James Thorburn Doyle was born in 1920, and was the son of Norman and Mary Helen Laurie Thorburn Doyle, of Cheam, Surrey. After attending school at Caterham in Surrey started medical training at Guy’s Hospital London, from which he qualified as a surgeon in 1942. Whilst studying at Guy’s, he was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service at both Purely in Surrey and with the team based at Guy’s.
James, who became known as 'Paddy', was called up in 1943, and commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps. He volunteered for Airborne Forces and became a Section Officer in 181st Airlanding Field Ambulance RAMC. When the 1st Airborne Division prepared for Op Market Garden to Arnhem in September 1944, Cpt James Doyle was the OC of 5 (Reserve) Section.
5 (Reserve) Section arrived by glider during the Second Lift on Monday 18 September 1944. It was intended that Cpt Doyle's section would remain under control of the Division's ADMS Col Warrack, from the beginning and be prepared to open a casualty air evacuation centre when the local airfield had been captured and was operating. However, this failed to materialise and they ended up working in various locations as an overspill Main Dressing Station (MDS). The first was based in the Mental Hospital at Wolfheze, having arrived at about 1400hrs that day. Some hours later, at about 1730hrs casualties were moved closer to Arnhem at Oosterbeek and there were by now about 210 casualties in the care of 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance. 140 casualties were moved on the 18 September, with the remaining 70 left with Captain Doyle and eighteen orderlies. These were successfully moved to Oosterbeek on the following morning.
Once in Oosterbeek, Cpt Doyle and his Section were ordered to open an Annex to the Schoonoord MDS at a school about 150 yards south of the Schoonoord, commandeered in a road known as Paasberg. At this location they operated in relatively safe conditions. The Annex had been intended for post-operative cases to be moved and accommodated in this building. Consequently, by the morning of 21 September many of the 60 men in the care of Cpt Doyle and some of his section are thought to have been lightly wounded casualties.
At around 1100hrs that morning however, the school received several direct hits from 6” mortars. As a result of this bombardment Captain Doyle was killed, whilst Privates Duke, Neve and Blake wounded. Private Duke also died later of wounds sustained at Apeldoorn on 27 September 1944. The MDS was closed and transferred to another location. The Commanding Officer of 181, Lt Col Marrable, subsequently wrote in his post-Arnhem report:
‘Went to school. Of the 60 patients in this building only two had been killed outright. Captain Doyle was removing one of these from the hit part of the building, when a second bomb killed him.
Arranged for patients and remains of section under S/Sergeant Saunders to transfer to Captain Scott’s DS. Major Rigby-Jones organised and carried this out.’
Captain John Doyle died on 21 September 1944, aged 24 years old. He was originally buried behind the school, but was later reinterred at Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Arnhem.
Profile photo supplied by Harvey Grenville
With assistance from Niall CherryRead More