133 Parachute Field Ambulance RAMC

133 Parachute Field Ambulance RAMC

1943 to 1945


1943 TO 1945

The 133 Field Ambulance RAMC was originally a TA unit based in Croydon, Surrey and accompanied the 44th (Home Counties) Division of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to France in 1939, returning to the UK in the escape from Dunkirk in the early Summer of 1940. Sent to North Africa, the unit was sent to Syria, and then to the Canal Zone in Egypt, before being selected to form part of the new Airborne Forces after 44th Division was disbanded. In early 1943, renamed 133 Airborne Field Ambulance RAMC the unit undertook parachute training at Ramat David airfield in Palestine. The first CO, Lt Col Scriven, was injured in a parachuting accident and was succeeded by Lt Col Alford prior to the invasion of Italy.

Now known as 133 Parachute Field Ambulance RAMC, they joined 4th Parachute Brigade alongside the 156 and 10th Parachute Battalions and prepared for the invasion of Italy in September 1943. After successful training they travelled to Haifa, and on to Tripoli before sailing to join the rest of 1st Airborne Division in Italy. A small volunteer contingent had been sent with 16 Para Field Ambulance to Sicily, however this would prove their first Airborne deployment (albeit arriving by sea).

Based at Taranto, they were able to set up in the Ospedale Maritima, the Seamen’s Hospital at the Harbour. 133 PFA played a crucial role caring for the wounded coming in from ships off the coast (including men from the ill-fated HMS Adbiel, a minelayer carrying 1st Airborne troops sunk in the Harbour when a mine exploded as it passed). In addition to the Abdiel casualties, the Hospital had admitted a further 67 battle casualties by 15 September 1943, and treated (though were unable to save) Divisional Commander Maj-Gen Hopkinson after he was wounded in Battle. Later during the Italian campaign, 133 PFA supported the continuing operations from a School in Gioia. By the end of their time in Italy, the unit had treated 52 Officers, 687 Other Ranks, 21 Prisoners of War and 1 Russian soldier in just 20 days from 10 September to the end of that month.

Along with the majority of the Division, 133 PFA returned to the UK in November 1943. After a brief spell at Barleythorpe Hall to refresh training, preparations were made for the invasion of North West Europe. The 1st Airborne Division were finally sent to Arnhem, as part of Op Market Garden.

Sent in to jump as part of the Second Lift on 18 September 1944, 133 PFA landed as Ginkel Heath DZ. The orders were to move, with the rest of the 4th Parachute Brigade, towards the high ground to the north of Arnhem , and relieve the 1st Parachute Battalion.

Once on the ground, the operation did not go well on the first day for 133 Para Field Ambulance. Their proposed RV point was held by the Germans and had to be cleared. With the DZ under fire for a time, many drop zone casualties had to be collected and treated. Perhaps worse still, at the roll call about 40 men were missing. Some turned up later but two sticks had been dropped away from the DZ and never managed to reach their unit at Arnhem. Nevertheless, 133 PFA had to make the best of their situation and were supplemented by men of 181 A/L Field Ambulance, whose resources had also been depleted.

First, they set up a MDS in the Zuid Ginkel café, then on 19 September 133 PFA personnel supported the 4th Parachute Brigade in its efforts to reach the Arnhem road bridge, and treated many casualties during this day working from a CCP (Casualty Collecting Point) set up under a bridge, before the CO Lt Col Alford proposed the creation of a Dressing Station located on the Utrechtseweg close to the Vreewijk Hotel. On the 20 September these buildings were shelled however, and it was decided to move to a building near the river called Pietersberg.

By the early hours of 21 September the first casualties were received and the staff established an operating theatre where serious cases were treated over the following five days.

The conditions in this largish house (which is still standing today), a former office, must have been grim. Medical supplies, food and water were in short supply and the building was under fire on many occasions. With an Allied evacuation of the Medical stations impractical, the remnants of 133 PFA stayed after the the 1st Airborne Division evacuation on the night of 25-26 September, and were captured and evacuated to Apeldoorn, the later-known ‘Airborne Hospital’, which operated until closed by the German forces in November.

Alongside other Airborne Medical personnel, men and officers of 133 PFA distinguished themselves during the Battle, and later in Apedoorn by their determined efforts to perform their duties as effectively as possible, caring for the wounded from all sides. After Arnhem many members of the 133 were recognised for their services during the conflict.

In practice however, the Battle of Arnhem had taken its toll on the unit. Of the men sent to Holland, only 3 ORs returned (who joined 16 Para Field Ambulance), and all officers had been killed, injured or captured. When the men who had missed their DZ at Arnhem returned to the UK in late 1944 however, it was decided to reform 133 from this contingent at the former 16th Para Field Ambulance base in Culverthorpe, Lincolnshire. Eventually a new CO was appointed and Lt Col R J Niven, MC took command of the unit.

By May 1945, as the War in Europe neared its end the 1st Airborne Division were ready for further deployments, and it was sent to Stavanger, Norway on 11 May 1945 as part of Op Doomsday to disarm the German forces in the region. It proved a short deployment however, and 133 PFA returned to the UK at the end of June 1945. On the 4 July 1945 there was another change in command and Lt Col R.J. Niven handed over to Lt Col NJP Hewlings, who had come from 225 Para Field Ambulance.

