For this penultimate post of the series, I will be covering the final day and night of Market Garden for the Recce Squadron.
Monday 25th September 1944
0730 - enemy patrols dominate the area, intense fire from rifles and MGs. Germans use bundled grenades against house causing two casualties.
0900 - Lt Galbraith orders troops out of house into trenches dug the previous night.
1500 - Troop ordered by 4 Para Bde to withdraw to house near Hartenstein; regroup there at 1530 in mixed party with some glider pilots.
1600 - receive orders for withdrawal across Rhine* that night. At 1730 Sgt Venes sent to bring in 156 Para. They arrive at 1900.
2000 - thin out and report to 4 Para Bde. Start moving out towards Rhine at 2045. £ casualties sustained on the way.
* The war diaries consistently refer to it as the Lek; the river doesn't become the Lek until it splits some distance west of Arnhem; in this area it is still the Nederrijn (Lower Rhine).
The remnants of the Troop were still in hiding. In the evening a conference is held - decide to make a break for it in pairs and attempt to reach own lines.
2000 - Sgts Pyper and Bentall lead the way out. At 2130 they make contact with some glider pilots on their way to the river and are informed about the evacuation. No sign of the others.
0200 on 26th - the two Sergeants cross the river.
HQ and Support Troop
0500 - sheeting rain, miserable.
0630 - "Still rain. Plenty of MG fire and a few mortar bombs thrown in to liven things up."
0900 - heaviest mortar fire so far, 50 or more bombs per 100 yards square.
0935 -lull in barrage as Typhoons come overhead.
1030 - uncanny silence, no sound of birds.
1035 - mortar barrage resumes.
1200 - Typhoons return.
1300 - flak guns add to the barrage.
1415 - Typhoons back again; Germans put their toys down.
1500 - mortars again, heavier than before "he must not like Typhoons he is so vicious". This inflicts a lot of OR casualties.
1730 - large force of Typhoons active above Oosterbeek.
1815 - as Typhoons depart "spiteful mortar barrage" comes in, joined by flak and MGs
1850 - Typhoons are back; Germans discontinue barrage for the day.
1930 - informed of evacuation plan; told to leave positions at 2050. "comes as a surprise - but not an unpleasant one"
2000 - troops warned
2030 - Division supplies some rations - 1 bar of chocolate and small packet of biscuits per man, tin of stew between 2 men.
2050 - barrage by guns of XXX Corps begins, drowning out most noise Move out in 4 sections led by Lt collier, Lt Lickorish, Captain Allsop and Captain Costeloe; route is mainly through woodland.
All four sections had similar experiences on their way down, and all took some casualties. There was sporadic MG fire at points, mostly on fixed lines, occasional mortar fire. One group ran into a German MG point on the way, SQMS S/Sgt Holderness was killed in this encounter. Everyone else made it to the river eventually and crossed to the south bank. Once over, they were guided to Driel where they were given hot drinks, some food and blankets. At some point they were transported or to various accommodations in Nijmegen where they got more tea, more food and were able to bed down and sleep, have a shower/wash and shave.
Tomorrow - The Gongs and the Butcher's Bill