Frost, John Dutton “Johnny”

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Frost, John Dutton, born 31-12-1912 in Doona, India, was the son of Frank Dutton Frost CBE MC, a British Army officer, and his wife, Elsie Dora (born Bright). He was educated at Monkton Combe School in Somerset, John Frost joined the British Army  on 01-09-1932, when on graduation from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst , he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), nicknamed “The Poison Dwarves” . From 1938 to 1941 Frost worked with the Iraq Levies as a captain. He joined the Parachute Regiment  in 1941. He was one of the first to join the newly formed Parachute Regiment. Frost distinguished himself in Operation Biting, a raid to dismantle and steal the radar dish or components of the German Würzburg radar at Bruneval

. The raid was the second time the fledgling British parachute regiment was called on. C Company under the then Major Frost was given the task and on 27-02-1942 120 men landed, meeting stiff opposition but succeeded in stealing the component as well as capturing a German expert on the radar. The operation lost three men killed and seven badly wounded. Prime Minister Winston Churchill applauded the raid and guaranteed further wartime operations for the paratroopers. Frost was awarded the Military Cross. During the Allied landings in North Africa British airborne units landed in Tunisia. At this time Lieutenant Colonel Frost, who was now in command of the 2nd Battalion, was tasked to attack enemy airfields near Depienne 30 miles south of Tunis. The airfields were found to be abandoned and the armour column they were supposed to meet up with at Oudna never arrived, leaving Frost’s battalion 50 miles behind enemy lines. Heavily outnumbered and continuously attacked on their route out, they managed to fight their way back to Allied lines but lost 16 officers and 250 men. The battalion carried on fighting with the First Army through to Tunis. In 1943 Frost’s battalion with the rest of the 1st Para Brigade  was landed in Sicily during Operation Husky with orders to capture a road bridge called Ponte di Primosole. The brigade was hopelessly scattered and the 295 officers and men who reached the bridge found themselves facing the German 4th Parachute Regiment under General Heinrich “Heinz” Trettner   and lost the bridge until the arrival of other Eighth Army  units. Trettner died one day before his 99th birthday in Mönchengladbach. Frost’s last action in this theater was in Italy when the entire 1st Airborne Division landed at Taranto by sea. Frost is best known for his involvement in the Battle of Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.  During this battle Frost was to spearhead the 1st Airborne Division’s assault on the bridge at Arnhem

 and hold it while the rest of the division made its way there. If all had gone to plan there would have been almost 9.000 men holding Arnhem bridge for the two days it was supposed to take XXX Corps , under General Brian Horrocks Horrocks_portrait     to reach them. Horrocks died old age 89 on 04-01-1989 in Chichester. On 17-09-1944, as commander of the 2nd Parachute Battalion , Frost led a mixed group of about 745 lightly armed men who landed near Oosterbeek and marched into Arnhem. The battalion reached the bridge capturing the northern end, but Frost then found that his force was surrounded by the II.SS-Panzerkorps under SS-Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich and cut off from the rest of 1st Airborne. Frost was in command during the fierce four-day battle that followed, in which the Germans rained artillery fire onto the parachutists’ positions, and sent tanks and infantry into some of the most intense fighting seen by either side, with very little mercy given. The Germans were greatly surprised by the airborne forces’ refusal to surrender and their continuous counterattacks. One opponent of Frost was the 9th SS Panzer Division “Hohenstaufen”  under command of SS Oberführer, Harmel, Arthur Heinrich “Heinz”.whom he would meet 40 years after the war   After a short truce on the third day, when 250 wounded were removed, the battle continued until the remaining paratroopers had run out of ammunition. There were around one hundred paratroopers left. As a result of this action, during which he was wounded by shrapnel in his feet, Frost became a legendary figure in the Parachute Regiment and the British Army. In action, Frost was a tough leader whose clear head in battle won the respect of every Paratrooper in the battalion. “He didn’t mix his words and seemed to inject confidence in everyone, even if you didn’t like what he said. We would have followed him anywhere” said one Para. Following his capture, Frost was held as a prisoner of war at Spangenberg  and later a hospital in Obermassfeldt . He was freed when the area was overrun by United States troops in March 1945. He was awarded a Bar to his DSO on 20-09-1945 for his leadership at Arnhem. Frost remained in the army after the war. He was promoted to temporary Major General on 11-10-1961 and appointed General Officer Commanding of the 52nd  (Lowland) Infantry Division. By the time of his retirement from the army in 1968, Frost had attained the rank of Major General and in addition to his wartime decorations, had been appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath, and was made a Grand Officer of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. In 1982, Frost was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant in the County of West Sussex. John Frost married in 1947 Jean MacGregor Lyle and had one son, and one daughter. Frost left the army and became a successful farmer. After a good evening and one or two whiskies together, they asked him if he had ever prayed at Arnhem. He replied, ‘Pray? What, let the enemy see me on my knees – NEVER.

Death and burial ground of Frost, John Dutton.

 John Frost died on 21-05-1993, aged 80 and is buried at Milland Cemetery, West Sussex.

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