OperationMarket Garden under Major General Urquhart
OperationMarket Garden under Major General Urquhart
Missioncommand is one of the key strategies applied by the military toconduct operations in a decentralized execution based on mission-typecommand and orders. This approach is mainly applied in jointoperations that are considered to be highly decentralized. This meansthat the mission command is based on a decentralized philosophy thatpermits superior officers to communicate intent in an effective wayand allow their subordinate officers to device tactical decisions andexercise initiatives of their accord. 1TheOperation Market Garden is one of the military operations thatapplied the philosophy of command mission with Major General Urquhartserving as the mission commander. This paper will address thecompetencies of the Major General Urquhart in applying the four warfighting functions (visualize, describe, lead, and assess) during theOperation Market Garden. Although the Market Garden Operation hasbeen regarded as absolute historical failure, it is evident thatMajor General Urquhart met the criteria of the mission command.
TheOperation Market Garden was an allied forces operation that wasconducted during the Second World War in Germany and Netherlands. TheMarket Garden is considered as one of the operations that had allingredients required in a great military strategy given the fact thatit utilized the full potential of the first airborne army. 2The main goal of the operation was to seize bridges along Maas,Rhine, tributaries, and canals that would give the allied to enterinto Germany. Major General Urquhart was considered instrumental forthe pursuance of this goal. Roy Urquhart was one of the seniorofficers serving in the British Army prior to and during the SecondWorld War. He was appointed the commander of the First AirborneDivision in 1944 before its deployment to participate in theOperation Market Garden in the same year. Although the airbornedivision lost nearly a third of its initial capacity during theOperation Market Garden Urquhart was recognized as the Dutch BronzeLion due to his command. 3This implies that the failure of the operation did not originate fromthe mission command, but from other unanticipated factors.
MajorGeneral Urquhart and the war-fighting functions
Priorto the onset of the Operation Market Garden, Major General Urquhartwas fully informed about the desired end of the operation. He wasexpected to accomplish three major tasks as the commander of theAirborne Division. First, the operation was expected to culminate inthe capture of Arnhem Bridge. 4Secondly, the Airborne Division, under the leadership of Urquhart wasexpected to establish a bridgehead, which would facilitate thefollow-up information and the deployment of the corps North of NederRijn. Third, the landing of the initial lift of the airborne divisionwas expected to demolish the flak in Arnhem, LZs, and DZs. 5This was an operational strategy that would facilitate the passage ofsubsequent lifts. However, the three tasks assigned to Urquhart wereaimed at achieving the principle goal of the operation, which was toget the allied forces across Rhine and secure the region of Arnhem.The possession of full information about the desired end of theoperation allowed General Urquhart to design operational approachesthat would guide the Airborne Division in pursuing the ultimate goalof the allied troops.
GeneralUrquhart had visualized the hardships and the magnitude of theopposition that the Airborne Division would face from the enemyforces. Consequently, Urquhart regarded the acquisition of all thenecessary resources (including the transport aircraft) as the role ofthe airborne commander. It was reported that Urquhart had made arequest of 40 transport aircraft from the Corps headquarters, butGeneral Browning doubted that even a fraction of these aircraft couldmaterialize. 6This implies that General Urquhart understood the need to transportboth the military personnel and equipment as fast as possible inorder to conduct immediate attacks before the enemy forces reorganizeand revenge. For example, Urquhart was aware that failure to deploythe infantry strength in the first flight would increase the chancesof losing the critical bridge, cut off of the military divisionspositioned in the north, and absolute destruction of the militaryunits in the north.
Transportationof all resources in the first flight was a challenge because therewas a possibility that the German amour in the region could destroythem, thus disabling the airborne division before it accomplished itspurpose. This was part of the experience that Urquhart had gained inthe previous field operation. With this in mind Urquhart decided toair lift anti-tank gliders, which were vital tools in conductingcounter attacks against the German forces in the region, in thesecond day. 7This was a matter of timing that allowed the first division to deployall the necessary resources without taking chances. In addition,General Urquhart has been commended for his ability to strategize theoperation given the fact that he had only seven days to plan for thewhole operation.
Althoughthe operation was faced by a great deal of challenges, Urquhart hadthe courage to visit his battalion, motivate, and give them anopportunity to share their experiences with him. Soon after landingin Arnhem in a glider, Urquhart discerned that the ratio sets of usedby the division were not working, which could possibly polarize thecoordination of different units within the airborne division. 8General Urquhart made a fateful decision to visit different units(including the 3rdBattalion) in his jeep to know how they were faring in spite the highrisk of attack by the German forces. In addition, General Urquhartwas joined by Brigadier Lathbury to search for and rescue company B,a section of the 3rdbattalion that had been separated during the attack and trapped inthe outskirts of Arnhem. This was a sign that the leadership of theairborne division was willing to support the battalion in theiroperation through motivation and encouragement even after thecollapse of the radio set.
GeneralUrquhart was also able to give directions to the Battalion amidst theemergence of new challenges that the airborne division had notexpected. For example, Urquhart directed 1stPara Brigade to terminate its attack and make a path for the fourthPara Brigade, which in turn would give the airborne an opportunity toconduct a powerful assault. 9Although Urquhart has no prior experiences in the operations of theairborne division, the leaders and other officers serving in thedivision appreciated his direction owing to the fact that he had along time experience in the field operations. It has also beendocumented that Urquhart had a practice of visit his juniors quiteoften, which was an aspect of motivation. However, he always metchallenges because the battalion wanted to know when they shouldexpect the second army. Urquhart responded by telling them that thesecond army would arrive any time from then, which was meant to avoiddiscouragements.
