16th (Parachute) Field Ambulance
The 16th Field Ambulance was a Royal Army Medical Corps
Royal Army Medical Corps
The Royal Army Medical Corps is a specialist corps in the British Army which provides medical services to all British Army personnel and their families in war and in peace...

 unit of the British airborne forces
Airborne forces
Airborne forces are military units, usually light infantry, set up to be moved by aircraft and 'dropped' into battle. Thus they can be placed behind enemy lines, and have an ability to deploy almost anywhere with little warning...

 during the Second World War. The unit was the first parachute field ambulance
Field Ambulance
A Field Ambulance is the name used by the British Army and the armies of other Commonwealth nations to describe a mobile medical unit that treats wounded soldiers very close to the combat zone...

 unit of the British Army. Their first deployment was in Operation Torch
Operation Torch
Operation Torch was the British-American invasion of French North Africa in World War II during the North African Campaign, started on 8 November 1942....

 the Allied landings in North Africa. This was followed by Operation Fustian
Operation Fustian
Operation Fustian was a British airborne forces mission during the Allied invasion of Sicily in the Second World War. The operation was carried out by the 1st Parachute Brigade, part of the 1st Airborne Division. Their objective was the Primosole Bridge across the Simeto River. The intention was...

 during the Allied invasion of Sicily
Allied invasion of Sicily
The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major World War II campaign, in which the Allies took Sicily from the Axis . It was a large scale amphibious and airborne operation, followed by six weeks of land combat. It launched the Italian Campaign.Husky began on the night of...

. Their third mission was Operation Slapstick
Operation Slapstick
Operation Slapstick was the code name for a British landing from the sea at the Italian port of Taranto during the Second World War. The operation, one of three landings during the Allied invasion of Italy, was undertaken by the British 1st Airborne Division in September 1943.Planned at short...

, a seaborne landing at Taranto
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base....

 in Italy.

The 16th (Parachute) Field Ambulance then returned to England to prepare for operations in North West Europe. Their next and final parachute landing was in September 1944, during the Battle of Arnhem
Battle of Arnhem
The Battle of Arnhem was a famous Second World War military engagement fought in and around the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze, Driel and the surrounding countryside from 17–26 September 1944....

. In the battle the 1st Parachute Brigade landed on the first day and the 16th (Parachute) Field Ambulance established at dressing station in a local hospital. Within days the location was overrun by the Germans and the majority of the field ambulance went into captivity as prisoners of war.

In 1945 it was reformed and took part in Operation Doomsday
Operation Doomsday
In Operation Doomsday, the British 1st Airborne Division acted as a police and military force during the Allied occupation of Norway in May 1945, immediately after the victory in Europe during the Second World War. The division maintained law and order until the arrival of the remainder of Force...

 the occupation of Norway following the surrender of German forces there, but with the war over the unit was disbanded by the end of the year.


Impressed by the success of German airborne operations, during the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, directed the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 to investigate the possibility of creating a corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 of 5,000 parachute troops. In September 1941 the 1st Parachute Brigade began forming, comprising three parachute infantry battalions. In keeping with British Army practice at the same time, as the infantry battalions were being raised, airborne supporting arms were formed, including Royal Army Medical Corps
Royal Army Medical Corps
The Royal Army Medical Corps is a specialist corps in the British Army which provides medical services to all British Army personnel and their families in war and in peace...

The war establishment of a Parachute Field Ambulance, was 177 all ranks. Consisting of thirteen doctors in two surgical teams and four sections
Section (military unit)
A section is a small military unit in some armies. In many armies, it is a squad of seven to twelve soldiers. However in France and armies based on the French model, it is the sub-division of a company .-Australian Army:...

. The doctors could deal with 330 cases in a twenty-four hour period. Each surgical team could handle 1.8 operations an hour. But that was not sustainable, and if they were required to operate the following day, the team had to be relieved after twelve hours. It was envisaged that during airborne operations, it would not be possible to evacuate casualties until the ground forces had linked up with them. Therefore the field ambulance had the ability to treat all types of wounds, and provide post-operative care for up to fourteen days. They also had the transport required to evacuate casualties from the Regimental Aid Post
Regimental Aid Post
A Regimental Aid Post is the equivalent to the American Battalion Aid Station. In the British Army, Canadian Forces and other Commonwealth militaries, the RAP is a front line military medical establishment incorporated into an infantry battalion or armoured regiment and designed for the immediate...

