Author Topic: RIP Brigadier Peter Lassen, aged 95, DSO MID  (Read 2512 times)

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RIP Brigadier Peter Lassen, aged 95, DSO MID
« on: April 23, 2004, 12:36:00 »
Brigadier Peter Lassen, who has died aged 95, was awarded a DSO and was mentioned in dispatches in the North West Europe campaign of 1944-45.

He landed in Normandy on Sword Beach (the left flank of the invasion force) on June 6 1944 under heavy shell-fire, nearly drowning in the process, and set up No 21 Field Dressing Station, which he commanded.

This was one of two medical units allocated to No 5 Beach Group but was soon also receiving casualties from the adjoining No 6 Beach Group, which was under such persistent fire from an enemy strongpoint that medical work was impossible.

Casualties which had been held in divisional advanced dressing stations, pending the establishment of field dressing stations on the beach, now began to arrive in a steady stream, and the dressing stations were soon at full stretch.

Wounds were re-dressed where necessary and essential emergency surgery was undertaken, after which casualties were evacuated by amphibious vehicles which crossed the beaches, entered the water directly, and drove out to the waiting landing ships.

"Over the first 48 hours," Lassen recalled, "we were overwhelmed with casualties and there was no rest for anyone; I remember that on the first night, sometime towards midnight, I counted 60 priority casualties awaiting or receiving plasma transfusions both inside the department set aside for this purpose, and also outside, lying stretcher-to-stretcher around the main medical centre vehicle circuit, and in considerable danger of being run over by the amphibious vehicles collecting casualties.

"These numbers, of course, were dwarfed by the far larger numbers of walking wounded and less seriously injured. The reason for the large influx of casualties was due to the release of the backlog, which had been held in divisional field ambulances and advance dressing stations, against the time of our surgical centre opening up to receive them."

Two days after the landings, a lone German bomber eluded the RAF in broad daylight and, despite intense anti-aircraft fire, pressed home a low-level attack on the overcrowded beach. Its bombs hit the petrol dump which had been built up over the past 48 hours, and the enormous explosion and fire that resulted also set off the adjacent ammunition dump.

The result was devastating, and no fewer than 55 casualties were brought into the medical unit resulting from that incident alone.

Lassen said: "All at once the plight of casualties lying immobilised on stretchers above ground was fully appreciated, and within a very short space of time two bulldozers reported to us with orders to dig us in. We struck the tents in turn and the bulldozers got to work. Very soon each tent and marquee had a high surround of sandy soil, and the floor had been dug down to a depth of some four feet. The surgical teams worked with a much greater sense of security."

After 10 days of this intense beach work, Lassen was promoted to Command No 9 Field Ambulance of the 3rd British (Assault) Division, with which he remained through the subsequent advance through France and the Low Countries and across the Rhine to the division‘s final objective of Bremen.

The task of establishing ambulance units behind attacking infantry and armour was greatly complicated by the fact that the Germans had sown mines liberally in fields adjoining the roadside. Their presence in forward areas meant that they were also exposed to enemy shellfire, bombing or counterattacks.

At the end of hostilities, Lassen was promoted to Assistant Director of Medical Services in the Guard Armoured Division at Bonn.

Edric Henry Peter Lassen was born on December 8 1908. After Oundle, he went to King‘s College, London, and King‘s College Hospital, before joining the RAMC in 1934.

He was initially posted to a 200-bed military hospital at Rawalpindi, India, for general duties, but soon saw service in the North West Frontier Province, first as Regimental Medical Officer to the 2nd Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, in the Mohmand Campaign of 1935, then, the next year, with 4th (Indian) Field Ambulance in the Khaisora operation of 1936-37.

His service in the Mohmand campaign entitled him to wear the Indian General Service Medal with a green-black-green ribbon, which had been introduced in 1908 but which was discontinued in the mid-1930s.

After serving in the military hospital at Campbellpore and Nowshera, Lassen returned to Britain in 1940. He served in the War Office before being assigned to the training of Field Medical Units. From 1942 he was involved in specialised training for the landings in Normandy in 1944.

After the war, he served in various medical administrative appointments, beginning with the Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1946-47, then as ADMS in HQ BAOR in 1950, Cyprus District in 1951, 1 Division (Egypt) 1954 and Salisbury Plain District 1955, before becoming DMS, Ghana Army, in 1959, and DMS, United Nations, in the Belgian Congo crisis of 1960.

After a short spell as ADMS London District in 1963, he became Deputy Director of Medical Services, 17 Division, Malaya District in 1964, and finally was DDMS, Northern Command, in 1967.

He was appointed CBE on retirement in 1969. In addition to his DSO, he was awarded the Order of Leopold II with Palm and the Croix de Guerre with Palm. He was Honorary Physician to the Queen in 1963.

A keen and useful games player in his younger days, he had represented King‘s College Hospital and the United Hospital at rugby, and also performed well at cricket, tennis and golf. He was a keen bridge player.

Peter Lassen was a natural leader with a relaxed style who led by example rather than precept, but possessed an inherent authority which left no doubt in anyone‘s mind who was in charge.

Peter Lassen died on April 16. He married, in 1939, Theodora Cotton; they had a son and a daughter.
Junior officers and NCOs who neglect to guide the thinking of their men are shirking a command responsibility.
-Feb 1955 Cbt Forces Journal
Those who appreciate true valour should in their daily intercourse set gentleness first and aim to win the love and esteem of others. If you affect valour and act with violence, the world will in the end detest you and look upon you as wild beasts. Of this you should take heed.
-Emperor Meiji: Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors, 4 January 1883