By September 1944, most of France and much of Belgium had been liberated from German occupation. However, fearing that an orthodox campaign to roll back the German army further would take many months and cost many lives, Field Marshal Montgomery decided that a pencil-thrust north through the Netherlands and subsequently east into the Ruhr, around the back of the heavily fortified Siegfried Line, offered a good chance of ending the war early. To speed the advance of his land armies, Montgomery needed to cross several major rivers and canals in a corridor of territory stretching from Eindhoven, just north of the front, to Arnhem. The plan, codenamed Operation Market Garden, was to parachute three Airborne Divisions behind enemy lines, each responsible for taking and holding particular bridgeheads until the main army could force their way north to join them. On Sunday, September 17, the 1st British Airborne Division parachuted into the fields around Oosterbeek, their principal objective being to seize the bridges over the Rhine at neighbouring Arnhem. Meanwhile, the 101st American Airborne Division was dropped in the area of Veghel to secure the Wilhelmina and Zuid-Willemsvaart canals, while the 82nd Division was dropped around Grave and Nijmegen, for the crossings over the Maas and the Waal.

The Americans were successful, and by the night of September 20, sections of the British army had reached the American bridgehead across the River Waal at Nijmegen. But the landings around Arnhem ran into serious problems: Allied Command had estimated that opposition was unlikely to exceed three thousand troops, but, as it turned out, the entire 2nd SS Panzer Corps was refitting near Arnhem just when the 1st Division landed. Taking the enemy by surprise, 2nd Parachute Battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel John Frost, did manage to capture the north end of the road bridge across the Rhine, but it proved impossible to capture the southern end. Surrounded, outgunned and outmanned, the 2nd Battalion held their position from September 17th to the morning of the 21st, a feat of extraordinary courage and determination. Meanwhile, other British and Polish battalions had concentrated around the bridgehead at Oosterbeek, which they held at tremendous cost under the command of General Urquhart. By the morning of the 25th it was apparent that reinforcements in sufficient numbers would not be able to get through in support, so under cover of darkness, a dramatic and supremely well-executed withdrawal saved 2163 soldiers out of an original force of 10,005. There has been controversy about the plan ever since, with many arguing that it was poorly conceived, while others claim that it might have worked but for a series of military mishaps.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Netherlands features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Amsterdam

An expert's guide: the best area to stay in Amsterdam

Almost 50 years after John Lennon and Yoko Ono promoted world peace from room 702 of the Hilton, Amsterdam’s hotels are more worthy of the spotlight than ev…

26 Apr 2018 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
Leeuwarden: the coolest Dutch city you’ve never heard of

Leeuwarden: the coolest Dutch city you’ve never heard of

By nature of its design, there is something immutable about Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland in the Netherlands’ northwesternmost province. Hemmed in by h…

20 Feb 2018 • Mike MacEacheran insert_drive_file Article
7 Dutch cities to explore beyond Amsterdam

7 Dutch cities to explore beyond Amsterdam

Amsterdam — with its museums, gabled Golden Age houses and network of historic canals — is a sure bet for a weekend break. But it's not all the Netherlands…

20 Feb 2018 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs