Air Battle For Arnhem – Alan Cooper

This latest book by Alan Cooper tells the story of the air operation in support of Operation Market-Garden. The operation was described to the air crews before take-off by US General Lewis Brereton, who commanded the Combined Airborne Headquarters: “You are taking part in one of the greatest airborne operations in military history. On the success of your mission today, on the navigational and flying skill and courage of the aircrew and the skills, courage and speed of the landing force rests the difference between a quick decision in the west and a long drawn out battle.”

The plan was, in the first wave, to airlift 2,400 men of the 1st Parachute Brigade who would be parachuted in, and 2,900 men of the 1st Air Landing Brigade who would be landed by glider. Though Market-Garden was a failure, the airborne element was highly successful in both the despatching of the airborne forces and their re-supply throughout the duration of the battle.

The main focus of the book is the actions of the RASC Air Despatchers who maintained the vital re-supply. They flew in Dakotas, Halifaxes and Stirlings. It was these people who actually discharged the containers and panniers from, in the case of the Dakotas, the side of the aircraft, and from the bombers, through the bomb doors.

Alan Cooper provides a brief history of the Air Despatchers, and outlines their organisation, before concentrating on their role at Arnhem. He tells the story of their part in keeping the ground troops supplied through that unfortunate operation.

The helpful appendices of the book include medals awarded to members of the RAF during the Arnhem battle (amongst which was a posthumous VC to Flight Lieutenant D.S.A. Lord) and details of the aircraft lost, with the cause of the loss and the fate of the crew members.

Review courtesy of Britain At War Magazine.

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