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A group photograph of a platoon of "S" Company, 1st Parachute Battalion

Men of the 1st Parachute Battalion, likely No.7 Platoon, "S" Company, in Italy

Sergeant Frank Stanley Manser

 

Unit : No.7 Platoon, "S" Company, 1st Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 4622740

Awards : Military Medal

 

Frank "Panzer" Manser was a Sergeant and commanded a section in S Company's No.7 Platoon, and it was this section that led the 1st Battalion in their second attempt to move onto the Amsterdamseweg on the evening of Sunday 17th. Lt-Colonel Dobie arrived at S Company HQ and, unsure of which direction to take, asked Manser, whom he knew well, to go forward alone and see what lay ahead. He set off along a track through the woods for 500 yards until he came to a gate that opened onto a field. Looking into this field he could see German troops, at least of Company strength and supported by about five tanks and fifteen half-tracks, digging themselves into defensive positions around the junction between the track and the Amsterdamseweg. Faced with this grim news that the enemy had narrowly beaten them to the main road, Manser made his way back to inform his Colonel that the way ahead was blocked.

 

The Battalion altered its course during the night and headed for the Bridge, moving through Oosterbeek in the darkness. By about 05:00, No.7 Platoon, still leading the march now along the Utrechtseweg, left the town behind them and were about to pass underneath a railway bridge. With his section moving along the right of the road, Manser stumbled upon a German machinegun post, made from sandbags and manned by four Germans. Both parties were equally surprised by the others presence, and Manser still had his Sten gun slung over his shoulder. He said to them "You are my prisoners", which was met with a curious reply of "Englander?", but the German who was manning the gun then opened fire back down the road, which resulted in three men dead and wounding No.7 Platoon's commander, Lieutenant Feltham. Manser dived behind a tree and retreated down the road to call his section forward and organise fire from the Bren gunners. Further casualties were inflicted as the area was mortared and German reinforcements arrived and fired from the railway embankment. David Dobie was once more up with S Company and Manser informed him what was happening. A flanking attack was about to be made on the bridge, but Dobie, not wanting to be delayed in such an action, ordered the men to fall back and head south towards another rail bridge.

 

Sergeant Manser was one of the few remaining members of S Company as the 1st Battalion made its last attack in the direction of Arnhem Bridge, on the morning of Tuesday 19th. The men were cut apart in the open by dense fire from three sides. Manser had managed to get forward almost to the end of that open area, but found himself totally alone and under fire from some Germans in a position behind sandbags, ten yards from where he stood. He returned fire with his Sten and a Colt .45 until he ran out of ammunition, whereupon he then lay down with his arms covering his head. Shortly after his pack was shot off his back and then two bullets struck him, one through the left arm and another under his heart. 10 minutes later, the Germans had fell back from this position and Manser was able to make his way over to riverside. As he sat, the commander of S Company, Major Stark, ran by saying "Come along, Manser; we've got to get to the bridge.", but the pain from his injuries prevented him from going any further. He was captured and taken to the St. Elizabeth Hospital, where he recovered from his wounds. For his actions at Arnhem, Manser was awarded the Military Medal. His citation reads:

 

During Operation 'Market' Sergeant Manser was a Section Commander in 7 Platoon.

 

In the early hours of Monday Morning, 18th September 1944, the company was ambushed by a strong force of the enemy with positions in a wood. His platoon commander, platoon sergeant and the other two section commanders became casualties.

 

He took charge of the platoon who were, due to the heavy casualties sustained by the company, temporarily disorganised. He immediately reorganised the platoon and with total disregard to his personal safety; attacked the enemy. The attack, though not a complete success, caused considerable casualties to the enemy and gave time for the remainder of the company to reorganise and the wounded to be collected. With total disregard for his own personal safety he again led an attack against the enemy, making possible the organised withdrawal and subsequent by-passing of the enemy position by the remainder of the company. He then ordered his platoon to withdraw and although wounded in the arm, remained in his position engaging the enemy until his platoon had completed the withdrawal. His prompt action undoubtedly saved the company from further heavy casualties and enabled the company commander to regroup his forces.

 

Later, Sergeant Manser showed great initiative in escaping from captivity. Finally, he assisted in the organisation of a large scale escape party with skill and initiative. During the battle of Arnhem as on many previous occasions in North Africa and Sicily, Sergeant Manser showed the very highest standards of valour, leadership and initiative. I {Brigadier Lathbury} most strongly recommend this NCO for the immediate award of the Military Medal.

 

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