 (RAP), to the Main Dressing Station (MDS).

An airborne field ambulance was commanded by a lieutenant-colonel, with a major as the second in command
Second in Command
Second in Command is a 2006 action film directed by Simon Fellows, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. It was released direct-to-video in the United States, Belgium, and Germany on May 2, 2006. It has been rated R by the MPAA for violence and some language. The film was made in Bucharest, Romania.-Plot...

 and a regimental sergeant major
Regimental Sergeant Major
Regimental Sergeant Major is an appointment held by warrant officers class 1 in the British Army, the British Royal Marines and in the armies of many Commonwealth nations, including Australia and New Zealand; and by chief warrant officers in the Canadian Forces...

 as the senior non-commissioned rank. Headquarters staff included two specialist surgeons and a specialist anaesthetist, a pharmacist
Pharmacists are allied health professionals who practice in pharmacy, the field of health sciences focusing on safe and effective medication use...

 and a Army Dental Corps
Royal Army Dental Corps
The Royal Army Dental Corps is a specialist corps in the British Army that provides dental care services to British Army personnel and their families in war and in peace...

 dentist. To assist in the operating theatre and with post-operative care, there were six operating room assistants, a sergeant
Sergeant is a rank used in some form by most militaries, police forces, and other uniformed organizations around the world. Its origins are the Latin serviens, "one who serves", through the French term Sergent....

 nursing orderly
A medical orderly , is a hospital attendant whose job consists of assisting medical and/or nursing staff with various nursing and/or medical interventions. These duties are classified as routine tasks involving no risk for the patient.- Job details :Orderlies are often utilized in various hospital...

 and six nursing orderlies. Other medical staff were a sergeant sanitary assistant, a masseur, a dental orderly and five stretcher bearers, one of whom was trained as a shoemaker. The rest of the headquarters consisted of a Quartermaster
Quartermaster refers to two different military occupations depending on if the assigned unit is land based or naval.In land armies, especially US units, it is a term referring to either an individual soldier or a unit who specializes in distributing supplies and provisions to troops. The senior...

, clerks, cooks, storemen, an Army Physical Training Corps
Army Physical Training Corps
The Royal Army Physical Training Corps is the British Army corps responsible for physical fitness and physical education. Its members are all Royal Army Physical Training Corps Instructors ....

 instructor, a barber and a joiner
A joiner differs from a carpenter in that joiners cut and fit joints in wood that do not use nails. Joiners usually work in a workshop since the formation of various joints generally requires non-portable machinery. A carpenter normally works on site...

 from the Royal Engineers.

There were four sub-units of twenty men known as sections. Each section comprised an officer (doctor) and a staff sergeant
Staff Sergeant
Staff sergeant is a rank of non-commissioned officer used in several countries.The origin of the name is that they were part of the staff of a British army regiment and paid at that level rather than as a member of a battalion or company.-Australia:...

 (nursing orderly). Under their command were three nursing orderlies, a clerk, a dutyman and thirteen stretcher bearers. A section was normally attached to a parachute battalion to supplement their own medical officer and medics.
The last component of the Field Ambulance was the Royal Army Service Corps
Royal Army Service Corps
The Royal Army Service Corps was a corps of the British Army. It was responsible for land, coastal and lake transport; air despatch; supply of food, water, fuel, and general domestic stores such as clothing, furniture and stationery ; administration of...

 detachment, commanded by a captain
Captain (British Army and Royal Marines)
Captain is a junior officer rank of the British Army and Royal Marines. It ranks above Lieutenant and below Major and has a NATO ranking code of OF-2. The rank is equivalent to a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and to a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force...

, with a company sergeant major
Company Sergeant Major
A company sergeant major is the senior non-commissioned soldier of a company in the armies of many Commonwealth countries, responsible for standards and discipline. In combat, his prime responsibility is the supply of ammunition to the company...

 as second in command. They had fifty men under them, an electrician, a clerk, thirty-eight drivers, four motorcyclists and five vehicle mechanics. It was normal to have at least two RASC drivers with two jeeps
Willys MB
The Willys MB US Army Jeep and the Ford GPW, were manufactured from 1941 to 1945. These small four-wheel drive utility vehicles are considered the iconic World War II Jeep, and inspired many similar light utility vehicles. Over the years, the World War II Jeep later evolved into the "CJ" civilian...

 and a trailer attached to each section, the remaining men and vehicles stayed with the headquarters surgical teams.

