Biography of Maj General John D Frost

John Dutton Frost was born on 31 December 1912 in Poona, India. He was the son of Brigadier-General FD Frost CBE MC of the Indian Army and was educated at Wellington public school and Sandhurst.

In 1932 he was granted a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), with whom he served in England and Palestine. From 1938 to 1941 he was seconded to the Iraqi Levies and quietly enjoyed colonial life as a Captain. However, he soon volunteered for the newly formed airborne forces and was posted to the 2nd Parachute Battalion in September 1941, as the Adjutant. He was made aware that if he could complete his parachute training in time he would take over command of C Company, which had been ear-marked for a forthcoming operation.


After some trials and tribulations he did pass his parachute course and took over command of C Company and led them on the Bruneval Raid, Operation Biting. This was the first successful action by a British parachute unit against German forces in occupied France, near Le Havre. The British force, consisting of C Company, sappers from the Parachute Squadron and an RAF technician parachuted onto a drop zone near an isolated Würzburg radar on the coast on the night of 27 February 1942. They overwhelmed the small garrison, dismantled the radar, took some prisoners and managed to withdraw with only minimal casualties.


The 2nd Parachute Battalion, along with the entire 1st Parachute Brigade, was now involved in Operation Torch, the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa in November 1942. As they were boarding the ship to set sail, the Commanding Officer was taken ill and Major John Frost took over command.


He led the battalion in its first complete parachute assault at Oudna, Tunisia on 29 November 1942 and the subsequent very difficult battle back to friendly lines 5 days later. The 2nd Battalion was tasked to attack enemy airfields near Depienne 30 miles south of Tunis, but 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. Five months of intense fighting against German and Italian Forces in Tunisia as conventional line infantry followed, before all the Axis Forces surrendered in May 1943.


He then led the battalion in the parachute assault in Sicily, Operation Fustian, on 13 – 14 July 1943 and the subsequent battle for the Primosole Bridge. This was followed by Operation Slapstick, the landings by the 1st Airborne Division at the Italian port of Taranto in Southern Italy in September 1943. The 2nd Battalion along with the entire 1st Parachute Brigade were in the follow-up wave and moved up to occupy Altamura.


Lieutenant Colonel Frost brought the battalion back to the UK in December 1943, where it settled into new billets at Stoke Rochford Hall, Lincolnshire. It trained for six months for the liberation of France, but suffered the disappointment of being used as a back-up to the 6th Airborne Division, which had spear-headed the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. They then had to put up with a series of stand-by operations (16 in all) before taking off on Sunday, 17 September 1944 as part of Operation Market-Garden, the airborne invasion of Holland.


Lieutenant Colonel John Frost  commanded the combined force of the 2nd Parachute Battalion (350 men) and the 1st Parachute Brigade HQ and attachments (390 men) in the battle around the northern bridge ramp area of Arnhem for three days, until he was badly wounded in the legs. Command of the battalion, with constant referral back to him devolved upon Major Freddie Gough of the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron. Eventually a truce had to be negotiated with the Germans to evacuate the wounded from the cellars in the buildings near the bridge, as they were all in danger of being burnt alive. Thus on Wednesday, 20 September 1944 Lieutenant Colonel John Frost, bloodied but unbowed, became a prisoner of war (PoW).


Upon his release from PoW camp and return to England, Frost was given command of the 1st Airborne Divisional Battle School in Norway, May-August 1945.


After the war he held a number of staff posts from 1948 until 1955, when he was appointed as a Chief Instructor at the School of Infantry. He returned to the airborne fold in 1958 when he took command of 44 Ind Para Brigade Group. He was promoted to Major General in 1961 and appointed as General Officer Commanding (GOC) 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division and became GOC Malta and Libya prior to his retirement in 1967 when he took up farming in West Sussex. In 1982 he also became the Deputy Lord Lieutenant for the County of West Sussex.


On 6 April 1977 he was the subject of ‘This Is Your Life’ and in 1978 the bridge at Arnhem was renamed the John Frostbrug in his honour.


He regularly visited the battalion during his life, in such places as Northern Ireland, Germany (Berlin) and Aldershot.


He published three books during his life; ‘A Drop Too Many’ in 1980, '2 PARA Falklands’ in 1983 and ‘Nearly There' in 1991.


He married Jean MacGregor in 1947 and they had a son and a daughter.


Major General John Dutton Frost died on 21 May 1993 at his home in West Sussex. He is buried at Milland Cemetery, West Sussex.

By Rebecca Blackburn with information supplied by Bob Hilton

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