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Private Frank Newhouse

The Arnhem Pilgrimage, September 1987

Private Frank Newhouse

 

Unit : Anti-Tank Platoon, Support Company, 10th Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 14557569

 

Frank joined up for military service on 4th March 1943, and, after his basic training with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry he volunteered for the Parachute Regiment. Unfortunately, due to his young age (18 years and 10 months), he was not accepted. As a result Frank joined the Royal Artillery, but when he was nearly 19 years old, he applied to join the Paras again. After the completion of his parachute course in October 1943 he was posted to the 156th Parachute Battalion. In January 1944, Frank was transferred to the 10th Parachute Battalion and was assigned to the Anti-Tank Platoon.

 

During conversations with Frank he told me that during their training, in the United Kingdom, in the summer of 1944 the Anti-Tank Platoon of the 10th Parachute Battalion had the opportunity to practice with the American issued bazooka. Nearly all the platoon decided that they did not like the long "tongue" of flame that came out of the back and the fact that it gave away their position when fired, so they opted for the P.I.A.T. as their weapon of choice. He added:

 

"I'm pleased to hear that my old Sergeant, 'Joe' Sunley and our good friend 'Shack' have been able to help - a couple of good lads who looked after me when I joined the Battalion as a very young para after it returned from the Middle East in December 1943. I rate 'Joe' as the finest man I've ever had the privilege to know. A great LEADER and friend".

 

Note: 'Joe' Sunley was 6403069 Sergeant Ralph Sunley and 'Shack' was 4696760 Private Ralph Shackleton, both of the Anti-Tank Platoon.

 

"As for my own place in the Battalion. I was a P.I.A.T. (Projectile Infantry Anti-Tank) man attached to "B" Company".

 

On Monday 18th September 1944, with the rest of the 10th Parachute Battalion and 4th Parachute Brigade, Frank parachuted onto Ginkel Heath near Arnhem.

 

"It was a parachute drop into the area. I was excited, not scared. D-Day was in June and we were all geared up for fighting, but we had to wait another few months so we were raring to go".

 

In spite of much resistance and heavy fighting, the following day they arrived at the 'Leeren Doedel' (now called the Pinoccio Restaurant). The Battalion launched an attack astride the Ede to Arnhem road with "B" Company supporting "D" Company on the right hand side of the road. Various attempts were made to deal with the German tanks and armoured vehicles that were causing the Battalion so many casualties. This involved the anti-tank men trying to get forward and into a firing position that put them within 50 metres of the enemy armour. This, of course, was asking a lot and not surprisingly there were many casualties amongst the PIAT men, with Frank being one of them.

 

"I got a bit knocked about with a head wound when attempting to tackle some tanks on the Tuesday afternoon [19th September 1944]. Spent a while being sheltered and looked after by the Dutch doctors and nurses in the Wolfheze Mental Hospital until this was evacuated, along with 6 others [wounded men]".

 

He suffered a serious head wound. With seven others he was taken to the emergency hospital in the Psychiatric Hospital in Wolfheze, where his head wound was treated. On 21st September 1944, his 20th birthday, one of the Dutch nurses who treated him, brought him a bunch of marigolds. One evening the Germans, who were taking over the village, ordered that the hospital be evacuated. Frightened that they would be captured, Frank and seven other soldiers escaped by covering themselves in blankets and pretending to be patients. He said;

 

"We covered ourselves with blankets and pretended to be lunatics along with the rest of them. We had hobnail boots on, but the Germans didn't seem to notice".

 

Frank and two soldier friends met up with the Dutch Resistance who carried them, hidden under bales of straw, to Ede on a horse-drawn cart. Frank stayed in Ede for a few weeks but he was informed on and captured and was sent to a prisoner of war camp at Limburg. Frank, a father of three, added:

 

"I went to three prisoner of war camps, including one at Dresden, but the one at Limburg was the worst. There was nowhere to sleep apart from on the ground in marquees and they only turned the water on for an hour a day and there were 1,000 people there. It was an evil, horrible place".

 

After being freed from the POW camp at Dresden, in March 1945 by the Russians, Frank and his comrades made their way to Czechoslovakia where they met some American soldiers who gave them a car and some petrol so they could reach Brussels. They were then looked after and sent back to England, arriving home in May 1945.

 

After his period of leave, during which he regained his strength, Frank returned to his beloved Parachute Regiment. In September 1945, he was posted to The Glider Pilot Regiment as Administration Staff. After a while, he was assigned to work at The Parachute Regiment Depot at Aldershot. On the 15th June 1950, much to his regret, Frank was demobilised and returned to civilian life.

 

In 1947, Frank, who was originally from Yorkshire, settled in Wootton Bassett where he met his wife, Sylvia. She sadly died in 2003.

 

In February 1952, Frank returned to military service as part of the Parachute Regiment Reserves. He remained in the Reserves until 1966 and gained the rank of Sergeant. He became a manager at Austin Rover in Swindon after leaving the army.

 

Frank Newhouse was a genuine and sincere man, who was always ready to help others. For many years he was Treasurer of the "Arnhem 1944 Veterans Club". Frank was particularly proud that, during the annual commemoration service at the Airborne Cemetery, he was able to lay a wreath with two schoolchildren at the Cross of Sacrifice.

 

In May 2009, Frank was made a Member of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

 

At the age of 85 Frank passed away on Saturday 17th October 2009. He leaves behind three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

 

Material from an Obituary by Colonel Gerrit Pijpers.

Extracts from personal letters from Frank to Bob Hilton.

Extracts from Newspaper articles in 2009.

 

 

My thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.

 

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