Paratroops drop from Dakota aircraft over the outskirts of Arnhem during Operation 'Market Garden',

Paratroops drop from Dakota aircraft over the outskirts of Arnhem during Operation ‘Market Garden’,

A German infantry battalion on alert as they search the suburbs of Arnhem for Allied troops.

A German infantry battalion on alert as they search the suburbs of Arnhem for Allied troops.

Operation Market Garden was already a much worse battle than expected. Although the men of the Parachute Regiment had captured the centre of Arnhem they faced much stronger German resistance than anticipated. Two German Panzer Divisions had been regrouping nearby and they were formidable opposition for the relatively lightly armoured paratroopers.

Twenty year old Len Moss of the 11th Parachute Batallion, 4th Parachute Brigade was part of the second wave of reinforcements to arrive by parachute on the second day. They were expected … by the Germans, who had already captured maps with the drop zones marked out. His experiences were later recorded by his son, who wrote a detailed account of the whole battle from his father’s perspective:

Somehow, he managed to untangle the lines and get the parachute canopy deployed, just in time, but…

…he landed very awkwardly, stiff legged on the ground.

That really, really hurt!

Paratroopers were landing all around. It was chaos as heavy machine gun fire raked the area from concealed German positions in the woods. Men were being hit, wounded, killed.

Gunfire exploded nearby, ripping into the ground, throwing up puffs of dirt. The air was alive with flying lead.

The wind caught Moss’ parachute and took it while he was trying to struggle up and release himself. He was thrown off balance.

His leg was weighed down by the heavy pack — he was suddenly being pulled in two directions at once as bullets tore through the canopy material.

Bill Kent landed nearby…in an awkward heap.

Moss called for help but Kent had his own problems. Kent was trying to get up. Engulfed in his parachute like a ghost, he flapped around as the material had holes ripped in it by stray bullets.

In desperation, Moss hit the upper body release buckle on his parachute harness. This was the wrong way to do it, but who cares?

From a nearby copse, a German Spandau MG41 machine gun unloaded. Belt fed.1600 rounds per minute. It sounds like tearing paper and cuts neat lines through the heather.

Moss wriggled out of the top chute harness and sat up as the heather is cut away in a line behind him. Just inches away. With added incentive he rolled forwards, escaped the rest of the chute and disengaged the heavy pack from his leg.
Moss and Kent ran away as best they could, hauling the heavy equipment bags. Moss was clearly troubled by his leg and back injury.

Smoke and flames billowed up all around them from the landing zone. Mortar shells whooshed overhead and exploded nearby, plus there was heavy enemy machine gun and rifle fire.

The two young Paratroopers scurried past the crashed fuselage of a British Horsa glider which had dug a deep furrow, nose down in the earth. Several dead soldiers lay face down in the heather, killed when they tried to disembark.
Pausing the gather their breath both men doubled up in the foetal position when a huge chunk was cut out of the fuselage by a concentrated burst of machine gun fire.

Hauling the PIAT and ammunition bags, the two men ran in a low semi-crouch, forced to zig-zag because of the numerous mortar and shell holes in the ground. Other men were running with them, veering off on their own paths, disappearing in and out of the smoke.

Under an intense barrage of mortar fire, Moss and Kent took cover in a large shell crater which was still smoking. They looked around. This was no man’s land. Wreckage lay strewn all over the place and men continue to run in all directions. Yellow smoke rises on one side of the heath Drop Zone, near some woods.

Yellow marker smoke from some nearby woods marked their intended destination.

WOODS – GINKEL HEATH DROP ZONE

In the woods soldiers gathered, reforming into ordered groups. Yellow smoke drifted through the woods from the DZ. Distantly they could hear the cough of mortars, chattering machine guns and the occasional explosion of a German 88mm shell.

Already the medics were overworked tending to the wounded whose cries were mournful and desperate. Lieutenant Vickers walked through the woods followed by several paratroopers. He was holding a walkie-talkie tightly to his face and trying unsuccessfully to contact someone but none of the radio sets seemed to work.

Through the trees comes PFC RA Smith, looking as if he’s hot off the Drop Zone. His face is covered in blood — someone elses. During the drop a Para was shredded by shellfire covering Smith with various body parts.

At a briefing the soldiers are told that the 4th Parachute Brigade, has been dropped farthest away from Arnhem. They’re some seven or eight miles away from the in Arnhem. The 11th Battalion been ordered up to re-inforce Col Frost – his 2nd Battalion already in possession of the North end of the Arnhem bridge.
The 11th Paras are ordered along a country road.

Distantly a few farmhouses burn, smoke rising from the ruins. The men can hear explosions and artillery, sporadic mortar fire and the occasional crack of a rifle.

Along the length of the road, Paratroopers from the 4th Parachute Battalion are strung out in a forced marching column. Every so often a Jeep or a truck roars along the road, parting the column of soldiers like a boat’s bow wave.