All members of the Field Ambulance had to undergo a twelve day parachute training course carried out at No. 1 Parachute Training School, RAF Ringway
RAF Ringway
RAF Ringway, was a Royal Air Force station near Manchester, UK, in the parish of Ringway, then in Cheshire. It was operational from 1939 until 1957.-Prewar years:...

. Initial parachute jumps were from a converted barrage balloon
Barrage balloon
A barrage balloon is a large balloon tethered with metal cables, used to defend against low-level aircraft attack by damaging the aircraft on collision with the cables, or at least making the attacker's approach more difficult. Some versions carried small explosive charges that would be pulled up...

 and finished with five parachute jumps from an aircraft. Anyone failing to complete a descent was returned to his old unit. Those men who successfully completed the parachute course, were presented with their maroon beret
Maroon beret
The maroon beret is a military beret and has been an international symbol of elite airborne forces since it was chosen for British airborne forces in World War II. This distinctive head dress was officially introduced in 1942, at the direction of General Frederick Browning, commander of the British...

 and parachute wings
Parachutist Badge
The Parachutist Badge or Parachutist Brevet is a military badge awarded by the Armed Forces of most countries in the world to soldiers who receive the proper parachute training and accomplish the required number of jumps. It is difficult to assess which country was the first to introduce such award...


Airborne operations were in their infancy in the Second World War and the British Army medical services had to design and develop a range of special medical airborne equipment. These included the Don pack
Don pack
A Don pack or Dressing pack, was designed for the airborne forces of the British Army during the Second World War .The Don pack was a standardised haversack sized webbing carrier, composed of anaesthetics, drugs, serum, dressings, tins of tea, milk and sugar powder, cubes of meat extract,...

, the Sugar pack
Sugar pack
A Sugar pack or Surgical pack, was designed for the airborne forces of the British Army during the Second World War .The Sugar pack was a standardised haversack sized webbing carrier, composed of anaesthetics, drugs, bandages, gauze, swabs and plaster of Paris. It was designed to contain sufficient...

 (containing dressing and surgical items respectively), the folding airborne stretcher, the folding trestle table
Trestle table
A trestle table is an item of furniture comprising two or three trestle supports linked by a longitudinal cross-member over which a board or tabletop is placed. It is the earliest form of table, after the basic pedestal-style table known to be used in ancient times, and was a common structure in...

, the folding suspension bar, the airborne operating table, the airborne inhaler and special containers for blood and plasma.


Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm MacEwan, the first British parachute field ambulance, the 16th Airborne Field Ambulance was raised on 3 April 1941, at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire. The northern part of Derbyshire overlaps with the Pennines, a famous chain of hills and mountains. The county contains within its boundary of approx...

. The first arrivals being thirty-three men transferred from the 181st (Airlanding) Field Ambulance
181st (Airlanding) Field Ambulance
The 181st Field Ambulance was a Royal Army Medical Corps unit of the British airborne forces during the Second World War.The Field Ambulance was assigned to the 1st Airlanding Brigade, the glider borne element of the 1st Airborne Division. Some men of the unit took part in the first parachute raid...

. Reaching full strength and having completed their parachute training the unit was re-designated the 16th (P) Field Ambulance which was later changed to the 16th (Parachute) Field Ambulance (16 PFA). The 16 PFA was assigned to the 1st Parachute Brigade in the 1st Airborne Division.

North Africa

The invasion of North Africa Operation Torch
Operation Torch
Operation Torch was the British-American invasion of French North Africa in World War II during the North African Campaign, started on 8 November 1942....

 was the first time an airborne field ambulance was employed. Before this operations Colossus
Operation Colossus
Operation Colossus was the codename given to the first airborne operation undertaken by the British military, which occurred on 10 February 1941 during World War II...

 and Freshman
Operation Freshman
Operation Freshman was the codename given to a British airborne operation conducted in November 1942 during World War II. It was the first British airborne operation conducted using gliders, and its target was the Vemork Norsk Hydro chemical plant in Norway which produced heavy water for Nazi Germany...

 had no specialist medical support, while Biting
Operation Biting
Operation Biting, also known as the Bruneval Raid, was the codename given to a British Combined Operations raid on a German radar installation in Bruneval, France that occurred between 27–28 February 1942 during World War II...

 included a section from the 181st (Airlanding) Field Ambulance in the evacuation boats.

