A post-war reunion of British Airborne medical officers

Captain Derek Hughes Ridler


Unit : 16 Parachute Field Ambulance

Awards : Military Cross, Mentioned in Despatches


Captain Ridler was awarded the Military Cross for his actions in Sicily:


On the night of July 13th, 1943 Captain Ridler dropped by parachute near the Ponte Primosole (Map Reference - Italy, 1/25000, Catania Sud, Sheet 270 III, SW - SE, 943675). He led his stick with heavy equipment on a trolley over four miles of difficult country. He entered the farm selected as a dressing station with one combatant soldier who took prisoner twenty Italian soldiers who were occupying it. He set his men and the prisoners to prepare the dressing station and himself went off to contact other Units. For two days he worked in the dressing station under fire, giving anaesthetics for two surgeons. It was by his initiative and gallantry that the dressing station was set up, and by his devotion to duty that operations were able to be performed even when the dressing station was overrun by the enemy.


At Arnhem, Captain Ridler was Mentioned in Despatches. His joint citation with Captain Lawson, 133 Parachute Field Ambulance, reads:


Captain Lawson and Captain Ridler were carrying out their duties as Medical officers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Arnhem, when the Germans took this building for the second time on 19th September 1944. Until they were entrained for Germany on 1st October 1944, they did not try to escape because they realised that they were needed for the care of the wounded. When, however, they were informed that they would no longer be allowed to carry on this work, they decided to try to return to Allied hands. Climbing through a small hole cut in the side of the truck, they jumped as the train was travelling at approximately 20 m.p.h. They walked until they reached a small village to the North of Apeldoorn and there found shelter.


About a month later they were moved to Barneveld. Captain Lawson contracted diphtheria and had to remain inactive for another month. Upon his recovery, with the idea of reaching the coast, he persuaded a guide to take him to Rotterdam and after hiding for some time in Neuwenijk, he was escorted to Allied lines at Drimmelsen on 4th January 1945.


During November 1944, Captain Ridler participated in a large scale effort to slip through the enemy controlled areas. When he and two officers found themselves along after an encountered with Germans, they returned to Osterloo-Barneveld district.


About the middle of January 1945 a second attempt was made to cross the lines; when this had to be abandoned because of icebound rivers, the escapers were hidden in the Maarn area. The third scheme arranged by his helpers was successful, and Captain Ridler reached safety at Lage-Zwaluwe on 14th February 1945.


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