Operation Archway

Last updated
Operation Archway
Part of invasion of Germany in World War II
SAS jeep 18 November 1944.jpg
Armed SAS Jeep of the type used in Operation Archway
DateMarch–May 1945
Location
Western Germany
Result British victory
Belligerents
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Brian Franks Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Gustav-Adolf von Zangen
Units involved

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Special Air Service

  • 1 SAS
  • 2 SAS
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg 15th Army (elements)
Strength
300 men

Operation Archway was the codename for one of the largest and most diverse operations carried out by the Special Air Service during the Second World War. [1]

Special Air Service regiment of the British Army

The Special Air Service (SAS) is a special forces unit of the British Army. The SAS was founded in 1941 as a regiment, and later reconstituted as a corps in 1950. The unit undertakes a number of roles including covert reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, direct action and hostage rescue. Much of the information and actions regarding the SAS is highly classified, and is not commented on by the British government or the Ministry of Defence due to the sensitivity of their operations.

Contents

Archway was initially intended to support Operation Plunder and Operation Varsity, the crossings of the River Rhine at Rees, Wesel, and south of the Lippe River by the British Second Army, under Lieutenant-General Sir Miles Dempsey. It went on to support the three British Armoured Divisions in their advance into Germany until the end of the war.

Operation Plunder part of a coordinated set of Rhine crossings during WWII

Operation Plunder was a military operation to cross the Rhine on the night of 23 March 1945, launched by the 21st Army Group under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. The crossing of the river was at Rees, Wesel, and south of the river Lippe by the British Second Army under Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey, and the United States Ninth Army under Lieutenant General William H. Simpson.

Operation Varsity airborne forces operation launched by Allied troops toward the end of World War II

Operation Varsity was a successful airborne forces operation launched by Allied troops that took place toward the end of World War II. Involving more than 16,000 paratroopers and several thousand aircraft, it was the largest airborne operation in history to be conducted on a single day and in one location.

Rees, Germany Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Rees is a town in the district of Cleves in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located on the right bank of the Rhine, approximately 20 km east of Cleves. The population in 2005 was 22,559. Founded in 1228, Rees is the oldest town in the lower Rhine area.

The Archway force was under command of Lieutenant Colonel Brian Franks and comprised two squadrons, one each from the 1st and 2nd Special Air Service.

Squadron (army) military unit of ground troops, typically of the cavalry of armored services, roughly equivalent to a company in other ground services

A squadron was historically a cavalry subunit, a company-sized military formation. The term is still used to refer to modern cavalry units but can also be used as a designation for other arms and services. In some countries, like Italy, the battalion-level cavalry unit is called "Squadron Group".

Background

After the Normandy Landings the 1st and 2nd Special Air Service or SAS were involved in a number of operations in France, to support the Allied advance, notably Operation Bulbasket, Operation Houndsworth, Operation Loyton and Operation Wallace. Following these operations both of the Special Air Service regiments were recalled to the United Kingdom to regroup, both having suffered casualties in the French operations. [2]

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Operation Bulbasket was an operation by 'B' Squadron, 1st Special Air Service (SAS), behind the German lines in German occupied France, between June and August 1944. The operation was located to the east of Poitiers in the Vienne department of south west France; its objective was to block the Paris to Bordeaux railway line near Poitiers and to hamper German reinforcements heading towards the Normandy beachheads, especially the 2nd SS Panzer Division – Das Reich.

Operation Houndsworth

Operation Houndsworth was the codename for a British Special Air Service operation during the Second World War. The operation carried out by 'A' Squadron, 1st Special Air Service between 6 June and 6 September 1944, was centred on Dijon in the Burgundy region of France. Their objective was to disrupt German lines of communication, coordinate the activities of the French Resistance and prevent German reinforcements moving to the Normandy beachheads especially the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich.

Mission

Operation Archway was planned to support the XVIII Airborne Corps Operation Varsity parachute landings across the Rhine river. The force from the Special Air Service would be known as Frankforce. Named after the officer selected to command it, the commanding officer of 2nd Special Air Service, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Franks. Frankforce was made up of two reinforced Special Air Force squadrons, one each from the 1st and 2nd Special Air Service regiments. The force would number about 300 all ranks, mounted in 75 armed Jeeps, some also equipped with 3-inch mortars. They were supported by a number of 15-cwt and 3-ton trucks. [3] The 1st Special Air Service squadron was led by Major Poat and consisted of three troops, each consisting of three sections with three Jeeps. They had a 3 in. mortar section at Squadron Headquarters which also kept a reserve of 12 Jeeps. The 2nd SAS squadron under command Major Power had a similar composition but only two troops. [1]

Commanding officer officer in command of a military unit

The commanding officer (CO) or sometimes, if the incumbent is a general officer, commanding general (CG), is the officer in command of a military unit. The commanding officer has ultimate authority over the unit, and is usually given wide latitude to run the unit as they see fit, within the bounds of military law. In this respect, commanding officers have significant responsibilities, duties, and powers.