For Torch No.3 Section, 16 PFA was attached to the 3rd Parachute Battalion and travelled by plane via Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 to North Africa. On 11 November 1942, they parachuted onto the airfield at Bone
Annaba is a city in the northeastern corner of Algeria near the river Seybouse. It is located in Annaba Province. With a population of 257,359 , it is the fourth largest city in Algeria. It is a leading industrial centre in eastern Algeria....

. While the remainder of 16 PFA and the brigade were transported to North Africa by sea, arrived the next day. On route to Bone the aircraft carrying Captain Keesey the No.3 Section commander crashed into the sea. Leaving the section second in command to set up a dressing station to handle the fourteen casualties (including one killed) from the parachute landing. By 15 November, the 1st Parachute Brigade established a position 11 miles (17.7 km) outside of Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

On 17 November the 1st Parachute Battalion with No.1 Section and No.1 Surgical team 16 PFA, parachuted in to seize the airfield and an important crossroads at Béja
Beja is a town in Tunisia, Africa. It is the capital of the Béja Governorate. It is located 105 km from Tunis, between the Medjerdah River and the Mediterranean, against the foothills of the Khroumire, the town of Beja is situated on the sides of Djebel Acheb, facing the greening meadows,...

. One man was killed in the drop and one other wounded who was treated on the drop zone
Drop zone
A drop zone is a place where parachutists or parachuted supplies land. It can be an area targeted for landing by paratroopers, or a base from which recreational parachutists and skydivers take off in aircraft and land under parachutes...

 (DZ), by the section. By 20:00 the battalion had occupied Béja, and the section took over a small twenty bed hospital in the garrison school and a part of the larger 250 bed civil hospital. The town was attacked by a squadron
Squadron (aviation)
A squadron in air force, army aviation or naval aviation is mainly a unit comprising a number of military aircraft, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force...

 of German Stukas on 20 November, and Lieutenant Charles Rob in command on the surgical team carried out over 150 operations during which he suffered a fractured tibia
The tibia , shinbone, or shankbone is the larger and stronger of the two bones in the leg below the knee in vertebrates , and connects the knee with the ankle bones....

 and kneecap caused by a bomb exploding nearby. Continuing to operate he carried out another twenty-two operation the next day, even giving a pint of blood to save a wounded soldier. Afterwards Lieutenant Rob was awarded a Military Cross
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

. The section had only expected to be deployed for five days, but remained for twenty-four days, treating 238 casualties before being relieved.

On 29 November No.2 Section 16 PFA, and the 2nd Parachute Battalion, were parachuted close to Depienne Airfield
Depienne Airfield
Depienne Airfield is a World War II airfield in Tunisia, located approximately 12 km northeast of El Fahs, and 53 km southwest of Tunis. The airfield was first used by the German Luftwaffe in 1941 and 1942, and was captured by the British Army by a parachute attack on 3 December 1942...

. Arriving at the field at 11:00 they found it deserted and withdrew back to Prise de l'Eau. On 1 December the battalion was informed that the planned advance by 6th Armoured Division had been postponed and the battalion was trapped 50 miles (80.5 km) behind German lines.
The battalion was virtually surrounded and fought off two attacks that morning, one company was destroyed and there were 150 casualties. The battalion divided into company groups to try to break through the German lines. But the wounded had to be left behind, in the Advanced Dressing Station (ADS) established by No.2 Section. The section remained behind to protect the wounded from the local anti-British population, until the Germans arrived and took them prisoner.

From now onwards the 1st Parachute Brigade fought as normal infantry and 16 PFA on Christmas Eve set up a Main Dressing Station (MDS) at Medjez el Bab. On 2 February the 1st Parachute battalion assaulted Djebel Mansour mountain with No. 1 Section attached. The ground was unsuitable for vehicles and the section could only take what they could carry by hand. The terrain also hindered casualty evacuation and it took ten hours, to bring the wounded from the front line to the medical post, by which time the stretcher bearers could go no further. In the situation Lieutenant-Colonel McEwan, brought the remainder of 16 PFA forward to assist with the wounded, No.4 Section being sent to the top of Djebel Mansour. McEwan established a relay of stretcher bearers that cut the evacuation from the top of the mountain down to three hours. The battle continued until the 5 February and by that time everyone not involved in surgery, apart from three men were used as stretcher bearers. By the end of the battle the men of 16 PFA had treated 201 casualties.

