Major S. M. Frazer


Unit : 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance

Army No. : 64382


Major Frazer was Second-in-Command of the 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance. What follows is his report on the activities of the Ambulance at Arnhem, kindly contributed by Stuart Jebbit.





1st Phase

17 Sep 44 to 26Sep 44

As 2 i/c it was my job to run the Field Ambulance D.S. which was to be set up wherever the urgencies of the battle required. The plan before action was to form a temporary D.S. in area WOLFHEZEN and then move to Municipal Hospital, ARNHEM.


17 Sept Took off 1010 hours. Landed 1319 hours. Slight sniping on L.Z. M.D.S. gliders landed complete and reported at R.V. Made recce of small Dutch houses for temporary D.S. No light or main water owing to preliminary bombing. Water from surface drainage wells in fair supply. D.S. open 1630 hours, 1st operation 1730 hours. Two houses taken over, more taken as required.


18 Sept 7 Houses now occupied. patients 120 at 0800 hours. Moved across railway to better accommodation in Mental Hospital, lately inhabitated by German Woman's Services. No water or light. Joined in afternoon by 5 Sect. (Capt. Doyle). 1730 hours. Ordered to temporary site at Oosterbeek on road to Arnhem. Cleared 140 patients by dark, leaving 70 with Capt. Doyle and 15 orderlies. Found 250 patients established in hotel, with surgical teams 600 yds away with room for 30 patients.


19 Sept Looked for water before first light, found pump and sent trailers at first light. Took over hotel on opposite corner. During morning 133 D.S. and 16 D.S. both hit and evacuated to us, whole remainder of Division now evacuating to 181 D.S. at Corner House. Lt. Col. Alford set up surgical centre near by with remainder of surgical teams and orderlies. Major Miller, Capt. Key and Capt. Lawson joined staff at Corner House. Glider drop of 16 Para Field Ambulance joined us and ran hotel opposite for less severely wounded. School near by taken over by Capt. Boyle and S/Sgt. Saunders for wounded requiring no further surgical aid. No re-supply. a.c. took over barn on third corner for lightly wounded. Entries in A & D Book 509. Some 60 not entered by going direct to subsidiary houses in D.S. group. No more accommodation at Surgical centres. Minor treatment working by shifts 23 hours of 24 taking on anything.


20 Sept Bad day. Direct hits from both sides, no patients killed, Father Benson severely wounded, phenomenal avoidance by A.D.M.S., a.c., and self. 1200 hours captured, food position bad. Lightly wounded in garage (about 40) marched away, no attempt to evacuate laying cases. Lt. Col. Alford forced to leave his building, wounded evacuated to Corner House. Minor treatment working. Re-supply 20 Compo packs, 3 Medical panniers.


21 Sept Recaptured. School hit Capt. Doyle and many patients killed. Major Miller left to help in group of houses round Major Rigby-Jones Centre, as did Lt. Col. Alford and his party leaving Major Grith at Corner House. In afternoon stopped, admitting at Corner House, all cases direct to Rigby-Jones area. Divided house and attached houses into 4 wards under Capt.Taylor Capt. Mawson, Capt. Simmonds and self, total patients 480. Minor treatment going full blast. Food and water very difficult, using rainwater from roof and pond water and odd food brought in by Dutch, and grubbed up in garden in spite of snipers. A & ~Book entries at Corner House 750. No re-supply.


22 Sept Practically in No mans Land, orderlies killed and wounded in wards by near misses from mortars. Many wards evacuated as unsafe, some patients slightly rewounded, none killed, fairly safe lying down. Captured and killed sheep at first light, those escaping later shot by Capt. Griffin down the road. Minor treatment (Major Smith) now working to ward allotments and ward settling down to routine. All cases lying except 13 sitting in cellar. Continuous operating in Minor (aic) treatment stopped at 2300 hrs as all urgent practicable surgery was up to date. No resupply.


