16 Parachute Field Ambulance War Diary Sep 1944-Nov 1944

16th Parachute Field Ambulance, RAMC

WAR DIARY September – October 1944.

National Archives catalogue reference WO 177/701.

Note: The 16 Parachute Field Ambulance war diary for the period 17 - 25 September 1944 was lost during the fighting at Arnhem. As such this diary contains very little reference to the role of the Ambulance at Arnhem, but the period 17 - 25 September is covered for the elements of the unit that remained behind in Britain.

Month and year: September 1944.

Commanding Officer: Lieutenant-Colonel E Townsend

Place: Culverthorpe, Lincolnshire.

1 September 1944. 

Preparation for operation proceeds.  O.C. visited A.D.M.S.  News received that all RAMC personnel (5) in first sea party have been returned to U.K.  Four of them are now included in the Glider Party.

1130 - Officers briefed by O.C. and provisional time table arranged.

1400 - Bombing up on airfields.  Section 3 + 4 (Capt Keesey and Tobin) left unit via airfields to join 3 & 2 Bn respectively.  Glider loading proceeding at Keevil.  Message received at 2230 hrs that Glider loading complete but O.C. Glider Party (Sgt. Price) admitted to Hospital ? fractured wrist. Sgt [?] detailed as relief + arrangements to transport him to airfield laid on.

2nd September 1944.

0830 - O.C's briefing of unit - officers + men.  Chute fitting, first equipment check and section briefing during the morning.

1330 - Container chutes fitted on containers at airfield.  Weather bad - storm conditions.

1630 - R.M.O's conference to tie up details of medical plan.

1730 - O.C's final talk to all taking part in operation.

2000 - O.C. called to Bde Commander O Group.  Change of plan likely.

2300 - OPERATION CANCELLED - reason “no longer required”.  Unit + formation remains at 36 hrs notice - further operation likely.

3rd September 1944.

Necessary steps “laying off” taken.  Aircraft remained tanked up + gliders loaded but chute collected.  Belgian money + special tablets etc collected in.  Men allowed out.  Officers' activity on a high level - O.C. called to ‘O’ Group at 1730, but postponed to 21.30 hrs.

2130 - Bde Commanders ‘O’ Group - operation laid on, D.Z. West of Maastricht - D.Day 4 Sept.  Take off 1200 hrs.

2300 - Just before leaving Bde HQ on completion of "O" Group - message arrived cancelling operation - reason Americans already reached the area.

4th September 1944.

Unit mostly engaged in Harvesting.  Visit to MARCO, oerliken work arranged for men in afternoon.

5th September 1944.


6th September 1944.

1730 - Bde. Commanders ‘O’ Group.  OPERATION COMET.

7th September 1944.

0830 - Fitting chutes, overhauling equipment, checking Aircraft + containers.

0930 - Visit by A.D.M.S. - this operation though a Divisional Op is three independent brigade operations.

1100 - O.C’s briefing.

1800 - O.C’s final word.  All preparations complete.

2330 - Operation postponed 24 hrs for bad weather.

8th September 1944.

Revision of medical plan as result of later intelligence after O.C's visit to Brigade Commander.

1430 - All R.M.O’s + Fd. Amb. officers conference to tie up medical arrangements, which are now much more satisfactory.  They are simple + elastic & should cover this difficult operation (from the medical point of view).

1930 - Postponed 24 hrs owing to weather + slow advance of relieving force.

9th September 1944.

1930 - Postponed 48 hrs, reason not stated.  Men still C.B. but sent in an organised party to arrive Grantham.

10th September 1944.

1800 - Op COMET cancelled - due to slow progress of ground forces & thickening of enemy defences. (Op order attached)

11th September 1944.

Men de-briefed and allowed out.  Harvesting.  O.C. visited Glider Party at Keevil - Conditions in Transit Camp unsatisfactory - feeding not very good, no facilities for recreation or entertainment, no baths.

12th September 1944.

Bde Commander ‘O’ Group at 1130  - preliminary briefing for Operation “Market”.  Dates to be confirmed later.

13th September 1944.

24 hour passes issued to all possible operational personnel.

14th September 1944.

Information regarding “Market” has so far been passed only to 2 i/c - remainder of men & officers have not been informed.

15th September 1944.

Arrangements made for Operation “Market”.

16th September 1944.

Men confined to barracks - loading up.

1800 - Briefing for Market by O.C.

17th September 1944.

1157 - Bde emplaned and took off for op “Market”

Acting Commanding Officer: Lieutenant J.G. Brown, R.A.M.C.

18th September 1944.

Unit residue clean up billets.  All personnel relegated to quarters on 1st floor.  Two top floors cleared.

19th September 1944.

Unit fatigues continued.  It is heard that none of the planes was lost on the drop.

20th September 1944.

Available personnel help [?] the harvest.

21st September 1944.

As yet no Sit. Rep. of 1st Airborne Div is available.

22nd September 1944.

Sit. Reps now available at Bde HQ residue.

23rd / 24th September 1944.

Nil to upset concerning residue.  Considerable concern on 1st Div situation.

25th September 1944.

Re-supply falling into enemy hands to considerable extent.

26th September 1944.

1st Airborne Div evacuated over Lower Rhine.

27th September 1944.

No information available as to fate of 16th.  Radio transmissions from B.B.C. state "all RAMC units stayed with wounded in Arnhem".

28th September 1944.

Remnants of Division expected with wounded to arrive by air today or tomorrow.

29th September 1944.

Unit representatives warned to attend Barkston Heath and Saltby Airfields at 1300 hrs to receive remnants of Division.  2 M.O’s despatched to each airfield for attention to wounded before their evacuation to Grantham Civil and Nottingham City Hospitals.