Willys MB car model

The Willys MB and the Ford GPW, both formally called the U.S. Army Truck, ​14-ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance, commonly known as Jeep or jeep, and sometimes referred to as G503, were highly successful off-road capable, light, military utility vehicles, built in large numbers to a standardized design, from 1941 to 1945, for the Allied forces in World War II.

Mortar (weapon) Artillery weapon that launches explosive projectiles at high angles

A mortar is usually a simple, lightweight, man portable, muzzle-loaded weapon, consisting of a smooth-bore metal tube fixed to a base plate with a lightweight bipod mount and a sight. They launch explosive shells in high-arcing ballistic trajectories. Mortars are typically used as indirect fire weapons for close fire support with a variety of ammunition.

Their first mission in support of the XVIII Airborne Corps consisted of reconnaissance patrols in northern Germany. They crossed the Rhine in amphibious LVT Buffalos, on the 25 March at Bislich. [4]

Landing Vehicle Tracked class of amphibious warfare vehicle

The Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT) is an amphibious warfare vehicle and amphibious landing craft, introduced by the United States Navy. The United States Marine Corps, United States Army, and Canadian and British armies used several LVT models during World War II.

Frankforce was then assigned to support the British Guards Armoured Division in the area around the Dortmund–Ems Canal. After this, until the end of the war, Frankforce worked with the 2nd Welsh Guards, the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars and the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars, who were the armoured reconnaissance regiments of the Guards, 7th and 11th Armoured Divisions. The Special Air Service Jeeps being a faster and lighter alternative to the Cromwell tanks used by the armoured regiments. [2] It was the 1st SAS squadron working with the 11th Armoured Division, who were among the first British troops into Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. [5] They found between 50,000 and 60,000 inmates in the camp and for several days later SAS patrols assisted the Field Security Police in hunting down war criminals making several arrests. [3] By the end of April 1945, they had reached the Elbe river, where they were joined by the Operation Keystone team, which was a squadron from 2nd SAS, under command of Major Hibbert. [6]

Aftermath

At the end of the war in Europe, both the 1st and 2nd Special Air Service regiments had returned to the United Kingdom in preparation to be redeployed to the Far East in the fight against the Japanese Empire. Before any training could start, both regiments together with the 1st Airborne Division were sent to disarm the German garrison in Norway Operation Doomsday. [7] In August 1945 the Special Air Service regiments returned home from Norway, [8] and in October 1945 they were officially disbanded. [9] The British Authorities of the time could see no further use for such a force. [9]

Related Research Articles

Paratrooper Military parachutists functioning as part of an airborne force

A paratrooper is a military parachutist—someone trained to parachute into an operation, and usually functioning as part of an airborne force. Military parachutists (troops) and parachutes were first used on a large scale during World War II for troop distribution and transportation. Paratroopers are often used in surprise attacks, to seize strategic objectives such as airfields or bridges.

Airborne forces Military units, usually light infantry, set up to be moved by aircraft and "dropped" into battle

Airborne forces are military units set up to be moved by aircraft and "dropped" into battle, typically by parachute. Thus, they can be placed behind enemy lines, and have the capability to deploy almost anywhere with little warning. The formations are limited only by the number and size of their aircraft, so given enough capacity a huge force can appear "out of nowhere" in minutes, an action referred to as vertical envelopment.

Commando soldier or operative of an elite light infantry or special operations force; commando unit

A commando is a soldier or operative of an elite light infantry or special operations force often specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting or abseiling.

Structure of the British Army

The structure of the British Army is broadly similar to that of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, in that the four-star (general-equivalent) field commands have been eliminated. Army Headquarters is located in Andover, Hampshire. As the top-level budget holder, this organisation is responsible for providing forces at operational readiness for employment by the Permanent Joint Headquarters. There is a Commander Field Army and a personnel and UK operations command, Home Command.

1st Airborne Division (United Kingdom) Airborne infantry division of the British Army during WWII

The 1st Airborne Division was an airborne infantry division of the British Army during the Second World War. The division was formed in late 1941 during World War II, after the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, demanded an airborne force, and was initially under command of Major-General Frederick A. M. Browning. The division was one of two airborne divisions raised by the British Army during the war, with the other being the 6th Airborne Division, created in May 1943, using former units of the 1st Airborne Division.

6th Airborne Division (United Kingdom) military unit

The 6th Airborne Division was an airborne infantry division of the British Army during the Second World War. Despite its name, the 6th was actually the second of two airborne divisions raised by the British Army during the war, the other being the 1st Airborne Division. The 6th Airborne Division was formed in World War II, in mid-1943, and was commanded by Major-General Richard N. Gale. The division consisted of the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades along with the 6th Airlanding Brigade and supporting units.

Canadian Airborne Regiment former airborne regiment of the Canadian Army

The Canadian Airborne Regiment was a Canadian Forces formation created on April 8, 1968. It was not an administrative regiment in the commonly accepted British Commonwealth sense, but rather a tactical formation manned from other regiments and branches. It was disbanded in 1995 after the Somalia Affair.

First Allied Airborne Army

The First Allied Airborne Army was an Allied formation formed on 2 August 1944 by the order of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. The formation was part of the Allied Expeditionary Force and controlled all Allied airborne forces in Western Europe from August 1944 to May 1945. These included the U.S. IX Troop Carrier Command, the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps, which controlled the 17th, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and a number of independent airborne units, all British airborne forces including the 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions plus the Polish 1st Parachute Brigade.

16 Air Assault Brigade formation of the British Army

16 Air Assault Brigade is a formation of the British Army based in Colchester in the county of Essex. It is the Army's rapid response airborne formation and is the only brigade in the British Army capable of delivering Air Manoeuvre, Air Assault and Airborne operations.

Light Tank Mk VII Tetrarch 1938 light tank

The Light Tank Mk VII (A17), also known as the Tetrarch, was a British light tank produced by Vickers-Armstrongs in the late 1930s and deployed during the Second World War. The Tetrarch was originally designed as the latest in the line of light tanks built by the company for the British Army. It improved upon its predecessor, the Mk VIB Light Tank, by introducing the extra firepower of a 2-pounder gun. The War Office ordered 70 tanks, an order that eventually increased to 220. Production was delayed by several factors, and as a consequence, only 100 to 177 of the tanks were produced.

11th Armoured Division (United Kingdom) British Army combat formation

The 11th Armoured Division, also known as The Black Bull, was an armoured division of the British Army which was created in March 1941 during the Second World War. The division was formed in response to the unanticipated success of the German panzer divisions. The 11th Armoured was responsible for several major victories in the Battle of Normandy from in the summer of 1944, shortly after the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944, and it participated in the rapid advance across France, Belgium, and the Netherlands and, later, the Rhine crossing in March 1945, and later invaded Germany. It was disbanded in January 1946 and reformed towards the end of 1950. In 1956, it was converted into the 4th Infantry Division.

Operation Titanic WWII military deception operation

Operation Titanic was a series of military deceptions carried out by the Allied Nations during the Second World War. The operation formed part of Operation Bodyguard, the cover plan for the Normandy landings in 1944. Titanic was carried out on 5–6 June 1944 by the Royal Air Force and the Special Air Service. The objective of the operation was to drop 500 dummy parachutists in places other than the real Normandy drop zones, to deceive the German defenders into believing that a large force had landed, drawing their troops away from the beachheads and strategic sites such as Caen.

The Special Service Force is a designation used by a World War II Canadian-American formation, and also used by a Canadian Army formation from 1977 to 1995.

Roy Farran Canadian politician

Major Roy Alexander Farran DSO, MC & Two Bars was a British soldier, politician, farmer, author and journalist. He was highly decorated for his exploits with the Special Air Service (SAS) during World War II. Farran became widely known after being court martialled on a charge of murdering an unarmed 16-year-old member of the Jewish underground militant group Lehi during his command of an undercover Palestine Police unit. After his brother was killed in a revenge attack, Farran emigrated to Canada where he forged a successful business and political career, holding a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta from 1971 to 1979 sitting with the Progressive Conservative caucus. He served as a cabinet minister in the government of Premier Peter Lougheed during that period.

Special Operations Regiment (Belgium)

The Special Operations Regiment, formerly the Light Brigade, is a Regiment of the Land Component of the Belgian Armed Forces. Its headquarters is located in Heverlee. Known until 3 July 2018 as the Light Brigade the regiment is Belgium's special operations and rapid response unit.

The Sacred Band or Sacred Squadron was a Greek special forces unit formed in 1942 in the Middle East, composed entirely of Greek officers and officer cadets under the command of Col. Christodoulos Tsigantes. It fought alongside the SAS in the Western Desert and the Aegean, as well as with General Leclerc's Free French Forces in Tunisia. It was disbanded in August 1945 but is the precursor of the modern Greek Special Forces.

5th Special Air Service

The 5th Special Air Service was an elite airborne unit during World War II, consisting entirely of Belgian volunteers. It saw action as part of the SAS Brigade in Normandy, Northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Initially trained in sabotage and intelligence gathering, they converted to motorised reconnaissance on armoured jeeps. They were noted for being the first Allied unit to set foot onto Belgian soil and the first to cross the Siegfried line albeit accidentally.

References

Notes
  1. 1 2 Seymour, p. 264
  2. 1 2 "SAS Founding Fathers, Part One". Special Operations. Archived from the original on 20 May 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  3. 1 2 Davies, p. 19
  4. Seymour, p. 265
  5. Shepard, p. 217
  6. Davies, p. 34
  7. Jones, p. 14
  8. Jones, p. 21
  9. 1 2 Jones, pp. 25–27
Bibliography