23 Sept Captured again in the afternoon. Major Longland arrived with German doctor, started evacuation in earnest up till dusk, battle still going on all round. Major Longland sent up some porridge, and Major Rigby-Jones brought in 2 compo packs.


24 Sept Germans produced 30 vehicles to continue evacuation, much held up by mortar fire, only 100 cases, very severe left by night. Protested that fractures could not be moved unplastered, Germans produced some plaster.


25 Sept Rigby-Jones group of buildings all hit and wounded evacuated to Corner house, battle on all round German evacuation continuing, sorted out cases unfit to move 20 miles.


26 Sept Division gone and evacuation completed by evening. Most severe cases to St. Elisabeth's Hospital, Arnhem, remainder to Apeldoorn, some walking wounded moved to unknown destination.



2nd Phase.


26 Sept. 44 -17 Oct. 44. The remaining M.D.S. personnel including members of 181 who had been employed in the other D.S. group had joined us at the Corner House on 25 Sept, were absorbed in the P.O.W. Hospital at Wilhelm III Caserne, Apeldoorn under the A.D.M.S. Lt. Col. Alford was in charge of the medical arrangements, and I acted as O.C. Surgical Division under him. The patients were in three blocks, A. B. and C., and were divided into wards and allotted to Medical officers. There were two operating theatres, which worked continuously for the first few days, cases by priorities being forwarded from the wards to the Medical Office and operating lists allotted to the theatres. Surgeons were responsible for following up their own cases post-operatively. Cases requiring special nursing were evacuated to Dutch Hospitals as also were some classes of surgical cases. Some food had been brought in by the Dutch and we received 40 Canadian Red Cross parcels, the Dutch also made up some Red Cross parcels especially for us.


Lt. Col. Alford put me in charge of the diets and we managed to run three classes of diet, light for those unable to face solid food, special which was an augmented normal diet for those suffering from loss of blood or recovering from their wounds, and the normal P.O.W. ration which was extremely poor for the first week but improved after that. A percentage of special diet ration for wounded had been ordered to be issued to us but, as we discovered on going to St. Joseph's where this diet was available for special cases, it was almost certainly going to the German guard, it never reached us. All orderlies were working extremely hard on what, without the privations of the battle previously experienced, was quite an inadequate ration. Various parties of wounded attended by Medical personnel were moved by rail to Germany and a few of the personnel made their escape between 15 and 18 Oct. Medical personnel left were A.D.M.S., D.A.D.M.S., c.o. and remaining officers and men of 181, Capt. Graham Jones and a few non-medical administrative personnel.


Following on the discovery of escape of personnel the Germans determined to evacuate the Hospital. Early on 18 Oct the order was given for the immediate removal of all personnel at one hour's notice, leaving the remaining wounded in charge of Major S.M. Frazer, R.A.M.C., Major Rigby-Jones, R.A.M.C., Capt. P. Griffin, A.D.C., Rev. Harlow, S.C.F., Rev. A.A. Buchanan, C.F. and twenty orderlies to be selected. The Germans expected to get a train within a few days to remove this party to Germany. The immediate removal was carried out by horse transport. The A.D.M.S. disappeared after the Germans warning of movement and was Searched for unsuccessfully. All patients were moved into B Block.


State 18 Oct. 44. Staff Offrs 5, Patients 97, O.R's 20. 10 patients were brought in late in evening from a German Hospital.


19 Oct. State -0900 hrs. Staff i.s.q. Patients lying 92, sitting 15, Offrs 12, O.R's 95, 107. Guard very strict, movement of staff to cookhouse very difficult and prescribed. Cleared from A block leaving two stores locked. Told Commandant unable to clean A block as so short staffed, so done with outside labour. Transfers - 1, Admissions - 5, Operations - 12, X-Ray - 5.


20 Oct. State -0900 hrs. Staff i.s.q. Patients lying 91, sitting 20, Offrs 14, O.R's 97, 111. Visited by Town Major Baron Oldshausen who brought some playing cards. Transfers - nil, Admissions - nil, Operations -5, X-Ray -5.


