David Bennett


Operation Market Garden, Field Marshal B.L.M. Montgomery’s grand attempt to end the war in 1944, has been ceaselessly analysed in an attempt to understand the reasons for its failure. Factors such as the distance of the drop zones from the objectives in Arnhem, the delay in resupply, the presence of strong German forces in the area, as well as the slow progress of XXX Corps in linking the airborne bridgeheads, are some of the main reasons cited for the failure of the operation. Another element often raised has to do with the failure of communications equipment at Arnhem. Peter Harclerode, in his book, Arnhem: A Tragedy of Errors, puts it bluntly: “Much of the blame for 1st Airborne Division’s demise has been laid at the door of signals failure as well as the unsuitability of radio equipment issued to the division as well as its failure to work satisfactorily under the condition in which it was employed.” Lewis Golden, the adjutant of Divisional Signals during the operation argues that this was not the case. Signals actually worked better than could be expected and that communications failure was not the principal reason for defeat at Arnhem. This article attempts a comprehensive survey of the role of communications and answers the question, “How far were poor communications responsible for the failure of Market Garden?” In particular, how far did poor communications contribute to the failure of 1st Airborne Division to consolidate a bridgehead at the Arnhem road bridge?