Moss is lagging behind, clearly having problems keeping up with the pace. He’s still hauling the 33 pound PIAT and bombs and is in agony from his back injury.
After a while the column ahead stops dead, causing a knock on effect that slows the traffic up all the way to the tail. Breathing hard, Moss gratefully accepts the rest, slumping down on the roadside bank.

Some sporadic machine gun fire goes off up ahead and then there’s a distant whistling. Getting louder. It becomes a whoosh.

Everyone takes cover, diving this way and that behind trees, into bushes, down banks.

Louder.

For a split second the wooshing stops and then KERBOOM!

The mortar shell explodes nearby, followed by several more incoming shells. Dirt and smoke are thrown up into the air but, as suddenly as it started, the firing ceases.

Through the falling dirt and choking smoke, A lone soldier can be heard screaming for help. Moss looks up from his hiding place and sees the soldier covered in blood, screaming in agony. A couple of Medics run to his aid.
Slowly, the rest of the soldiers emerge and resume their places in the static column. It’s as if nothing happened.

A Jeep then parts the way, heading back down the road from the head of the column. Sitting in the passenger seat is Lt Vickers. He orders that all the PIATs and bombs to be loaded into the jeep and sent up to the front line as they’re encountering German armour. This suits Moss fine. Moss and Kent load the PIAT and bombs into the back of the vehicle.

(It’s later learned that the jeep full of PIATs and bombs was commandered by a Padre who wanted to attend a funeral. Neither he nor the jeep were heard of again. It’s assumed he was killed and the jeep destroyed, thus depriving the Para’s of greatly needed anti-tank weapons)

Moss and a group of soldiers were ordered to investigate a farmhouse nearby in a field where a German mortar crew have been spotted. They approach the farmhouse which seems deserted. Some chickens cluck and strut near the main farmhouse building. It’s a surreal scene. Eerily quiet.

The troop start to make their way towards the buildings, using whatever cover comes to hand and making ready to offer covering fire should it be needed.
Moss and Kent reach the main farmhouse. He peers around a low wall into the yard.

A German mortar has been set up nearby, sandbagged and camouflaged. It’s quiet. Discarded empty boxes of mortar shells lie nearby.

Moving to the farmhouse doorway. Wooden, old. Moss pushes it open and peers inside. Checking those corners.

The inside of the farmhouse has been wrecked.

Moss and Kent move inside, cautiously.

Glass crunches underfoot. Furniture, broken, smashed. There’s not a whole plate or bowl anywhere.

Sat, in the corner, on a wooden stool is a Dutchman. Middle-aged, he’s balding, dirty and small. He looks up, face stained with tears, eyes red.

He shakes his head as if to ask ‘why?’ and then puts his head into his hands in desperation. His whole life, all he’s worked for, has been destroyed.

Outside they hear some machinegun fire. They run outside and see a Paratrooper emptying the whole magazine from his Sten gun into a leafy tree — branches, twigs and leaves are flying in all directions. The soldier runs out of bullets.
Silence.

Then, a German voice calls out timidly from within the tree.

The branches rustle as a pair of booted German legs swing down. The heel of one of them has been shot off.
A young bespectacled GERMAN SOLDIER, maybe in his late teens, drops down to the ground, face white with fear and his hands up in the air in a gesture of surrender.

Some of the Paratroopers start giggling and joking that Kent couldn’t hit a barn door. Kent just looks at his Sten gun in amazement. The German Soldier starts laughing too and points to his boot, raising it to show that the heel is barely hanging on by a thread.

The Paratroopers lead their German prisoner across the field towards the now moving column of men as they march up the road.

Read the whole of Eight Days In Arnhem at BBC Peoples War

German SS Polizei in position in the woods outside Arnhem ready to repulse Allied Airborne troops. The SS IX and X Panzer Divisions of the II SS Panzer Korps were as Dutch Intelligence had reported, refitting and regrouping to the north and east of Arnhem and proved a formidable opponent despite the surprise of the airborne landings

German SS Polizei in position in the woods outside Arnhem ready to repulse Allied Airborne troops. The SS IX and X Panzer Divisions of the II SS Panzer Korps were as Dutch Intelligence had reported, refitting and regrouping to the north and east of Arnhem and proved a formidable opponent despite the surprise of the airborne landings

German prisoners captured in the suburbs of Arnhem.

German prisoners captured in the suburbs of Arnhem.

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Sep

17

1944

Market Garden: Allied airborne attack into Holland

Men and supplies drop from transport 'planes above Nijmegen.

However, there was no delay, and as we passed their old positions we found two lorries and three motor-cars in various stages of destruction, also an untidy little bunch of dead and wounded Germans. It seemed a pity that the vehicles were now unusable, but there had been no time to arrange a road-block. It was however a very encouraging start. Approximately thirty Germans, including officers among them, and valuable transport, accounted for without loss to ourselves.