21 Oct. State unchanged. Visit by Col. Zingsrling and Medical General. Told move /expected soon, German intention to move all transportable cases to us and take away non-transportable. Complained of shortage of staff not helped by attitude of guard. Position slightly eased. Visited by Dutch doctors with books, meat paste and blood. Transfers and Admissions - nil, Operations -9, X-Ray -5.


22 Oct. State unchanged. Visited by Major Kramer and Dr. Tripp, they examined cases and pronounced 27 unfit to travel. Transfers and Admissions - nil, Operations - 3, X-Ray - nil.


23 Oct. State unchanged. Transfer to Dutch began. Transfers - 10, Admissions - 6, Operations - 1, X-Ray - 3.


24 Oct. State -0900 hrs. Staff i.s.q. Patients lying 81, sitting 26, Offrs 14, O.R's 93, 11 rj 107. Transfers - 8, Admissions - nil, Operations - 3, X-Ray -3.


25 Oct. State -0900 hrs. Staff i.s.q. Patients lying 73, sitting 26, Offrs 12, O.R's 87, 99. All transfers stopped Operations - 6, X-Ray - 2.


26 Oct. Train in. Loading began 1000 hrs, the 9 non transportable to be left till last. Protested to Major Krammer that I did not think so many seriously wounded British should be left in area without a British doctor, said that if Major Rigby-Jones were allowed to stay at Dutch Hospital he could give his parole. I had made several efforts to go and see cases in the Dutch Hospital as I had heard disquieting rumours as to the standard of Surgical attention they were receiving. Just as we were getting on the last bus to the station, new German orders arrived that the officers with 5 orderlies were to go to St. Joseph's Hospital, Apeldoorn, where the unfit had already been taken, except Lt. Erskine who was moribund, the Germans said we had to move him so we took him with us with a continuous drip from blood supplied by a Dutch girl kept in the camp for the Guard's pleasure. This officer after transfusion amounting to 32 pints of blood and other transfusions of plasma etc., survived, less one leg. Five orderlies taken with us were, L/Cpls Budd, Owen and Mawditt, ptes Jackson and Parker all of 181 Field Ambulance.



4th Phase 26 Oct 44 -13 Apr 45. st. Josephs Hospital, Apeldoorn -


(Kriegslazarett 4/686) ~ The German Medical plan was to run a P.o.w. Hospital at st. Joseph's to admit all Allied wounded from area North Holland, and when the number of transportable cases warranted, or a train was available, to move them to Germany. They also planned to reopen the Caserne as a P.O.W. Hospital should their December offensive prove successful. Lt. Col. Herford, D.S.O., R.A.M.C. had insisted that proper Hospital trains be used for the carriage of wounded P.O.W., this insistence was maintained, there were slip-ups about which strong protests were made but the last train to carry our wounded (19.2.45) to Germany consisted of cattle trucks filled with German wounded with one Hospital coach attached carrying ours.


Accommodation; Single upper floor in hospital building designed for mental deficients. Wards 1 large (20 beds) 4 medium (12 beds) 6 small (2 beds) total 80 this number by use of more double bunks was raised to 83 beds at one time. This does not include staff accommodation which was on the same floor, the orderlies sleeping fin the attic. There were 4 lavatories and one bathroom. The hospital was heated, the heat being cut off at certain hours on our floor but not unreasonably. Hot water was also available in the taps at certain hours of the day.


