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All ranks now exhausted.

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One of the last messages from Arnhem has come up for sale. There's coverage and a copy of the message in several UK papers. Below is from the Times:

It was sent by the commander of the 1st Airborne Division, whose men had been under fire from German troops at Arnhem for nine days and were close to “complete disintegration”. It led Field Marshal Montgomery to shut down the daring operation to seize three bridges across the Rhine.

After the war the typed transcript was kept in a private archive by Montgomery’s adjutant, Captain Noel Chavasse.

The failure of Operation Market Garden dashed the Allies’ hopes of ending the war by Christmas 1944 and cost the lives of thousands of British, American and Polish soldiers.

The message was sent by Major-General Roy Urquhart to his commanding officer Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning on September 24, 1944. Browning, the husband of the novelist Daphne du Maurier, in turn passed it to Montgomery.

In stark terms, Urquhart warned that his troops needed immediate reinforcement. “All ranks now exhausted,” he wrote. “Lack of rations, water, ammunition and weapons with high officer casualty rate. Even slight enemy offensive action may cause complete disintegration. If this happens all will be ordered to break towards bridgehead rather than surrender.”

The message bears the words “NOT for general distribution” and only a handful of copies would have been distributed. Urquhart’s plight led to the decision to withdraw 1,900 British paratroopers still standing, abandoning the wounded. The 1977 film A Bridge Too Far, starring Sean Connery as Urquhart, told the story of the operation.

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