Major Ronnie Stark with men of "S" Company

Major Ronald Leslie Stark


Unit : "S" Company, 1st Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 167154

Awards : Military Cross, Mentioned in Despatches, Bronzen Leeuw.


Ronnie Stark commanded the 1st Battalion's "S" Company, and had previously served with distinction in North Africa as a Captain with "B" Company of the 2nd Battalion. He had been present with the 2nd Battalion on their disastrous mission in Oudna, and it was during the hectic retreat from this area that many men became separated from the battalion. This fate befell Stark, who, leading the temporarily blinded Douglas Crawley by the arm, trekked over a distance of twenty miles across mountainous terrain and, having avoided numerous German patrols, rejoined the 2nd Battalion back in the Allied lines at Medjez el Bab. The pair received a joyous reception upon being reunited with the battalion. Cheers erupted from the rear of their marching column as the two officers passed along the length of it, seated in the back of a horse and trap. His commanding officer at the time, Lieutenant-Colonel John Frost, regarded Stark as a determined and imperturbable officer. This was proved during the battalion's defence of Happy Valley when he was ordered by Frost to lead a patrol of two platoons across the entirety of the 2nd Battalion's front line; a distance of some two miles. Frost noted that, during the night, Stark's progress could be charted to the sound of Sten guns and grenades. He reported back to Battalion HQ just before dawn, and passively reported to Frost that he had inflicted one hundred and fifty casualties upon the enemy and taken over eighty Italian prisoners, for the loss of one dead and two wounded.


At Arnhem, Ronnie Stark's "S" Company led the 1st Battalion's advance from Sunday evening and the second attempt to move onto the Amsterdamseweg, to just before dawn on Monday 18th. It was at this time that the Company had moved through Oosterbeek during the night and was about to pass under the railway bridge when they came under fire. The leading platoon had become penned in, and Stark was in the process of ordering his other two platoons to attempt a flanking attack when his commander intervened. Lieutenant-Colonel David Dobie was reluctant to get bogged down in such fighting and, believing this railway bridge to be too strong an obstacle, turned the battalion south towards another railway bridge.


As the 1st Battalion prepared for its final attack at dawn on Tuesday 19th, it was agreed that "S2 Company, now only amounting to a single platoon, would advance on the battalion's right, closest to the river. The entire force came up against a very strong German defence and it completely broke up what remained of the 1st Battalion. During the initial stages of this brief engagement, the badly wounded Sergeant Manser recalled seeing Stark running by and waving his revolver, saying "Come along, Manser; we've got to get to the bridge". However, Stark's group were not able to advance very far before what remained of their number was forced to shelter in some captured German trenches. Stark was captured shortly after.


For his conduct during the battle, Major Stark was awarded the Dutch Bronze Lion:


At Arnhem on the morning of the 19th September Major Stark commanding S Company was given the task of advancing on the right of the main road towards the Pontoon Bridge. He was under heavy fire from high ground on the left, 20 mm on the right, infantry and armoured cars ahead. Under this withering fire he advanced 1500 yards to his objective and was able to cover the rest of the battalion forward. During this advance he personally led an assault against entrenched enemy positions and it was largely due to this action that the battalion was able to advance to its first bound. Despite heavy casualties he at all times showed such disregard to his personal safety as to inspire his men to reach a well-nigh impossible objective.


Stark was taken to Oflag VIIB, where he remained until January 1945 when the camp was evacuated and the prisoners marched westwards, away from the advancing Russians. Eventually he escaped with Major Timothy and found his way to the American lines.


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