1st Airborne vs 6th Airborne

Discussion in 'Airborne' started by markdeml, Dec 1, 2013.

  1. markdeml

    markdeml Member

    Hello, sorry if this is the wrong place to ask this but something that has always intrigued me; why did 1st Airborne have such little success compared to the 6th? It could be argued 1st Airborne Division did not have a single successful operation during the entire war, whereas almost all operations undertaken by the 6th were a success.
  2. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    You must be reading the wrong books - the 1st Airborne were involved in North Africa 1942 - Sicily and Italy 1943- long before 6th Airborne were dropped on their first operation at D Day in

    1944 - the 1st Airborne were damn near massacred at Ahrnem - though no fault of their own….and it could also be argued that the experiences of the 1st were passed onto the 6th for their two


    The operation for the invasion of Sicily was particularly tragic inasmuch as they were carried from North Africa - shot at by the Royal Navy - who didn't know who they were - were dropped

    too early by inexperienced US pilots - drowning nearly 300 paras but the survivors fought with distinction on Sicily - ask anyone of 50th Division at the bridge...

  3. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    1st Airborne were originally ear-marked for a drop early in the Normandy Campaign that with hindsight could also have turned into a bloodbath through no fault of their own.
  4. DPas

    DPas Member

    It is probably not fair to compare the 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions. They were involved in very different operations. Each of these were considerably different in terms of planning, timing, the support and relief they had from other elements of the allied forces and the opposition they faced.

    Suggest you read about each of these operations and see for yourself what went right and what went wrong with each. Had the 6th been involved in the operations that the 1st ended up involved in, they would not have gone any better.

    For example, had it been the 6th Airborne who went to Arnhem, they still would have landed/dropped too far from their objective, they would not have been any better armed and therefore would not have been any stronger against the armour they encountered, the 101st would still not have been able to capture the bridge at Son, the 82nd would not have done any better at Nijmegen and the expectation that XXX Corps would be able to reach Arnhem within 48 hours would still have been unrealistic. In short, despite the best efforts of those involved in both Market and Garden, the plan was flawed. (This is an over-simplification but you get the idea!)

    Also keep in mind that many of the operations that were planned were later cancelled. As Mark rightly pointed out, some of these would have ended up with disastrous results.
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Questions have been asked about the relative performance of 1st AB Doivision in Arnhem and the 6th AB in Normandy, the Ardennnes and the Rhine crossing. Several commentators have criticized the performance of the 1st AB Division at Arnhem on several grounds..
    1. Acquiescence in a poorly thought through plan.. The formation;s commanders agreed to take part in a badly flawed plan.
    2. Sloppy staff-work, including an inadequate comms plan given the known limitations of the radio sets.and a lack of liaison with the Dutch.
    3. Lack of initiative on the ground - apart from Frost. e.g. failure to notice and secure the the Driel ferry, failure to take advantage of the Dutch telephone system, lack of urgency,
    4. Poor tactics and low level leadership. E.G the attack by 1 & 3 para on 17th was down the line of a single road and seems to have been easily halted by the Germans, with little apparent effort to outflank and infiltrate what was a fairly sparse line of German defenders..
    These are not cricitisms that have been leveled at 6th AB in any of its operations in NW Europe.

    Part of the problems may have occurred because of the overconfident attitude in which Op Market Garden was planned and executed. This operation was one of many planned for 1 Ab Div in Summer 1944, the other dozen all cancelled at the last minute. People seem to have been keen to take part in what might have been the last major operation of the war against a rapidly collapsing enemy.

    1st AB division was comprised of two brigades which had been rebuilt after suffering very heavy casualties in sicily and two brigades largely untried. (4th and Polish). The constant preparation for subsequently cancelled operations may have disrupted work up training and left the soldiers stale . The divisional commander at Arnhem was new to airborne operations and had the misfortune of being cut off with one of the brgade commanders for days.

    The British Army was not great at fighting improvised battles. The Germans kampfgruppe were seen as a way to integrate all arms. British improvised all arms forces carried with them a stigma of muddle and confusion linksed to fiascos in Norway, Greece and Crete,.

    By contrast the 6th AB Division were best known for their participation in carefully planned and rehearsed set piece assaults on the D day Coast and across the Rhine. These were the kinds of operation which brought out the best in the British Army.. .
    stolpi likes this.
  6. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    I am certain that if the actions of the 6th Airborne Division in Normandy had been examined in the same minute detail as those of the 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem many flaws in their performance would also be discovered.

