for both the 21 Army Group and the 12 Army Group elements that were directed at the Ruhr at this stage. The airborne force were hanging around in UK waiting for a mission ("pennies burning holes in SHAEF's pockets" as one US historian put it) and were assigned to support him by Eisenhower. It is, therefore, not surprising that Montgomery decided to use the airborne forces.

    Montgomery, amongst all Allied commanders at this point, underestimated the extent to which the Germans were reforming and also the extent to which the forces moving up from within Germany (although in the main not in formed units) would be able to influence events on the ground, however, you say that:

    "In other words, he knew there was 2 SS Panzer (armoured) Divisions refitting at Arnhem."

    Except there weren't two SS Panzer Divisions refitting at Arnhem.

    There is a lot of trash written about Market Garden; some of it is undoubtedly "Monty bashing" and the common theme that "failure is an orphan".

    A careful (in fact, just a cursory!) study of history shows that most military operations fail to achieve complete success, or succeed in ways that are unexpected. Market Garden is just another one in an every-expanding line of such operations, no more and no less. Have a look at the American operations that happened concurrently with Market Garden and through the autumn of 1944, to see my point.

    BTW there are about a million and one posts and threads on Market Garden on this forum (and most other military history forums!) - many of which ask the same questions as you posed. Its always good to hear from a new member though, so please post away... :biggrin:


  5. nadend

    nadend Member

    Hi Tom C.,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I'm aware that we have to judge things in context, i.e. what was known, or what we think was known at the time. I try not to judge things using facts which have emerged after the event.

    I'm not sure if Montgomery was a bad guy or not in respect of the Arnhem defeat. I was hoping to determine whether or not Montgomery was in a position to cancel the operation, or to even influence such a decision. He may well have been intruding on another commander's sphere of responsibility. I believe Montgomery's name was seldom mentioned in various histories for many years which has given rise to much suspicion. It appears Montgomery became merely a participant, supplying units from 21st Army Group. As the operation involved both UK and US forces, the two commanders who maybe should have cancelled the operation, was Eisenhower and/or Brereton (both seldom mentioned in connection with Arnhem).

    Given that Market Garden cost 1000's of lives, I feel we all owe it to them to determine the truth, and if blame has to be apportioned, then it should be apportioned justly. You may be 'sick and tired' of the subject, but there are a few thousand who can't be, all those who died.

    We should not only remember all those who died, but we should also endeavour to ensure they did not die in vain. We should recognise and learn from any mistakes made, bureaucratic or otherwise, in order to save the lives of today's and future combatants.

  6. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    No use lecturing me on how to remember the dead as I was involved in two bigger battles namely MONTECASSINO of which you have no
    doubt heard with it's losses of thousands, and the GOTHIC LINE which few have heard of in which 8th Army lost 14,000 - killed in

    action but then it took a month to lose that many - and we had a Commander at Cassino who boasted that he had 2000 Tanks of

    which he could afford to lose 50% - which gave us Tankcrews a great feeling as he only lost 800 Tanks - many more were lost at

    the Gothic before he was sent off to annoy the 14th Army- great Corps Commander but no Army Commander…

  7. nadend

    nadend Member

    HI Tom C.,

    I know a little about Monte Cassino. I lost an uncle there who I never knew. I have accompanied my mother twice to visit her brother's grave at Minturno War Cemetery near the coast.

    A friend of the family now deceased, who was also serving with the Cheshire's, told my mother how Harry Wynne died. All my mother can now remember was that he was wounded in the mountains, and had to be carried down to a village for medical attention, losing a lot of blood on the way down. It was too late, he died in that village on 15th February 1944.

  8. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    here we go again, another chance to rubbish Monty.... I went on the market garden operation."The seven Bridges to Arnhem" And did the bloody inferno of the Escaut canal crossing, at one in the morning. We got cut off, had no food, except what we captured off the enemy No cigarettes, nothing And men gave their lives in the long chase to Arnhem. Films do terrible damage, when history is written, for that is where the people think the truth comes from..... I read and listen to a complete load of rubbish about that operation.When in fact it was a fantastic drive. All six bridges were taken, only the 7th evaded us.

    Was it right to go for it? Too damned right it was. If Arnhem had fallen the Northern plains of Germany lay open to our armour, and our rocket firing typhoons. We would have been in Berlin before anyone The war would have been shortened, and many more young lives would have been saved. Had Arnhem fallen we would have put a stop to the rockets that were fired every night towards home. No matter what the odds were that chance had to be taken. IT was the golden prize that beckoned. had it succeeded the post war state of affairs would have been completely different. IT is the outlook of the critics that think because we came up against a difficult area of battle, we should stop fighting... You dont win wars sitting on your backside.... I lost good friends, and a lot of them, in that desperate drive North. And Holland took a terrible toll out of me shortly after.