Sep

16

1944

Peleliu: US Marines attack towards Bloody Nose Ridge

September 1944 – Shot of the Marines going across the beach and airport on the initial landing.

For me the attack resembled World War I movies, I had seen of suicidal Allied infantry attacks through shell fire on the Westem Front. I clenched my teeth, squeezed my carbine stock, and recited over and over to myself, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me…”

Sep

15

1944

The US Marines hit the beach at Peleliu

As a rocket-firing LCI lays down a barrage on the already obscured beach on Peleliu, a wave of Alligators (LVTs, or Landing Vehicle Tracked) churn toward the defenses of the strategic island September 15, 1944. The amphibious tanks with turret-housed cannons went in in after heavy air and sea bombardment. Army and Marine assault units stormed ashore on Peleliu on September 15, and it was announced that organized resistance was almost entirely ended on September 27. (AP Photo)

It was almost a glorious feeling, roaring in toward he beach with fear gone for the moment. We were in motion with thousands of tons of armed might at our backs; and it seemed that nothing could stop us. We were an old and tried outfit, led by men like Buck and the squad leader, who would know what to do when the time came to do it. As we rolled in on Peleliu, and before we were hit, the excitement took us and we were not afraid of anything. Some men began to chant: “Drive! Drivel!Drive!”

Sep

14

1944

Red Army Poles join the Warsaw Uprising

Armia Krajowa soldiers fighting during the Warsaw Uprising. One man is armed with Błyskawica machine pistol.

We knew for certain that there had been some Germans in a house on a slight rise about 400 metres away, perhaps closer. It was a difficult rifle shot but easily within range of their Maxim. I pointed the house out to him. He crouched behind the gun and started to fire long and, in that confined space, enormously noisy bursts. Whatever his other merits as a machine-gunner, conserving ammunition was not one of them.

Sep

13

1944

“Madeleine” – Noor Inayat Khan executed at Dachau

Noor Inyat Khan was executed at Dachau.

The Gestapo had found her codes and messages and were now in a position to work back to London. They asked her to co-operate, but she refused and gave them no information of any kind. She was imprisoned in one of the cells on the 5th floor of the Gestapo H.Q. and remained there for several weeks during which time she made two unsuccessful attempts at escape. She was asked to sign a declaration that she would make no further attempts but she refused and the Chief of the Gestapo obtained permission from Berlin to send her to Germany for “safe custody”. She was the first agent to be sent to Germany.

Sep

12

1944

USS Sealion sinks Rakuyo Maru – and 1300 PoWs

The Rakuyo Maru was part of Convoy HI-72 and transporting 1317 Australian and British prisoners of war (POWs) from Singapore, when it was torpedoed and sunk in the Luzon Strait by USS Sealion on 12 September 1944. A total of 1159 POWs died as a result of the sinking.

It was now 4am and most of the rafts had drifted close together. A lot of the English POW’s drifted into burning oil and a lot also died after being hit by rafts and hatch covers which were being thrown into the water. The English had been on the starboard side of the Rakuyo Maru. A few men had still not abandoned ship and they found a lifeboat that the Japanese could not launch but which they managed to launch. They also found one terrified Japanese Jig-a-Jig girl still on the ship whom they took with them. Once in the water they met up with a boatload of Japanese and handed the Jig-a-Jig girl over to them.

Sep

11

1944

US troops cross the border into Germany

Two American soldiers look down on a long row of "dragon's teeth" concrete devices to halt invading tanks at the Siegfried Line. American troops move through a break in the vaunted defense line and pass into Germany. 09/15/44.

So, Lieutenant DeLille, Pfc [William] McColligan, the German farmer, and I went into Germany about one and a half miles, where we could get a good view. We studied the pillbox area with our field glasses. None of them seemed manned. We returned to Stolzembourg, where we reported the information [by radio] to Lt. Loren L. Vipond [his platoon commander]

Sep

10

1944

Nazi propaganda keeps the German people in the dark

Germans struggled to understand the war situation from Nazi dominated news media. They were well aware of the widespread destruction  from Allied air raids.

What is happening in the war? This morning Frau Cohn relates: ‘They fetched five women (Aryans, that is) from the Sachsenwerk plant, because they said [the Allies] had already reached Metz, a soldier’s wife denounced them.’ In the afternoon Eva reported from the military bulletin: ‘Engagements by Metz’.

Sep

9

1944

War’s grim reality – in the ‘Divisional Area’, Italy

A patient wounded in the leg is given a blood transfusion in the Operating Theatre of an Advanced Dressing Station while a plaster bandage is applied to his leg.

A few nights later I was conducted through one of the wards, an experience I never wish to repeat. There were twenty or more men in that ward and all were unconscious. Many of the beds were steeply tilted, some bodies suspended on wires in strange positions and connected to tubes. They were all enclosed in white mosquito nets stretching to the ceiling, seemingly caught in ghastly cobweb.