Major General John Dutton (Johnny) Frost CB, DSO & Bar, MC, DL was a British Officer of the 1st Airborne Division. He fought in numerous theatres throughout the war, including North Africa, Sicily, the Italian mainland, raided France in 1942, and is perhaps best known for his stubborn defence of the Arnhem Bridge during Operation Market Garden 1944.
During Operation Torch, in which the British landed airborne units in Tunisia, Lt Colonel Frost was sent to attack enemy airfields 50 miles behind enemy lines. The objectives turned out to be abandoned, and his armoured support did not show up, leaving him and his lightly armed men on their own, meaning they had to fight their way back to Allied lines. They managed to get back, but with the loss of 256 men.
In 1943, Frost’s battalion, together with 1st Para brigade, were scattered away from their objective, the Primosole Bridge. Upon reaching the bridge, they were confronted with the German 4th Parachute Regiment and were badly beaten back, where they had to wait for reinforcement.
Later in the war – in perhaps his most famous action – he commanded the 2nd Parachute Battalion, landing with around 745 lightly armed men near Oosterbeek – the idea being that over 9,000 infantry would meet them in a combined attack on the bridge at Arnhem. As Frost’s men arrived at the North side of the bridge, he realised that they’d been cut off and surrounded by II.SS-Panzerkorps. Frost and his 745 men dug-in, and a four-day battle ensued – with the Germans raining down artillery fire, sending in tanks and waves of infantry against the Para positions. Frost’s men stood resilient, in some incredibly intense fighting, with no quarter given by either side.
The Germans were continually surprised by the British resolve the continuous series of counter-attacks and stubborn refusal to surrender against such overwhelming numbers – it was only when they ran out of ammunition on the fourth day that they did so – with around 100 Paratroopers left.
Frost would be a prisoner of war until 1945 when the Americans overwhelmed the town where he was being held. John Frost was an inspirational leader of men and his stubborn determination in not giving in to the enemy is worthy of legend!
Article was written by Sam Phillips
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