Medical treatment: After some argument it was laid down by German higher authority that we should be entirely responsible for Medical treatment of allied P.o.w. on their admission to hospital. This gave us a strong lever in preventing interference from inept young Germans who would regard a P.o.w. as fair practice for their surgery. Medicaments were in fair supply, with intermittent shortage of sulphonamides and dressings. There was always shortage of plaster of Paris, and fractures had to be managed without, and of course no penicillin once we had used our meagre stock. We had full use of well appointed operating theatres and of X-ray subject to German requirements, but a personal visit to the X-ray Department usually did the trick. In fact in all demands this was found to be the case, approach through the 'usual channels' interpreter, underofficer, quartermaster, etc., etc., producing no result whatever. As a whole German Doctors were willing to help and were interested in our methods, but non-medical and lower grade personal were jealous of the treatment given to us and were generally obstructive. The dispenser, an amenable rogue in many ways and not unfriendly to the British, generally allowed us to see what he had got and to take what we wanted provided the ardent Nazis did not see, and we gradually increased our stock of rubber rings, instruments, and drugs. We still had plenty of plasma both dried and fluid from the battle, but cut chief need now was whole blood. The Dutch supplied us with this until the end of November when they could supply no more. Consulting surgeons and Medical Generals came round the cases when visiting the German hospital. Generally professors of well known Universities, they were invariably courteous and gave valuable advice. They were different from some of the young doctors who came our way.


Food: At St. Joseph's we were able to get special diets for seriously ill cases, these by German rule included major amputations and lung wounds, and also prolonged pyrexia. These diets were cooked in a special kitchen. The normal diet was cooked in a central kitchen by Dutch lay brothers. The food was monotonous and very short in protein. Quantity varied considerably according to the goodwill of the distributer and the arithmetical prowess of the lay brother measuring the ration. Some of these had been promoted from being inmates of the institution and could not count. January and February were thin months with the main standby, potatoes, in short supply.


We had no official Red Cross parcels and though the Dutch in some miraculous way managed to produce parcels for us in October and November with sweets and cigarettes in, they could supply no protein. We had no cigarettes for over two and a half months, as we were cut of touch with parcels and letters from home. Dutch sisters, notably Sisters Maehler, Doyer, Bokelman and Yetti at great risk to themselves, not only from the enemy but also to their countrymen, found at unknown costs toothpaste, soap, invalid foods, cigarettes and eggs and brought them to us, generally not being allowed to see us or speak to the patients. We got some American parcels in March which the Germans said the had captured in the Ardennes, these were very welcome most of the contents being stored as a reserve against a breakdown in the food situation if the battle came our way. On the whole, while the patients did not do too badly, the diet was grossly inadequate for the extreme hard work, normally twelve hours a day, seven days a week, being put in by the orderlies.


Distribution of staff. We divided the patients more or less arbitrarily between the two doctors firms; Frazer, Mawditt, Parker and Rigby-Jones, Budd, Jackson, Owen did night orderly. Later when Parker left and the number of patients was fewer, each orderly did a fortnight's night duty which was fairly easy by this time and gave him some sort of rest cure. In February, the orderlies were very exhausted so we inaugurated a Doctors Day once a week, when all the orderlies took a holiday. Their condition was not improved by the necessity of supplying blood to the patients, 40 pints of blood were given by the remaining seven members of the staff in the space of less than four months.


General. We started with 68 cases, all considered by the Germans to be unfit to move. Amputations: Upper limb 4, Lower limb 13, Open fractures: Eumerus 4, Femur 12. Tib. & Fib. 7, Head wounds with hemiplegia 3, Chest wounds with empyema 6, Abdominal wounds penetrating 5, G.S.W. with gross sepsis no fractures 12, 68. Of many cases with multiple wounds the most serious wound has been listed. Most of these cases apart from being lying cases could not help themselves, a stiff job for five orderlies. They were greatly helped by Capt. Griffin and our two Padres washing and shaving the wounded and generally doing what they could. Trains left for Germany as shown, unfortunately when our numbers dropped at the end of November, the Senior Padre, Capt. Griffin and Pte. Parker were moved away, which threw a great strain on the remainder when our numbers went up to 83, although by then we had a few walking patients to give a hand. Train evacuations to Germany: 9 Nov 44 25 cases + cases from Dutch Hospital, 18 Nov 44 17 cases + cases from Dutch Hospital, 23 Nov 44 5 cases. A special consignment of escapees including Major Longland. 22 Dec 44 8 cases for exchange in January, 19 Feb 45 43 cases. There were many rumours of trains in between these times and lists made out, but owing to the German and Allied offensives they never materialised. We had a good Christmas with an extra ration and a concert. A present was found for all patients, and the proud owner of an Enema Mark 1 on demands, called his doctor later in the evening, saying, "I think I'll have it now, Sir", which he did with good result. Through the winter we were admitting recently captured wounded from 49 Div. and also a fair number of American Air Force. Some of the front line surgery these had received was shocking, and after protest, they were brought to us after first aid measures only. Later, after the offensives had filled the German hospitals, we were getting many Canadians from Cleve and Americans from as far south as Roermond.


