The British 1st Airborne Division under the command of General Roy Urquhart landed on 17 September 1944 near the Dutch villages of Renkum and Wolfheze. The Allied goal was to secure bridges and open a road from Belgium deep into Holland, to Arnhem. From here on they could bypass the Siegfried line, or the Westwall, and plunge into Germany towards Berlin, hoping to end the war before Christmas 1944. They named this action; Operation Market Garden. A combined Paratrooper and Armored operation. During the Battle of Arnhem only a small group of paratroopers succeeded in reaching the Northern side of the Rhine bridge where they dug in. These paratroopers under the command of John Frost withstood numerous the German counterattacks. The men of the 1st Airborne Division desperately tried to get to John Frost group.
Unknown to the British paratrooper was that in September 1944 the 9th SS Panzer division Hohenstaufen and the 10th SS Panzer division Frundsberg were recovering from fighting in France, together with other German units. The Allied assault was a complete surprise to the German forces, on the other hand the strong German forces in the Arnhem region was a huge surprise for the Allied forces as well.
Field Marshal Walter Model first thought the British came for him personally and fled Oosterbeek. After the initial shock the German opposition gained momentum and they made it impossible for the 1st Airborne Division to reach and strengthen John Frost and his men. As time passed by even more German soldiers and panzers came into action, hastily moved in. The German counterattack grew in strength leaving John Frost isolated on the northern end of the Rhine bridge.
The British were pushed back to Oosterbeek leaving the men at the bridge without food, water, medicine and ammunition. After four days John Frost had to surrender to the Germans. The German forces captured mostly wounded British soldier who had fought on with the last spark of their energy. After their surrender the German focus shifted to the Oosterbeek perimeter.
The 1st Polish independent Parachute Brigade landed, as third and last wave of reinforcements, near Wolfheze on the 19th of September, and near Driel on the 21st of September. Their goal was to reinforce the encircled British in Oosterbeek. In the dead of night the Polish soldiers tried to cross the Rhine in 5 rubber boats. Only 36 soldiers reached the British. General -major Stanislaw Sosabowski cancelled the operation. The night of the 23rd and the 24th September they tried again using 14 boats this time. Due to accurate German fire only 121 Polish paratroopers reached their objective. The Germans discovered the plans for Operation Market Garden on the body of a dead soldier a few days before and knew exactly what the Allied were up to. The next night the 25th of September most of the Allied forces around Oosterbeek broke out of their pocket and crossed the Rhine in boats or swimming, which was the end of Operation Market Garden in the Arnhem area.
From 1944 on the British blamed the Polish for the failure of Operation Market Garden. General Sosabowksi was relieved of his command and was dishonourable discharged by request of general Browning. The honour of the 1st Polish independent Parachute Brigade was restored in 2006, 62 years later. The Brigade received, from the Dutch Queen Beatrix, the Willemsorde and the grandson of Sosabowski the Bronze lion, both Dutch awards. The Willemsorde or William Order is the oldest and highest Royal award in the Netherlands for bravery, leadership and loyalty. Only two foreign military units received this Military order, the American 82nd Airborne Division for gallantry during Operation Market Garden (1944), and the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade for gallantry during the Battle of Arnhem (2006). The Bronze Lion is a high Royal Dutch award for servicemen who have shown extreme bravery in battle.
After the war the Rhine Bridge was renamed to the John Frost Bridge.
Underneath the bridge is a small documentation centre and a little memorial square named after Jacob Groenewoud.
Jacob was a reserve captain of Infantry troops. He was born in 1916 and deceased on 18 September 1944. He was the only Dutch officer to lose his life during the battle over the Rhine Bridge.