The Germans and Italians counter attacked on 20 February, their attack failed but again every man was used in carrying stretchers to the rear. On 26 February the 2nd Parachute battalion defeated an Italian attack and No.3 Section was kept busy with the Italian wounded. On 3 March the brigade were moved to Sedjenane
Sedjenane is a town in northern Tunisia, on the railway line to Mateur and the port of Bizerta.-The First Battle of Sedjenane, February-March 1943:The town became of strategic importance during the Allied Invasion of North Africa in World War II...

 to relieve the 139th Infantry Brigade
46th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)
The 46th Infantry Division was a 2nd Line Territorial Army formation during the Second World War, that was a duplicate of the 49th Infantry Division. The 46th Infantry Division was part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France in 1940 as a labour and training unit but ended up fighting in...

. In the battle 16 PFA were used to evacuate the wounded from the front line to the ADS used by the 139th Brigades field ambulance.

The commander of 1st Parachute Brigade Brigadier
Brigadier is a senior military rank, the meaning of which is somewhat different in different military services. The brigadier rank is generally superior to the rank of colonel, and subordinate to major general....

 Gerald Lathbury
Gerald Lathbury
General Sir Gerald William Lathbury, GCB, DSO, MBE was a British Army officer during the Second World War and later became Governor of Gibraltar-Military career:...

, ordered that in the coming battle, the brigade would remain where they were and not withdraw. Lieutenant-Colonel McEwan brought the two surgical teams forward together with enough medical supplies and stores to last out the battle. The attack started 8 March and over the following days the MDS was subjected to artillery and air attacks killing and wounding some 16 PFA men. On 17 March the ADS was shelled and dive-bombed eight times, but continued to operate. By the end of the twelve day battle, 16 PFA had treated and evacuated 554 wounded.

On 12 May 16 PFA rejoined 1st Airborne Division that had arrived in theatre and Lieutenant-Colonel McEwan leaving to join 6th Airborne Division, handed over command to Major Gerard (Ross) Wheatley who was promoted to lieutenant-colonel.

Sicily and Italy

The next action for 16 PFA was during the Allied invasion of Sicily
Allied invasion of Sicily
The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major World War II campaign, in which the Allies took Sicily from the Axis . It was a large scale amphibious and airborne operation, followed by six weeks of land combat. It launched the Italian Campaign.Husky began on the night of...

. The 1st Parachute Brigade was to capture Primosole Bridge crossing the River Simeto
The Simeto is a 113 km long river in Sicily, southern Italy. It is the second longest river on the island after the Salso , but the most important in terms of watershed and for the population of the areas near it...

, south of Catania
Catania is an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, between Messina and Syracuse. It is the capital of the homonymous province, and with 298,957 inhabitants it is the second-largest city in Sicily and the tenth in Italy.Catania is known to have a seismic history and...

. The brigade now consisted of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Parachute Battalions. The 1st Airborne Anti-Tank Battery Royal Artillery
Royal Artillery
The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery , is the artillery arm of the British Army. Despite its name, it comprises a number of regiments.-History:...

, the 1st Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers and 16 PFA. During the mission the parachute battalions would have a section from 16 PFA attached. For the landing each section parachute stick included six containers of medical stores, which contained a wheeled stretcher and a hand trolley. The two surgical teams had five containers of stores. The need to carry the containers reduced each section to seventeen men. Spare men were distributed among the brigade, one officer and nineteen men with the 1st Battalion. One officer and sixteen men with the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, while Lieutenant-Colonel Wheatly and two men went with brigade headquarters.

On 12 July 1943 the brigade took off between 19:00 and 20:30, intended to parachute into Sicily between 22:20 and 23:15 the same night. The Dakota carrying No.4 Section was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed into the sea killing four of the sections men. No.3 Section landed on both sides of the river 5 miles (8 km) west of the bridge. Half the section falling in with a small group from the 3rd Battalion, were forced by enemy activity to hide out until they could rejoin the brigade late on the 15 July. The Dakota carrying No.1 Surgical Team, was hit by anti-aircraft fire knocking out one of its engines. Five men including one of the surgeons Captain Lipmann-Kessel unable to jump were taken back to North Africa. The rest of 16 PFA although scattered landed without incident. The MDS was established in farm buildings south of the river. In the first thirteen hours the MDS carried out twenty-one operations and were looking after sixty-one British and twenty-nine Italian patients by 22:00 the following night. However in that time the brigade had been forced off the bridge and the MDS was now in no-man's land
No man's land
No man's land is a term for land that is unoccupied or is under dispute between parties that leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty. The term was originally used to define a contested territory or a dumping ground for refuse between fiefdoms...

