Lt. Colonel Frost and Para Commanders (Late War)
General Urquhart, General Sosabowski, British Para Commanders
Lt. Colonel John Frost
John D. Frost was born in 1912 in India. When England entered World War II, Frost was posted to the 10th Battalion (Cameronians) in Suffolk as part of the 15th Scottish Division. When the first British airborne division was formed, Frost volunteered and was appointed to the 2nd Parachute Battalion, 1st Airborne Division in the fall of 1941.
From January 1942 to December 1943, Frost participated in a variety of airborne operations. His first operation in February 1942 was a successful parachute raid into occupied France to steal German radar equipment and return it to England for analysis.
Frost became the commander of 2nd Battalion during Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa. His battalion conducted several airborne assaults in Tunisia, capturing key air bases. He then dropped into Sicily as a part of Operation Husky. Frost’s 2nd Battalion assaulted and captured the Ponte di Primosole Bridge in Sicily. Although the objective was secured early in the operation, Frost didn’t receive reinforcements and was forced to temporarily withdraw until they could reclaim the bridge with help from the British Eighth Army. Frost’s next combat jump would be into the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden. The British 1st Airborne Division was to secure the vital crossing over the Rhine River in Arnhem with Frost’s battalion in the lead.
On the afternoon of 17 September 1944, Frost’s 2nd Battalion landed on its assigned drop zone about six miles from the Arnhem Bridge. The battalion formed up and set off following
the north bank of the Rhine. During the march to Arnhem, Frost’s battalion overpowered or bypassed any German resistance. The lead company of Frost’s 2nd Battalion reached the northern end of the Arnhem Bridge by 2000 hours.
Immediately, Frost ordered a company to clear the bridge of Germans, but they were unable to cross to the southern bank. Frost then established a defensive perimeter to hold the northern end of the bridge until help arrived.
Frost and the defenders spent the evening fending off German probes into their perimeter. Frost busily kept his perimeter in top condition, keeping guns in top order and redeploying his platoons to shore up gaps in the line.
The next morning at 0900 hours SS-Hauptsturmführer Viktor Graebner, commander of the 9. SS-Panzer Aufklärungsabteilung, launched a bold assault from the south side of the river against Frost’s perimeter in an attempt to force his way across Arnhem Bridge. The paratroopers held their
fire until the last moment then opened up and massacred the column with anti-tank guns, PIATs, and small arms.
With Graebner’s assault halted, Frost prepared for the next German attack, which came at 1800 hours on the eastern edge of the perimeter. The paras easily saw off this attack, but the Germans were preparing for a much larger and concerted effort and there was still no signs of 1st and 3rd Parachute Battalions. Frost and his men would be on their own until 30th Corps arrived.
On Tuesday, 19 September, the Germans launched yet another assault, this time from the north using infantry and Tiger IE heavy tanks. Frost’s perimeter held once again, disabling a Tiger and forcing the rest to pull back.
The constant fighting dwindled Frost’s supplies of food and ammunition, and the wounded began to overwhelm the limited medical services.
On Wednesday afternoon Frost was wounded by shrapnel and relinquished command to Major Gough, commander of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron. Slowly the paras were driven out of their positions, casualties mounted and supplies exhausted.
During a short truce on Wednesday evening, Frost and his wounded were evacuated by the Germans for care and became prisoners of war.
Eventually, the British were pushed away from the bridge and the last resistance ended around 0500 hours Thursday morning on 21 September.
Frost and his 2nd Battalion had held the bridge against repeated German assaults for over three days. The British paratroopers suffered 81 killed and hundreds wounded.
Frost was liberated by the US Army in March 1945. He remained in the British Army until he retired with the rank
of Major General in 1968. After retirement, Frost became a farmer and active in local politics in West Sussex, England before passing away on 21 May 1993.
In 1988 at a memorial event, a reporter talking with US President Ronald Reagan commented about Frost, “If you put him at theend of a bridge even today and said keep it, he’d keep it”.
Major General Roy Urquhart
Major General Roy Urquhart’s British 1st ‘Red Devils’ Airborne Division was to secure the northern most objective: Arnhem. The bridge over the Rhine in Arnhem was the crowning objective of the whole operation.
Urquhart’s reputation suffered a bit from being an outsider to airborne tactics, having only been in command of since January 1944. He lacked the experience in planning airborne operations
of Taylor and Gavin, and this may have had some impact on why he was not able to convince his superiors to land him closer to
Despite being new to airborne warfare, he was still a very adept field commander. He played with the cards he was dealt. Some of his troops, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Frost, managed to reach the bridge and hold out for several days.
Urquhart tried to relieve Frost with a concerted assault with his parachute brigades, but without support from 30 Corps he could not break through the enemy lines and was forced to fall back and establish a defensive perimeter until help could arrive.
Urquhart’s perimeter in Oosterbeek was held with resolve. His troops saw off several major attacks aimed at cutting them off from the Rhine. Urquhart used a series of tactical withdrawals to shorten his lines. He also kept a mobile reserve to strike back and capture any lost territory.
This kept the division operational and safe from being cut off. Urquhart finally ordered a full withdrawal when 30 Corps arrived to cover them. He planned the tricky night-time evacuation and
managed to get over 2,700 men across the river.
Major General Stansilaw Sosabowski
Major General Stansilaw Sosabowski commanded the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade which was attached to the British 1st Airborne.
Sosabowski’s Polish paratroopers were to land a day after the rest of the division on the southern end of the Arnhem Bridge to secure the area from German counterattacks. However, as the battle progressed and Frost was overrun in Arnhem, the Polish were redirected to the small village of Driel to help relieve Urquhart in Oosterbeek.
After a bad start, the Polish paratroopers finally took off and landed in Driel on 21 September. Sosabowski wasted little time getting to the river to try and get across. However, he encountered stiff resistance and was forced to fall back to Driel to await
help from 30 Corps.
He established a perimeter and expertly kept his reserves on the move to counter German attacks until finally relieved a few days later by the lead elements of 30 Corps.
The pack also contains: Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter