Air Battle for Arnhem
By Alan W Cooper
Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
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The battle of Arnhem which occurred during the latter part of the Second World War is infamously known as a battle that went wrong for the Allies. It was dubbed “A Bridge too Far” and Allied airborne troops paid a very heavy price. The British contingent had to be famously rescued from Arnhem. If this operation had gone to plan and been successful it could have shortened the war.
The battle of Arnhem is very famous and the operation to take the bridges at Arnhem was given the code name “Operation Market Garden”. The code word “Market” was for the airborne side of the operation and “Garden” for the land based operation. A significant and key failure was the communication between the ground and the air supply forces. This issue was a major factor in why the battle went wrong for the British.
The respected author acknowledges the bravery of the air crew and other personnel involved in the battle. He describes how their bravery was central to the operation. It took a period of seven days for the RAF to deliver the troops of the 1st Airborne Division in towed gliders to the “battlefields”. After delivering these outstandingly brave men, the RAF then had the problem of re-supplying them with all their essential and critical supplies. This in itself was no easy feat but enemy action made this difficult job even harder.
The costs to the airborne side of the operation were huge. Over three-hundred aircrew and about eighty Air Dispatchers were killed. In addition to personnel losses, over one-hundred aircraft were shot down. This excludes losses due to accidents and damage. The heroism of the men involved cannot be underestimated and men were awarded the UK’s highest medal for gallantry in the face of the enemy namely, the Victoria Cross.
This volume records the efforts of the RAF personnel from Transport Command who participated in the operation. Also considered are the Air Dispatchers who played a vital role in the re-supply effort. This book is their story. After an introductory chapter Operation Comet is described and then the role of 46 and 38 Groups. Then treatment of Operation “Market” is given on a virtually day-by-day basis. After this “diary of events” the author presents a post-mortem of the operation and a review of the battle’s outcome. There are some useful Appendixes on awards to the RAF for the Battle of Arnhem and RAF losses during the battle.
Given the author’s expert treatment of this material one can confidently say that this work is going to be the leading book on the role of RAF Transport Command during the Battle of Arnhem. His work is exceptional and very thorough.