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