In early August 1945 the unit moved to Winthorpe Hall, near Newark, but were only there for two months, as they then moved to Carter Barracks at Bulford in Wiltshire, which is where Lt Col NJP Hewlings left them and handed over command to Major WIS Huddleston, R.A.M.C. who would oversee the disbandment of the unit.

133 Parachute Field Ambulance RAMC was finally disbanded on 1 December 1945.



Commanding Officers

Major. W.C. Alford.                                         January 1943 – 2 March 1943. (Acting C.O.)

Lieut – Colonel. W.H. Scriven.                          3 March 1943 – 5 May 1943.

Lieut – Colonel. W.C. Alford.                           5 May 1943 – 25 September 1944.

Captain. C.W.K. Willard.                                  1 October 1944 – 18 January 1945. (Acting C.O.)

Lieut – Colonel. R.J. Niven, MC.                       19 January 1945 – 4 July 1945.

Lieut – Colonel. N.J.P. Hewlings, DSO.             4 July 1945 – 19 October 1945.



133 Parachute Field Ambulance, RAMC

WAR DIARY. January 1945

 Month and year: January 1945

Acting Commanding Officer: Captain CWK Willard, RAMC

Place: Culverthorpe, Lincolnshire.

1 January 1945

1200 – Visit by Lt-Col Packe, CRASC & Major Naylor, RASC Discussion of unit transport with MTO

2 January 1945

Nothing to record.

3 January 1945

1030 – Visit by Major General Urquhart, GOC 1 A/B Div

1130 – Conference of Officers & Senior NCO’s. Discussion of training, discipline & turnout.

4 January 1945.

0900 – 4 Officers & 56 OR’s saw training film of Operation “Market” at Grantham.

5 January 1945

2300 – Lt Flanaghan, RAMC admitted to Lincoln Military Hospital suffering with pleurisy

6 –  January 1945

Nothing to record.

8 January 1945

Lt Staple, RAMC returned from leave.

9 January 1945

0930 – Visit by OC to ADMS Discussion of future policy for unit

10 January 1945

Lt Staple, RAMC attached to 181 A/L Field Amb to open Divisional Rehabilitation Centre.

11 January 1945.

Disbandment of 16 Para Field Amb now complete. All personnel TOS 133 Para Field Amb

Certificate to this effect sent to ADMS 1 A/B Div

12 January 1945

1430 – Conference with OC 181 Fd Amb, Capt Swinscow, RAMC & Lt Lange, RAMC to discuss programme for 1st Aid Course for Glider Pilots

13th January 1945

RAMC personnel unfit for parachuting & non volunteers posted to 181 Fd Amb on instructions of ADMS

14 January 1945

Order received from ADMS to move unit location to RUSKINGTON. Move to be accomplished & Culverthorpe vacated by Jan 21.

15 January 1945

1130 – Visit by ADMS to discuss with Lt. Q.M. loading tables for operation ‘MARKET’

1400 – Visit to Ruskington to inspect new location.

16 January 1945.

1000 – Instruction from DADMS to cancel unit location move until further notice.

17 January 1945.

1200 – Visit by Major Bevan, BM 1 Para Bde.

18th January 1945.

Nothing to record.

19 January 1945.

1300 – Lt-Col. Niven, RAMC arrived to take command of unit.

1530 – CO visited ADMS

20 January 1945.

1130 – CO visited HQ, 1 Para Bde and met Bde Commander & DAQMG

21 January 1945.

1000 – Move of unit from Culverthorpe postponed indefinitely.

Lieut Flanigan, RAMC rejoins from hospital.

24 January 1945.

0900 – Lieut. Flanigan posted for temporary duty in relief of RMO 3 Para Bn.


26 January 1945.

1100 – ADMS and DADMS 1 Airborne Div visited unit to see demonstration for Norwegian Medical Offr’s (two of whom also attached) belonging to Independent Parachute Company, of suggested medical equipment for their units and its methods of carriage.

A demonstration of PERN? Stretcher carrying equipment and extensional equipment for Morris splint was also shown? It was felt? That on the whole it was unnecessary in a Para Fld Amb.

28 January 1945.

1100 – OC’s call for combined Route March and Map Reading exercise.

29 January 1945.

Capt JG Sharp, AD Corps and Lieut Clarkson, RASC reported permanent duty.

OC and QM on orders from ADMS visited original alternative billets for the Fld Amb at Ruskington and Ashby de la Lande (Map Refs 1” OS Sheet 55 Grantham 5470 & Sheet 47 Lincoln 5174). Neither site presented any advantages over Culverthorpe and no move was decide upon.

31 January 1945.

1030 – Lieut. Allen, RASC left unit on posting to 93 Comp Coy, RASC

1130 – Lt-Col Packe, RASC visited unit to discuss MT matters with CO and to meet Lieut Clarkson, the new MTO




With assistance from Niall Cherry - grateful thanks to the Student Volunteer Team. Updated by R Hilton Dec 2020

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  • Gen Montgomery visits 133 Para Field Ambulance at Oakham, March 1944

    Gen Montgomery visits 133 Para Field Ambulance at Oakham, March 1944

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