    Hi Tom. Keep well mate the Saintly one sends her love..... B
  9. nadend

    nadend Member

    Hi Tom O.,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Although I largely agree with your reply, I thought Market Garden was Montgomery's idea which was subsequently approved by Eisenhower. Also that the agreed plan was to advance only as far as Arnhem and to create a bridgehead there. As far as I am aware, the next step wasn't agreed, possibly to appease US General George Patton. But no doubt, the next step must have been discussed, as you suggest, into the Ruhr. Please let me know if this is incorrect.

    It can be said there was only one SS Panzer Division at Arnhem, the 9th. The 10th was quickly sent to Nijmegen. At least that's what I think was the situation. I suspect neither division was at full strength, but it transpired that they were strong enough. Again, please let me know if this is incorrect.

    My main interest in Arnhem is Staff Serjeant John Ernest Peat Naden, Glider Pilot Regiment, 2nd Wing, probably F Squadron, 16 Flight, Chalk Number 174. He is believed to have died between 24-26 September 1944 at Arnhem and is buried at Oosterbeek War Cemetery. Other sources suggest he served in E Squadron which I currently suspect is incorrect. On the 24th, the remnants of E and F Squadron was defending the north-west perimeter of Oosterbeek. On that day, the Germans attacked their sector with self-propelled guns and flame-throwing tanks (hence my interest in the SS Panzer Divisions). The pilots was forced back out of the woods into the houses on the periphery of Oosterbeek in the vicinity of Oranjeweg. Several pilots was killed in action, including two pilots burned to death. I hope John's death was quick and far less horrific.

  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Out of curiosity to something the OP posted. Does anyone know the amount of 'Allied Casualties Killed' were suffered by the ground forces (Garden) and the airborne forces(Market).
  11. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  12. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  13. nadend

    nadend Member

    Hi CL1,

    Having spent the last couple of hours reading the first 60 posts of the first topic (your post #11 above), I have no doubt that Montgomery was highly respected by those who served under him, and by the majority of other members of the forum.

    The reason I raised this topic was that a few days ago I returned from a battlefield tour to Arnhem. The Tour Guide was scathing of Montgomery and Lieutenant-General F. Browning, claiming they had blood on their hands. He was very much a disciple of William Buckingham, who wrote the book 'Arnhem 1944'. I always thought Montgomery was an accomplished General until I read that same book a couple of years ago. I was aware that Montgomery was the chief architect of the D-day landings, or so I still believe. As another tour guide said to me, 'the British provide the brains, and the American's provided the brawn'. Although a generalisation, there maybe some truth in this statement, and that Montgomery was one of those with the brains. At the time, I thought Buckingham's book was a scathing attack on several commanders, and somewhat vitriolic. Even so, it did cause me to question Montgomery's reputation. Hence I raised this topic to get the views of others.

  14. steelers708

    steelers708 Junior Member

    The 9th SS Pz division 'Hohenstaufen' and 10th SS Pz division 'Frundsberg' had an authorized personnel strength of 19,855 officers and men plus 1055 Hiwi, by the 17th September those remnants of the 9th SS Pz division that were still located in the Arnhem area numbered less than 3,000 men whilst the 10th SS numbered between 6,000 and 7,000.

    If you want more detailed info I can dig it out from my files etc.
  15. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Hello Dave

    The reason for the post is that as you can see this has been on the bubble for a long while and your question has renewed the subject.

    As you can see from replies there are many different opinions/thoughts.
    Glad you raised the subject.

  16. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    What was the tour company you went with & who was the guide ?
  17. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Look out - he now has TWO tour guides who are rubbishing both Monty and Boy Browning - next it will be someone else…

    and tell him I also know where Minturno is near the sea - and the name of that sea…

  18. arnhem44

    arnhem44 Member

    Don't go that path...we don't want a riot on the guide , do we ?
    Let's keep the blaming and shaming on the people who are no more (*sarcasm*). :D

    But a penny thought from me; why is it that during the MG operation (17-25 sept+ etc.) , you don't see/read/hear about any involvement/influence of Monty.
    Surely, one way of dealing with misgivings and setbacks is that an overall commander is actively involved and steps up there and when it is needed, and has the authority to move and change things/supplies/directives.
    Horrocks (on ground), Browning(far away from his para army), Gavin (locally too busy), etc. all were too occupied with their local problems.
    Where was Monty ?
    stolpi likes this.
  19. L J

    L J Senior Member

    Eisenhower to Montgomery (20 september) :The envelopment of the Ruhr from the North by 21 AG supported by 1st Army is the main effort of the present phase of operation Market Garden .
  20. L J

    L J Senior Member

    Where was Monty ?

    In his HQ,far away, without any possibility to interfere decisively in the execution .

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