. Those men that could be spared were sent back with the brigade. An Italian officer arrived and informed them that they had been captured, but later that day, 2nd Parachute Battalion advancing with the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division liberated the MDS. During their time in captivity the MDS had carried out a further fourteen operation. By the end of the mission 109 wounded had been treated and thirty-one operations, had been carried out, with only two post operative fatalities. On 17 July the brigade sailed for North Africa, arriving the next day.

For the Allied invasion of Italy
Allied invasion of Italy
The Allied invasion of Italy was the Allied landing on mainland Italy on September 3, 1943, by General Harold Alexander's 15th Army Group during the Second World War. The operation followed the successful invasion of Sicily during the Italian Campaign...

 the 1st airborne Division were informed on 6 September, they would be carrying out an amphibious landing at the Italian port of Taranto
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base....

 three days later. The landings were carried out by the 2nd and 4th Parachute Brigades, with the understrength 1st Parachute Brigade in reserve. When they did land 16 PFA took over a 350 bed hospital at Altamura
Altamura is a town and comune of Apulia, southern Italy. It is located on the Murge plateau in the province of Bari, 45 km South-West of Bari, close to the border with Basilicata. As of 2011 its population was of 69,728.-Overview:...

, until 20 November when the division left Italy for England.


The next mission for 16 PFA was the airborne assault in the Netherlands. The 1st Airborne Division would land outside of Arnhem over three days. The 1st Parachute Brigade was in the first days landings and had to capture the crossings over the River Rhine. Now under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel E. Townsend, the airborne element of 16 PFA was ten officers and 125 other ranks. To supplement the airborne group, another travelled by land, which included the bulk of their transport and seven ambulances. Loaded with seven days supplies of medical equipment and stores. After landing 16 PFA were to clear the casualties on the brigade DZ, and then move into Arnhem to take over the St Elizabeth Hospital.
At 11:00 on 17 September 1944 16 PFA boarded their aircraft in Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

 and took off for the Netherlands. The daylight flight was uneventful and the brigade landed between 13:15 and 14:00, about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) outside of the town. One hour after the bulk of 1st Airlanding Brigade had arrived by glider. After treating the casualties on the DZ, 16 PFA moved through Oosterbeek
Oosterbeek is a village in the Dutch province of Gelderland. It is located in the municipality of Renkum, about 5 km west of Arnhem.The oldest part of the village of Oosterbeek is the Benedendorp , on the northern bank of the river Rhine...

 into the western outskirts of Arnhem and took over the St Elizabeth Hospital. When they arrived, there was already some British wounded waiting for them and by 22:00 the surgical teams had started operating. Fighting in the area continued overnight and by 08:00 the next morning German troops recaptured the hospital. After discussing the situation with the Germans, it was agreed that the two surgical teams, nineteen men could remain, all the others including the commanding officer were taken away as prisoners of war. Units of the Waffen SS occupied the hospital with guards on the doors of the operating theatres. On 19 September an attack by 1st Parachute Brigade liberated the hospital again. The area around the hospital was fiercely contested and it was hit a number of times by mortar and artillery rounds. By the end of the day the parachute brigade had been forced back and the hospital was once again captured by the Germans. For the next two days the hospital continued to operate accepting casualties from both sides. On 21 September a German officer arrived and warned the 16 PFA staff that several hundred more wounded would be arriving soon. Casualties continued to arrive at the hospital until 27 September when everyone fit to travel was moved to a prisoner of war hospital at Apeldoorn
Apeldoorn is a municipality and city in the province of Gelderland, about 60 miles south east of Amsterdam, in the centre of the Netherlands. It is a regional centre and has 155,000 . The municipality of Apeldoorn, including villages like Beekbergen, Loenen and Hoenderloo, has over 155,000...

. During the battle between 700–800 British wounded had been treated
and 150 operations had been carried out. Only twenty men who reached the hospital had died, the majority arriving so badly injured that their wounds were inoperable.


After Arnhem 1st Airborne Division and 16 PFA were reformed, now commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel N.J.P Hewlings. The war ended before they could go into action again, however they were sent to Norway to help disarm the 400,000-strong German garrison. The 16 PFA landed at Oslo on 10 May 1945, their role was the medical screening of the large numbers of Russian prisoners of war and assist in the evacuation of the German Army. By the end of June 1945 the 1st Airborne Division was withdrawn back to England and in October, 16 PFA was disbanded.
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