Would you like to throw a bomb, sir?
“Would you like to throw a bomb, sir? ”
The Divisional General was an eye-witness of this fighting and himself took part in it. On landing, he made a rapid tour of his brigades and presently reached the 1st, under Brigadier Lathbury, who was with the 3rd Battalion. By then the Germans had woken up and there was considerable fire from snipers and mortars. This caused many casualties among the 3rd Battalion, and the position was such that at dusk the Major-General and the Brigadier came to the conclusion that to return to Brigade Headquarters was out of the question. They therefore remained with the 3rd Battalion, whose Headquarters had been established near a cross-roads on the main Arnhem-Heelsum road, half a mile from the suburb of Hartestein. The two men spent the night in a small house and moved off about four o’clock in the morning. By then Urquhart’s jeep had been hit and the driver knocked out. His wireless, too, was not working, and he was therefore out of touch with everyone except the troops in the immediate neighbourhood. He and the Brigadier continued to push forward into Arnhem in the wake of the 3rd Battalion in conditions which became increasingly difficult. The mortar fire was by then heavy and made it necessary to take cover in the houses. “Self-propelled guns,” reports the Major-General, ” cruised up and down the street shooting at us and getting very aggressive.”
Between four and five in the afternoon the small party – it consisted of the Divisional Commander, Captain W. A. Taylor, Brigadier Lathbury and a subaltern – decided to move out of the house in which they had been compelled to remain for some hours. To cover their advance smoke bombs were used. The demeanour of the senior officers was very polite. The Brigadier said to the Major-General, ” Would you like to throw a bomb, sir? ” He answered, “Oh, no, you’d be much better at it than I am.” Under cover of this smoke they went through some back gardens and into a street, across the end of which they ran till they reached the next street. Here the Brigadier was hit in the back and fell to the pavement. General Urquhart and Captain Taylor picked him up and carried him into a house, where they stowed him in the cellar. While they were doing so, a German appeared at the window and Urquhart dispatched him with his revolver. It is seldom in modern war that the Commander of a Division has an opportunity to fight the enemy at such close quarters.
Leaving the Brigadier, at his urgent request, for he was partly paralysed and could not walk, they went to another house where they remained for the rest of the evening and the next night. For many hours, .such were the circumstances of this peculiar battle, the Commander of the force had been unable to exercise more influence upon it than that which could be brought to bear by any private soldier engaged in it. Through the night they waited in the loft, discouraged from making an attempt to quit their quarters by a self-propelled gun which “came along the road and parked itself in front of our door.” In the early morning of the 19th they escaped during a lull, and Urquhart, leaping into a passing jeep, reached Hartestein and was at last able to resume control.
While he had been thus lost, his place had been taken by Brigadier P. H. W. Hicks, D.S.O., M.C., whose every effort was directed towards concentrating as many men as possible in the area of the vital bridge. How the 1st Parachute Brigade endeavoured to seize and hold it has already been told. Their efforts were later seconded by ” B ” and ” D ” Companies of the 2nd Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment under the command of Colonel W. D. McCardie. They had landed by gliders at the Reijer’s Camp landing zone. The remainder of the Battalion was to come in with the second lift. After a sharp engagement near Mariendaal to the immediate west of Arnhem, the two companies, with a detachment of the 9th Field Company R.E., eventually got through and entered the town, one at about seven in the evening of the 18th, the other about midnight. There they made contact with what remained of the 1st and 3rd Parachute Battalions.