1930 - 46 C47 a/c arrived at Barkston among which was one a/c carrying minor wounded who were despatched (19 in all) to Grantham Hospital.  No members of this unit have returned on these a/c or those at Saltby or Woodhall Spa.  No news of them from survivors, almost certainly stayed with wounded at Arnhem.  14 a/c arrived at Saltby with no wounded.

30th September 1944.

No information available as to fate of 16th or any of its members.

Month and year: October 1944.

Acting Commanding Officer: Lieutenant J.G. Brown, R.A.M.C.

Place: Culverthorpe, Lincolnshire

1st October 1944.

Little news of R.A.M.C. personnel.  Only known to have returned Capt. Swinscow Reconnaissance.  Major Richards DADH.

2nd October 1944.

Conference Bde HQ by General Urquhart at which he stated that 4th Bde and 1st would amalgamate and be known as 1st Bde.  Future of Fd. Amb. not known.

3rd October 1944.

1700 - 2nd Seaborne Tail returns in good order not having set foot in France.

4th October 1944.

2nd Seaborne Elements sent on 14 days leave.

5th October 1944.

1500 - 1st Seaborne Party arrive - contact with the enemy at Nijmegen and assisted in Evacuation of 1st Airborne Div.  Report enemy mostly consisting of poor quality troops - own troops had had enough.  Partisans only in evidence after battles - Dutch reception is no way comparable to that of Belgian which was at times almost embarrassing.

6th October 1944.

1st Seaborne Party commence leave (14 days).  Residue = 1 officer, 5 OR’s.

7th to 13th October 1944.

Still no news official or by hearsay of any members of 16th.  Fate of remnants of Division still not officially known

14th – 23rd October 1944.

Nil to report until 23rd, when information received from Div that 180 men from 1 Div would arrive on 24th as “Evaders” from Arnhem.

133 [Para] Field Ambulance moved to this location on 22nd

24th October 1944.

1530 – 2 Cpl’s & 4 men from 16th, 1 Officer, 1 R.S.M., 2 Sgt’s, 2 Cpl’s, 3 L/Cpl’s and 16 Other Ranks [from the 133rd] arrived at this location.

The 16th members had been taken prisoner at Arnhem and had affected an escape approximately one week after the main force had been evacuated.

In the meantime they had been employed looking after patients at St Elizabeth’s Hospital, Arnhem. Their subsequent movements they are not allowed to divulge.

Medical Condition on return to this location showed the effects of experience? and nervous strain.

133 personnel never contacted the main force having been dropped some miles N of the D.Z. Their movements subsequent to this are also secret & have not been passed on.

Their Medical Condition on return did not show the same deterioration as did those of 16th. Members of both units then proceeded on 14 days leave, having given evidence of the fact that all members dropped were P.O.W. except for four other ranks probably killed.

25th to 31st October 1944.

Nothing to report. No further news of missing personnel of 16 or 133 Field Amb.

Month and year: November 1944.

Acting Commanding Officer : Captain. C.W.K. Willard, R.A.M.C.

Place: Culverthorpe, Lincolnshire.

1st November 1944.

1050 – Visit by Major-General. Urquhart, G.O.C. 1 Airborne Div.

List received of P’s OW & wounded from ARNHEM Operation, including a number from this unit.

2nd November 1944.

Nothing to report.

3rd November 1944.

Visit by Major. Richards, R.A.M.C., Acting A.D.M.S. 1 A/B Div. Also Major. Halls, H.Q., R.A.S.C. to discuss transport with M.T.O.

Lt. Ross arrived from Barleythorpe with Rear Party of 133 Field Amb.

4th – 6th November 1944.

Nothing to record.

7th November 1944.

Surplus transport disposed of according to Divisional instructions, partly within Division & partly to V.R.D.

8th November 1944.

13 R.A.S.C. Drivers, surplus to establishment, dispatched to 250 Coy R.A.S.C. on instructions from C.R.A.S.C. 250 Coy is to select whom they wish to retain & return the rest.

9th November 1944.

Returned from leave following Operation “Market” – 6 O.R’s (16 Field Amb).

10th November 1944.

Returned from leave after Operation “Market”- Lt. Olliff, R.A.M.C. & 30 Other Ranks, including RSM. Bowe (133 Field Amb).

11th November 1944.

Visit from Major. Blair, R.A.M.C. to investigate effect of secret drug? issued to 16 Para Field Amb for Operation “Market”. Only 4 men who took the drug? available.

12th November 1944.

Lt. Olliff attached to 1 A/L Lt Regt, R.A. as R.M.O. in accordance with A.D.M.S. instruction.

13th – 15th November 1944.

Nothing to record.

16th November 1944.

Five R.A.S.C. Drivers returned from 250 Coy R.A.S.C. (unavailable? For retention). These are surplus to establishment & posting instructions are awaited.

17th – 19th November 1944.

Nothing to record.

20th November 1944.

1430 – Visit by Col. Bruce Harvey, A.D.M.S. 1 A/B Div.

21st – 23rd November 1944.

Nothing to record.

24th November 1944.

1030 – 4 Officers + 10 O.R.’s attended lecture at Grantham by Maj-Gen. Gale at Grantham on 6th Airborne Div’s operation in Normandy.

25th & 26th November 1944.

Nil to record.

27th November 1944.

1100 – Visit by A.D.M.S to discuss opening of Div Rehabilitation Centre, possibly at this location.

28th & 29th November 1944.

Nothing to record.

30th November 1944.

1130 – Visit by Brigadier. Lathbury, Commander 1 Para Bde to see Evaders of 16 Field Amb from Operation “Market”.

1430 – Visit by D.A.D.H. & D.A.D.M.S.

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