The drop zone was 8 miles from the Arnhem bridge. British intelligence did not trust local information that the terrain bordering the river was capable of taking gliders or paratroopers. It was.
No advance unit was dropped at the bridge itself, to hold it until the main force came up. Scarcity of aircraft meant that 4th Para Brigade and remaining troops of 1st Airborne Divn were not dropped until the following day. The Polish Brigade was delayed even later by adverse weather. This also badly restricted tactical air support. When they were at last flown in, the Polish units were dropped on the wrong side of the river from the British in Oosterbeek. Only a handful of men made it across.
There were more German troops in the area than anticipated, including the Reconnaissance Battalion of SS 9th Panzer Divn. A British intelligence officer had repeatedly warned of this unit but was not believed.
Most of 1st Para Brigade was cut off from the objective at Arnhem. Only 2nd Battalion Paras under Lt-Col John Frost reached the bridge and set up defensive positions in the buildings around it.
Radio contact with the RAF and between ground forces was almost non-existant because of problems with the radios, interference due to local conditions, inexperience of operators and damage during the drop.
The commander of 1st Airborne Div, Maj-Gen Roy Urquhart, along with another senior officer, became trapped in a house in the town for some hours. A German tank parked right under the window of the room they were hiding in. The Division had no commander until the tank moved off and Urquhart was able to resume command.
Frost was badly wounded. 2 Para, desperately holding off increasingly heavy attacks on the buildings they were defending on either side of the north end of the bridge, was running out of food, water and ammunition. On the night of 25th Sept the survivors evacuated Arnhem across the Rhine.
The division had flown into action with 10,000 men. Just over 2,000 returned across the Rhine. In all, 1,485 British and Polish airborne troops were killed or died of wounds and 6,525 more became prisoners of war. It had indeed been a bridge too far.
The German response to this action and the liberation of southern areas of Holland was to impose on the Dutch people what amounted to a policy of starvation, in what were already very difficult times and an unusually harsh winter.
From September 1944 until May 1945 the deaths of 18,000 Dutch people were attributed to malnutrition as the primary cause and in many more as a contributing factor. This known in the Netherlands as the 'Hongerwinter'