A fact-based novel about the Battle of Arnhem/Oosterbeek. Market Garden was an ill-planned airborne operation to capture the main bridges over the Rhine in Holland in order to allow the 30th Armored Corps to sweep into Germany. American paratroopers were assigned to the two nearer bridges at Eindhoven and Nijmegan and the British 1st Airborne Division to the most northern bridge at Arnhem - 50 miles behind enemy lines. From the start it had been recognized by a senior commander as possibly being "a bridge too far".
It will remain the biggest airborne operation ever executed.
The First Airborne Division had seen action in North Africa 18 months previously but had missed out on the D-Day landings when its brother division - the Sixth - had been in the vanguard of those operations.
Both Churchill and Montgomery were keen to commit this elite force into battle, but the speed of the allied advance after D-Day forced the cancellation of 16 operations, until Market Garden offered the opportunity to send the paratroopers into action. They cobbled the operation together in seven days using parts of the previous plans. In their haste to commit the troops, they made many planning mistakes and ignored vital shortcomings such as inefficient radios, the loss of the element of surprise, dropping the men in three daylight installments, and evidence showing that the Germans had based heavily armed troops close to the bridge. The operation was doomed from the start.
The failure was heroic - only a small fraction of the force reached the bridge and held it against overwhelming odds - not for the planned 24 hours but for more than double that time, being forced to surrender only after they had run out of ammunition. Despite heavy casualties, the remainder of the force fought a defensive action waiting for the arrival of the 30th Armored Corp, but after a week, they were forced to withdraw across the river. Five Victoria Crosses were awarded for bravery during the operation.
Whilst the three main characters are fictional, they are based on true characters. There really was a Corporal Bert, and the Caythorpe Commando really existed. We follow the three men through their training and share their fears and terror of their first parachute jumps, and then follows them into action for the first time.
A picture of life in a Lincolnshire village in 1944 is drawn and we see the effect on the villagers when the paratroopers arrived and lived amongst them.
The diary of the Dutch girl, who helped to nurse wounded paratroopers, whilst fictitious, has been vetted by a Dutch lady who herself lived in the heart of the battle as a child.
The widow of an officer who fought at Arnhem as a member of the Lonsdale Force has read and approved the novel.