In January 3 patients escaped, an American, and R.A.F. pilot, and Major Sherriff of the K.O.S.B. This caused a certain amount of teutonic hysteria and attempts at mass punishment of a rather petty nature. However shortly afterwards we had a more reasonable Commandant who had seen plenty of frontline service. He gave some concessions which included exercise out of the building for the staff, and some cigarettes for the orderlies, and restored the German controlled loud speakers which had been taken from the wards after the escapes. Escape before this was simple but I felt that it was the job of the medical staff to stay with the patients, and told them so, to this they agreed and cheerfully put away all thought of freedom, not an easy thing to do with the British twenty miles away, and the Dutch only too willing to help. Owing to threats from fanatic in the Hospital, it was felt necessary to negotiate for arms, and during March these were procured, a Luger automatic costing 170 German cigarettes, quite a bargain to a non-smoker. As the battle drew nearer our morale was terrific, but unfortunately the Germans decided to remove lightly wounded and officers further from the battle. We played the usual "only by hospital train", but they decided to do the whole move by ambulance, so at the end of March taking their Easter eggs brought Sisters Maehler and Dyer, Major Rigby-Jones, Rev. A.A. Buchanan and pte Jackson with 35 wounded were driven to Heemstede near Haarlem. Soon after, the German Commandant sent for me and said he would not be able to move his seriously wounded and that he was worried about their treatment when captured. I told him that provided he left an adequate staff I would take over the Hospital when capture was imminent, and that there was to be no sabotage of equipment. Several new admissions came in during April, including a parachutist officer from 6 Airborne Division.


The battle gradually developed round us and on 13 April the Germans handed over and the leading Company of the 1st Canadian Division appeared through the undergrowth. By a lucky chance, General Mayer, German D.D.M.S. Holland, rang up from Hilversum shortly after so that I was able to give him direct information of the fall of his Hospital.


Later in the evening, Col. Coke, A.D.M.S. 1 Canadian Division arrived and arranged for penicillin and rations, etc. to come up first thing the following day. All three Regimental Medical Officers of the leading Brigade eventually set up their R.A.P's in the precincts for the three-day battle which ensued. An odd 900 Dutch refugees also came into the Hospital, but fortunately a good capture of gin and claret had accelerated the mental processes, and they were fed and housed for three days without undue excitement.


We were visited in rapid succession by Brigadier Elder, D.D.M.S., 1 Canadian Army, Col. Ross, Consulting Surgeon, 1 Canadian Army, and Brigadier Porritt of 21 Army Group. They made rapid arrangements for evacuation of Allied wounded as soon as the battle was over. Lt. Col. Herford last seen escaping from the Cas erne was a very welcome visitor from Antwerp. L/Cpl's Budd, Mawditt and Owen got some rest at last by our importing some Dutch sisters, none alas our old friends from Oosterbeek, and settled down to a condition of constant if not rapid mental acceleration. Our only regret was that Rigby, Alan Buchanan and Jackson were not with us to end the party.


Summary of admissions.


Months    Admitted    Evacuated    Died

Oct          68              -                  -

Nov         24              49               3

Dec         15              8                  7

Jan           28             2                  3 (escaped 2)

Feb          32             45                2

Mar         21             38                 2

Apr          20             2


Totals:     208            143              18


31 U.S.A. patients were admitted, the final party recaptured included 12 of original Airborne wounded.


(Signed) S.M. FRAZER,

Major, R.A.M.C.

2 I/c 181 Air Landing Field Ambulance.


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