The Van Limburg-Stirumschool on the eastern driveway of the Rhine Bridge. After the Battle of Arnhem, little was left of the school.

British at the bridge hold out, under heavy German pressure

in Arnhem/September 19

The 700 soldiers of 2nd Battalion who occupied approximately thirty buildings on the north side of the Rhine Bridge had no illusions. The day before they had easily survived the attack of a German SS reconnaissance battalion and had also repelled several small attacks on their positions. But now, on Tuesday, September 19, the Germans would try everything to retake the Rhine Bridge.

Before dawn, the British had heard explosions and gunfire from the west at the bridge. There was still no radio contact with the rest of the British division. But the soldiers of 2nd Battalion concluded that the rest of the division was busy fighting its way through the German positions to the Rhine Bridge. However, the German resistance was too strong and the British attack in the west failed at the Gemeentemuseum.

At dawn the German panzergrenadiers started their attack at the bridge to retake the bridge. The Germans concentrated on the Van Limburg-Stirum School, which was located on the eastern side of the driveway to the Rhine Bridge.

The attack was supported by three tanks, which the Germans had at the bridge at that time. The previous day the British had managed to knock out two tanks as they approached the bridge, and again the British targeted the tanks. Three soldiers managed to approach one of the tanks unseen from close range and disable it. The crew managed to escape, but not for long.

Lieutenant Hindley: “The crew crept along the wall of the building until they stopped under the window where I was sitting. I dropped a grenade on them and that was it. I held him for two seconds before I let him go.”

The Van Limburg-Stirum School had been bombarded with panzerfausts by the Germans. The Germans aimed their panzerfausts just below every window, expecting a British paratrooper to be there, which often was the case.

After this, the Germans surrounded the school, believing that the defenders had been eliminated. Major Mackay, who led the school’s defense, had ordered his men on the top floor of the school to keep two hand grenades ready. At his command the grenades were thrown down from the windows. The Germans who survived the grenade attack were shot with Sten guns.
“It was over in minutes, leaving a field gray carpet around the house.”

A German Focke Wolf fighter plane dropped a bomb on the British positions. The bomb turned out to be a dud that failed to explode. The British shot at the plane from all the houses. To escape the hail of bullets, the pilot swerved his plane, but it hit the Walburgis Church and crashed with a tremendous explosion.

However, the German attacks on the British positions did not fail to have an effect.
“We had over fifty victims in the building I was in alone,” said Lt. Harvey Todd.

With the water cut off, the situation for doctors in the British sector was dire. Todd, together with Dutch captain Jaap Groenewoud, looked for a house with a telephone to call the Elisabeth Gasthuis with a request to send ambulances.

A nearby doctor had a telephone, but halfway between their position and the doctor’s house, Groenewoud was hit by a German bullet.
Todd: “The bullet entered through his forehead and came out the back.”

On his own, Todd managed to find a house with a telephone and with the help of the Dutch resident, the hospital was called. The doctor explained that it was impossible to send an ambulance and that the Germans controlled all the roads to the hospital.

Back at headquarters, Todd was told that from one of the few radio messages they received, they had heard that XXX Corps did not yet have control of the bridge at Nijmegen. Officially, the ground troops of XXX Corps were supposed to cross the bridge at Arnhem 48 hours after the start of Market Garden, but now that the 48 hours were over, XXX Corps was still far away.

Meanwhile, the German General Harmel had sent a British prisoner to the bridge with a proposal to capitulate, but the British was sent back by Colonel Frost with the simple message that he wanted to continue fighting.

Tiger tanks
The fanatical defense of the British at the bridge caused many casualties on the German side. General Harmel was therefore pleased that he received reinforcements from the 102nd Sturmgeschütz Brigade on the afternoon of Tuesday, September 19. It had been sent from Denmark to Arnhem in haste.

The armored brigade received reinforcements a little later from Kompanie Humel, of the 506th Heavy Armor Battalion. The Tiger tanks of this Kompanie had been unloaded that morning via a Blitztransport by train through Germany at Bochelt. The last 80 kilometers were covered by road, but only two of the eight Tiger tanks reached Arnhem. The other tanks developed problems along the way, mainly due to broken tracks and gears.

That evening the two Tiger tanks came into action at the bridge, accompanied by the Panzergrenadiers of the 10th SS Armored Division. The tanks were used to gradually destroy the houses where the British were entrenched.

Colonel Frost: “They looked incredibly menacing and sinister at dusk. Like some prehistoric monster with its fire-breathing cannon swishing from left to right.”

Monster or not: that did not stop the British from also attacking these tanks. A salvo from an anti-tank gun hit the turret of one of the Tiger tanks, seriously injuring the commander and another crew member. A second shot shattered the armor. In the meantime, the second Tiger tank had developed mechanical problems and was no longer usable.

Disabled Tiger tank at the Rhine bridge.

However, the elimination of the Tiger tanks did not stop the Germans from methodically destroying one house after another with whatever guns remained. Houses were set on fire with flamethrowers.

After dark, the British perimeter was an inferno. The question was how long the British could hold out here. The hope was that XXX Corps would rescue them in time, but the battle in Nijmegen did not go as intended…

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