Saturday, August 2, 2014

70th Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem – The Original Operation Order

For those who are familiar with the Battle of Arnhem, 17-25 September 1944, also known as Operation “Market Garden”, the realization occurs that in a few weeks the 70th Anniversary of the battle will be commemorated.

On 22 February 1972 the IRA detonated a bomb outside the Officer’s Mess of 16 Parachute Brigade at Aldershot, Hants., then headquarters and depot of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces. There was extensive damage and civilian staff casualties (6 killed), as well as an Army Chaplain, Father Gerry Watson MBE, ironically a Roman Catholic Priest. What was not widely known at the time of the explosion was that in one of the upper stories of the building were stored the entire historical records and archives of The Parachute Regiment. Fortunately there was only minimal damage to all of this original source documentation.

Realizing the continuing threat, action was immediately initiated to produce a duplicate set of records, which would be kept separately from the originals. As part of that herculean effort, MAJ Robert J. Bragg, (Rtd.), 13 Para Bn (TA), volunteered to assist with the portion of the records pertaining to Operation “Market Garden”, in return for being able to retain for himself, additional copies of significant documentation.

One of those documents was Copy 37 (War Diary copy) of the original first issue of the operation order for OPERATION “MARKET”, the airborne element, issued by Lieut-General F. A. M. Browning on 13 September 1944.  For even this part of the operation, as large and complex as it was, you would think that even the initial operation order would be more extensive. As you will see it amounted to a mere 11 pages.

I thought it would be an appropriate contribution to the anniversary, to share with readers of this blog a facsimile of that original operation order.  It suffices to say, that it was followed in short order by numerous annexes and revisions.

The following photograph, with full acknowledgement and credit to the Sunday Telegraph Magazine and photographer Thom Atkinson, is a comprehensive lay-out of the kit of a British Paratrooper at Arnhem, which may be of interest to readers. The only significant items noted missing are a Grenade, No. 82 (Gammon Bomb) and Grenade, No. 77. For a more complete inventory of British Airborne infantry weapons at Arnhem, please see;

1944 Lance-Corporal, Parachute Regiment, Battle of Arnhem

1 Parachute harness with parachute (Static/X-chute)
2 Jump smock (Denison) camouflage first issued in 1942 (the pattern was only replaced in 1980) and over smock worn when jumping
3 Toggle rope – general purpose rope
4 37 pattern battledress jacket; the patches on sleeve are for the 1st or 6th airborne division; wrist watch on the right sleeve; dog tags on the left sleeve
6 Braces
7 Gators
8 Socks
9 Standard British army issued ammunition boots
10 Gloves
11 Leather wallet
12 Camouflage scarf
13 Battledress trousers, colourless shirt, undervest and underpants
14 Aluminium mess tin, mug, water bottle and ration kit including tin of corn beef, boiled sweets and a large block of chocolate
15 Drop bag with rope attached
16 Shovel – kept in the drop bag
17 Cutlery, basic washing and shaving kit, and spare boot laces on a wash towel
18 Entrenching tool – for digging shell scrapings ("foxhole")
19 Handle for the entrenching tool
20 Ammunition pouches
21 Belt and cross straps
22 Machine carbine, Sten Mark V  (9mm submachine gun) was first issued in 1944 and given first to airborne troops. It was first used for D-Day, and then again for Arnhem. Underneath is the cleaning kit and pocket loading tool for magazine
23 Bayonet, No. 4 Mk I
24 Bayonet scabbard
25 Sten magazine
26 Airlanding Bandolier with seven Sten magazines
27 Cigarettes, matches and playing cards
28 Gas mask bag
29 Two grenades – the No 36 Mills grenade was used in the First World War and the No 69 Bakelite, which was in service from 1942, and caused less collateral damage
30 Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife – used as a general tool – and it’s scabbard 
31 Large roll gas cape
32 Gas mask – the light pack gas mask was issued from 1943-1960
33 Anti gas ointment
34 Anti gas hood
35 Eye shield for gas attack
36 Groundsheet (underneath) with a sewing kit ("Housewife") and thimble on top
37 Maroon (Red) airborne forces beret with a parachute regiment cap badge
38 Torch
39 First aid dressing
40 Helmet – Mark II parachuting helmet issued in 1942 with a leather chin strap

For those who might be interested the following is The Band of the Parachute Regiment playing the theme from the movie A Bridge Too Far: