When we discuss the battle in Holland during Operation Market Garden, we naturally think about the paratroopers of the U.S. and Britain trying to secure five bridges at Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem for the armor of the British XXX Corps to get into Germany and end the war early. Later they were trying to get […]
When we discuss the battle in Holland during Operation Market Garden, we naturally think about the paratroopers of the U.S. and Britain trying to secure five bridges at Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem for the armor of the British XXX Corps to get into Germany and end the war early. Later they were trying to get to the beleaguered British and Polish airborne troops in the Arnhem/Oosterbeek area to just save them from annihilation.
But the British had company in the Arnhem area, a three-man Jedburgh team (Claude) of the British SOE (Special Operations Executive) consisting of two Americans, Lieutenant Harvey Todd and radio operator Technical Sergeant Carl Scott, and a Dutchman, Captain Jacobus Groenewoud.
Jedburgh Teams were special forces small units typically consisting of three men (two officers and a radio operator). Their mission was to parachute into enemy territory and effect contact the local resistance groups. They were to act as the liaison between the Allied military and the resistance fighters, and by organizing supply drops of arms and equipment to these forces, training the resistance in their use, and advising the resistance in selecting targets to harass the enemy in direct support of nearby Allied military units.
The Jeds were a part of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) as well as the OSS, however, their role was strictly paramilitary and did not include any element of espionage. Thus, all of the Jedburgh teams went into action wearing their military uniforms, but the Germans would still treat them as spies in the event that were captured.
Team Claude boarded a C-47 on the Barkston airbase at Lincolnshire on September 17, 1944, and jumped onto the British drop zones at 1400 hrs. But the team’s radio and a few other pieces of equipment which had been dropped separately were still missing, so Scott was sent off to find them.
While Scott remained behind in the drop zone in vain searching for the team’s radio, Todd and Groenewoud accompanied the battalion of John Frost into Arnhem, the troops who would take one end of the bridge. They tried to pick up as much information along the way by talking to the Dutch civilians.
Two days later, Scott, attempted to make his way into Arnhem to link up with his teammates but then it was impossible as the Germans had cut them off.
Upon arriving in Arnhem, there they established themselves in the Rijkswaterstaat building in Eusebiusbinnensingel, near Frost’s battalion headquarters. The building was defended by the battalion’s support company.
Todd climbed up into an attic skylight and armed with a Springfield rifle with a telescopic sight, he had a good vantage point of the bridge.
At 0700 on the 18th, the Germans counterattacked across the bridge using armored vehicles of the SS-Panzer-Aufklärungs Abteilung 9. The British were able to stop them and inflict serious casualties on the Germans. British Major Hibbert made a note of the battle afterward, “The highest individual score went to Lieutenant Harvey Todd, who claimed to have shot eight Germans, closely followed by Major Mumford and Private Shuttlewood. The Germans must have lost approximately seventy men in all.”
Private Eric Robertson, the batman to the 2nd Parachute Battalion’s commander noted that the Dutch officer was a crack shot as well. “With me, shooting like wild west cowboys, were a Dutch officer and a Yankee officer. Boy, could they shoot!”
During the attack, the Germans narrowly missed Todd in the attic skylight. A bullet had glanced off of his helmet and his face was cut up by glass splinters. He was carried down to the basement where he was patched up by the battalion docs and the next morning, resumed his perch in the attic, now armed with a Bren gun.
Death of Groenewoud: Captain Groenewoud tried to make telephone contact with St. Elisabeths Gasthuis to ask for medical supplies be brought to the bridge and to see if they could take some of the more seriously wounded. Dutch civilians told him a house nearby had a working telephone. He set off in search for it and asked Todd to come with him. Todd in his post-war after-action debrief described what happened next.
“We were about halfway and were standing against the wall of a building, waiting to dash across the road, when a sniper fired at Captain Groenewoud. The bullet struck his forehead and exited at the rear. His death was instantaneous. I ducked into a nearby house, looking for cover. The inhabitant of the house could speak some English, so I told him about the wounded and asked if he could ring the hospital. He said that the neighbours had a telephone so we went there. He got the hospital on the line but the doctor (a Dutchman) said it was impossible to offer assistance. He had already tried it but the Germans now had the upper hand. They warned him that they would open fire if an ambulance was sent out.”
There was nothing else to be done. Todd returned empty-handed and resumed his spot in the attic.
By the morning of September 20, the situation was getting dire. Frost’s men were supposed to hold for two days before being relieved by XXX Corps. Because of heavier opposition by two SS Panzer divisions that weren’t supposed to be there, they’d attacked piecemeal and had already held out for three days. Todd had another close call, a bullet hit his Bren gun magazine. Later he was wounded by mortar shrapnel.
During the night of 20-21 September, Frost’s men were out of ammunition and the decision was made to make for friendly lines.
Todd took ten men with him but they came under intense fire and were separated. He hid in a tree on the 21st and on the 22nd, lowered himself and later hid in a Dutch workshop. He was finally discovered by a German patrol on September 27.
Todd spent time in two German POW camps and as the war was winding down, the Germans tried moving the prisoners to a new camp. He escaped and made contact with an American patrol. Todd was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross. At his and Major Hibbet’s urging, Hibbert wrote a letter to the Dutch government, Captain Groenewoud was awarded the posthumous Ridderkruis Vierde Klas van de Militaire Willemsorde (Knight’s Cross Fourth Class of the Military Order of William).
He was interred in the British Airborne Cemetery in Oosterbeek.
Scott was reportedly killed some weeks later around the Nijmegen area.
While Arnhem was a distinctly British operation, the SOE Jedburgh team Claude with American and Dutch personnel are remembered fondly by their British brethren.
Photos Courtesy: SOE, Wikipedia