Thecapacity of General Urquhart to assess his plans, monitor theprogress of the operation and evaluate his strategy is evident fromthe start of the Operation Market Garden. This allowed Urquhart tochange strategies to address emerging challenges and direct thedivision towards the achievement of the ultimate purpose of theoperation. Urquhart’s decision to visit the Brigadier Lathbury nearthe blocking line established by the German forces was a mission toevaluate the progress of the operation. 10One of the most significant instances indicating Urquhart’scapacity to evaluate and change strategies is the decision to leaveJohn Frost and rally his battalion at the defensive pocket located inOosterbeek. Urquhart made this decision following the failure of theinitial strategies to give a successful break through the targetregion of Arnhem. 11The new strategy was intended to help the airborne division continuesto hold the Rhine’s north bank until XXX Corps arrive. The successof this plan would then help the airborne capture the southern sideand help the XXX Corps improvise the passage of tanks into thesecured perimeter, leading to the success of the Operation MarketGarden.
Factorsthat contributed to the failure of the Market Garden Operation
Althoughthe Major General Roy Urquhart had applied the necessary war fightingfunctions, there are three factors that resulted in the failure ofthe Market Garden Operation. First, Urquhart was provided withlimited resources that he needed to conduct the operationsuccessfully. At one instant, Urquhart requested for 40 aircraft, butGeneral Browning doubted that even a smaller number of the aircraftwould materialize. 12This means that, although Urquhart had designed effective strategieswithin a short period of seven days, lack of adequate resources toimplement the plans was a major drawback that reduced his capacity toachieve the goal of the operation. Secondly, delayed deployment ofthe airborne personnel reduced the effectiveness of operation. Thedelay was mainly caused lack of adequate aircraft and poor weatherconditions. 13Third, the collapse of radio set at initial stages of the operationwas a significant drawback that reduced Urquhart’s capacity tocoordinate different units of the airborne division. 14In essence, the three drawbacks suggest that the failure of theoperation resulted from other factors and not Urquhart’s inabilityto adopt the key war fighting functions.
Manypeople have a general perception that the Operation Market Garden wasan absolute failure, but there is sufficient evidence to show thatMajor General Urquhart met the criteria of the mission commander.Urquhart knew the desired end of the operation, and this helped himdesigned strategies that would help the airborne division accomplishthe purpose of the operation. Urquhart managed to adopt four majorwar fighting functions (including visualize, describe, lead, andassess) that would have resulted in the success of the operation wereit not for the challenges that were beyond his abilities. AlthoughGeneral Urquhart was the head of the airborne division during theoperation, he cannot be blamed for the failure of Operation MarketGarden. This is because the factors that contributed to the failureof the operation (including the collapse of the radio set, delayeddeployment of the second group of personnel, and lack of adequateresources) were beyond his control.
1.Chan, Alvin. “Managing strategic and tactical uncertainty: Missioncommand in the third generation army”. Journalof the Singapore Armed Forces 40No. 1 (2012): 46-54.
2.Caplin, I. OperationMarket Garden 17-25 September 1944.London: Ministry of Defense, 2004, p. 3
3.Airborne Divisional. MajorGeneral Robert Elliot Urquhart.London: Airborne Divisional, 2012, p. 1.
4.Holt, T. and Holt, V. Majorand Mrs. Holt’s battlefield guide to Operation Market Garden:Leopoldsburg-Eindhoven-Nijimegen-Oosterbeek.South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword, 2013.
6.Airborne Divisional. MajorGeneral Robert Elliot Urquhart.London: Airborne Divisional, 2012.
7.Airborne Divisional. MajorGeneral Robert Elliot Urquhart.London: Airborne Divisional, 2012.
9.Bennett, D. A bride too far: The Canadian role in the evaluation ofthe British 1stAirborne Division from Arnhem-Oosterbeek, September 1944. CanadianMilitary Journal1 (2008): 1-14.
10.Roper, D. Werethe British 1stAirborne Division fit for purpose for Operation Market Garden?Yorkshire: University of Hull, 2004, p. 13.
11.Airborne Divisional. MajorGeneral Robert Elliot Urquhart.London: Airborne Divisional, 2012.
12.Airborne Divisional. MajorGeneral Robert Elliot Urquhart.London: Airborne Divisional, 2012.
13.Alan, A. OperationMarket Garden.New York: Facts on File Incorporation, 2007.
14.Holt, T. and Holt, V. Majorand Mrs. Holt’s battlefield guide to Operation Market Garden:Leopoldsburg-Eindhoven-Nijimegen-Oosterbeek.South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword, 2013, p. 105.
AirborneDivisional. MajorGeneral Robert Elliot Urquhart.London: Airborne Divisional, 2012.
Alan,A. OperationMarket Garden.New York: Facts on File Incorporation, 2007.
Bennett,D. A bride too far: The Canadian role in the evaluation of theBritish 1stAirborne Division from Arnhem-Oosterbeek, September 1944. CanadianMilitary Journal1 (2008): 1-14.
Caplin,I. OperationMarket Garden 17-25 September 1944.London: Ministry of Defense, 2004.
Chan,Alvin. “Managing strategic and tactical uncertainty: Missioncommand in the third generation army”. Journalof the Singapore Armed Forces40 No. 1 (2012): 46-54.
Holt,T. and Holt, V. Majorand Mrs. Holt’s battlefield guide to Operation Market Garden:Leopoldsburg-Eindhoven-Nijimegen-Oosterbeek.South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword, 2013.
Roper,D. Werethe British 1stAirborne Division fit for purpose for Operation Market Garden?Yorkshire: University of Hull, 2004.