    Sadly many of the failures attributed to the 1st Airborne Division such as their failure to use the Dutch or their telephone system are simply incorrect. People seem to overlook that on the day of Market Garden the Dutch also launched a national railway strike - just how was that planned and achieved without liaison with trusted workers in that country?
  7. markdeml

    markdeml Member

    I have read one comparative criticism which compared the 6th Airborne's bridge assaults around Normandy to the 1st Airborne's attempts in Sicily and Arnhem. The 6th Airborne used glider troops to land immediately at the bridge, copying a German tactic, whereas the 1st Airborne landed their glider troops too far away, they should have been landed on top of the bridge
  8. markdeml

    markdeml Member


    The 6th Airborne was involved not just set piece assaults but the offensive to the river Seine, which was highly impressive work, they were described as "astonishingly mobile" by one officer who served in Normandy
  9. markdeml

    markdeml Member

    I think the 1st Airborne's lack of urgency to get to the bridge might be explained by the poor intelligence behind the whole operation, which created the culture of overconfidence, they thought they were going to occupy a poorly defended area, they did not expect such a heavy concentration of German forces. They worried too much about the AA in the area, and gave little thought of the German ground forces, which led to the disastrous decision to land too far away from the bridge.
  10. airborne medic

    airborne medic Very Senior Member

    My thoughts for what they are worth....The 6th Airborne Division trained for many months on full size models for Normandy and also the RAF did not object to the dropping and landing zones chosen by the planners for Normandy....
  11. markdeml

    markdeml Member

    I think the leadership of Richard Gale was a major part in the success of 6th Airborne, he emphasised mobility, infiltration and independent thought in the division's tactics
  12. airborne medic

    airborne medic Very Senior Member

    He had been in the airborne world of course for a bit longer than the other div commander in 1944.....
  13. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    Interesting that Robert Kershaw, in his excellent book on the German side of 'Market Garden': 'It Never Snows in September' concludes that a glider coup de main on the Arnhem Bridge would not have been decisive.
  14. markdeml

    markdeml Member

    I think Urquhart was promoted above his competence. He was an infantry officer first and foremost and should have remained so, not capable of commanding a division...
  15. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    I think Urquhart was promoted above his competence. He was an infantry officer first and foremost and should have remained so, not capable of commanding a division...

    Surely others with far better knowledge and understanding didn't share your opinion. If they had he wouldn't have been appointed GOC of 16th Airborne Division

  16. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    1st Airborne v 6th Airborne

    That would have been on heck of a punch up .
    :box2: v :box2: = :icon_smile_blackeye :icon_smile_blackeye :icon_smile_blackeye :icon_smile_blackeye :icon_smile_blackeye

    Need a few MPs to clear that mess up & a few ambulances.
    Paul Reed likes this.
  17. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    Exercise Mush!!
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Ha...That's what I was

    Ha ! That's what I was thinking when I read the title. Can't believe I've just posted in ANOTHER Airborne thread again. I'm off to beat myself with a stick.
  19. Pompey Pal

    Pompey Pal Member

    Your criticism of 1st Airborne is misplaced in suggesting that They worried too much about the AA and were responsible for the decision to land too far away from the bridge. As with all the airborne operations in WW2 the responsibility for the flight plans and choice of landing zones lay with the RAF. 1st Airborne had an option to take it or leave it. Given their desperate need to get in to action after so many cancelled ops, they took it.
    Airborne Medics observation holds the key. One operation was carefully planned over 9 months while the other was made over a week or so.
  20. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    I note that you are still reading the wrong books - Urghuart was sufficiently competent for Monty to invite him and his 231 Infantry brigade to join 8th Army in Sicily where he was proven to be sufficiently competent for Monty - again to recommend him for a Division in Monty's 2nd Army - along with his corps commander Dempsey for 2nd Army Commander - and O'Conner from captivity for 8th Corps - and Ritchie - so called failed 8th army Commander at Gazala to be commander X11 Corps…..Monty always knew what he was doing and that is why he fired so many when he took over in the desert - including four corps commanders replacing them with Leese - Horrocks - "PIP" Roberts and the Artillery chap….all in all not a bad choice among them…you really should read about O'Conner at Beda Fomm …you don't wipeout a large Army with a dozen Tanks unless you know what you are doing...


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