Sgt John Weston Sampson 4391075 7th Bn Green Howards

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by Steve Wakefield, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. Steve Wakefield

    Steve Wakefield Junior Member

    I am doing some research on my father in law, John Weston Sampson, who served with the Green Howards in the BEF in France, Palestine, possibly Iraq, and North Africa.
    John was engaged in the rearguard, both in France and in North Africa, in the latter being in 69th Brigade defence of Tobruk/Gazala, where he was recommended for a Military Medal, shortly before his carrier (Bren) was hit by a shell around the Mersa Matruh area? He was severely wounded mainly in both legs, and was taken prisoner.

    Initially he was in Italian hospital camps, and then served out most of the war at Lamsdorf, before enduring "the March" back from Silesia through Czechoslovakia, and Germany, to be liberated by the Russians in Berlin.

    Due to his poor physical and mental condition upon his return to Blighty, he spent some time in Southport Hospital?

    We just visited the Green Howards museum in Richmond briefly and got some pointers, as he is on their records, and we pointed out to them that it is his happy smiling face on the front of the Eighth Army magazine, published during WW 2 (1944) by the Ministry of Information.

    His actions on 15th June 1942 are in a citation which I will try to post here, but effectively he "took charge of a group of carriers which became seperated from the main 69th Brigade box". After "a decision was made to reach Tobruk", he "took charge of organising the column, leading with his carrier, then patrolling up and down under heavy shell fire. He led his section into the attack against an enemy force which included 4 tanks, only making his way towards Tobruk when the column had safely passed the danger zone"

    There are some words which we cannot decipher including a "gap" and also a town which looks like Mirassus, Murassus or Hirassus.
    His citation was written at El Alamein on 2nd July 1942, by which time he was in the bag, as there is an addendum to the front of the citation stating him to be "Missing in Action" on 28/6/1942.

    We have an original photo of John alongside his carrier sporting a Thomson, which cropped down formed the front cover of the Eighth Army magazine

    Help or pointers gratefully recieved.
     
  2. Steve Wakefield

    Steve Wakefield Junior Member

    A photograph. We also wonder if there is a reel of these pictures taken by the photographer perhaps of him, his section etc, in some national archive.
     

    Attached Files:

  3. Steve Wakefield

    Steve Wakefield Junior Member

    The cropped front cover of The Eighth Army magazine.
     

    Attached Files:

  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I've just searched the online cat for citations at the National Archives for his MM and nothing is listed. He may get a mention in the battalion war diaries.

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Here is the battalion diary ref for them at the National Archives in London-Click the link below if you are too far from London to view them your self:

    WO 166/4316 7 Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment). 1939 Aug.- 1940 Mar., July - 1941 Apr.

    WO 167/752 7 Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment) 1940 Apr.-June

    WO 169/1726 7 Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment) 1941 May- Dec.

    WO 169/5023 7 Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment) 1942 Jan.- Dec.

    WO 169/10220 7 Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment) 1943 Jan.- Nov.

    WO 166/12557 7 Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment) 1943 Dec.

    WO 171/1303 7 Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment) 1944 Jan.- Dec.

    WO 166/17161 7 Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment) 1945 Jan.
     
  6. Steve Wakefield

    Steve Wakefield Junior Member

    Thanks Andy.
    Obviously the 1942 diary would make most interesting reading.The action is in a Green Howards book we have seen. We applied for his medal in the early 1990s when John was still alive, but the MOD seemed quite taciturn about it since he was MIA when the citation was written.
    It would be great to have it now, even with his passing, but filling in his movements from the date of the deed on the Gazala line 15th June, to him eventually going into the bag on the 28th are also important to us.
    The regiment have a list of field hospitals in Italy. The Ities wanted to amputate both legs but a senior German surgeon apparently saved them by over-ruling the Italian medicos.
    Including the citation copy we have.
     

    Attached Files:

  7. Steve Wakefield

    Steve Wakefield Junior Member

    Having read through threads here all day today, I am sort of of the opinion that he was with the South Africans who doubled back into Tobruk then out on the road to Mersa, as there is only a very small splinter group of 69th Bde which ended up SE of the Cauldron heading East, as best I can work it out.
     
  8. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello Steve,

    Do you have your father in law's service records?

    I don't know how much you know about the 7th Bn Green Howards in WWII; apologies if you already know some or all of this.

    The 7th Bn Green Howards were in the 23rd (Northumbrian) Division from just prior to the outbreak of WWII to the 30 June 1940 and then in 50th (Northumbrian) Division from 1 July 1940 for the duration. The 23 Div was the Fifty Div's second line, or duplicate and although in Flanders with the BEF, were involved in different actions.

    The 69th Infantry Brigade included the 5th Bn East Yorks, and 6th & 7th Bns Green Howards.

    The 69th Infantry Brigade landed in Egypt in July 1941 and were there for 1 week, followed by 3.5 months in Cyprus, 3 weeks in Palestine, 1.5 months in Iraq, 1 week in Palestine, 2 weeks in Syria and then to the Western Desert from circa 19 February 1942.

    By the 14 June 1942 the Axis forces were in possession of the battlefield and the Commonwealth forces remaining in the Gazala defences, namely, the 1st South African Division, one brigade of the 2nd South African Division, and the 151st and 69th Infantry Brigades of Fifty Div, were cut-off and isolated. The 151st and 69th Infantry Brigades were surrounded on three sides: the 90th German Light Division to the south, the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions to the east, and the Italian Brescia and Pavia Divisons to the west.

    The Army Commander gave orders for the Gazala defences to be abandoned, with the Commonwealth formations to take whatever course of action they thought best and fight their way out. The South Africans were to move first, covered by Fifty Div; they chose to take the coast road to/via Tobruk. Fifty Div would have to wait a further twelve hours before it could withdraw from the Gazala defences and so, it would have no element of surprise on its side and neither would it be able to use the coast road, which would already be congested. Nor would it have been wise to withdraw to the east as that is where the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions were located.

    Instead, Fifty Div decided on an audacious plan that involved attacking the Axis forces to west and once through those defences, to swing south 30 miles around Bir Hacheim and then east 200 miles to Fort Maddalena and Sheferzen on the Egyptian border. Both the 151st and 69th Infantry Brigades would form separate bridgeheads in the Axis defences, the 5th Bn East Yorkshire Regiment undertaking this task for the 69th Infantry Brigade. The breakout created havoc in the Axis defences and proved wholly successful. Losses were relatively light. Fifty Div even captured an Italian General during the operation.

    I am surprised that your father in law is reported to have gone via Tobruk, as it was my understanding that only the 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry, 151st Infantry Brigade and its supporting units, went via that route. There are nearly always exceptions though and it looks like the 7th Bn Green Howards carriers may have retired along with the 9th DLI. I’ll see what else I can find out about this…

    Following the Gazala gallop, Fifty Div assembled at Bir Thalata on the 21 June 1942.

    It was decided that the 8th Army would make a stand at Mersa Matruh and Fifty Div was ordered to retire in conformity with the general plan to a prepared Box 25 miles south of Mersa Matruh and dig in. However, subsequent orders were received that Fifty Div should instead take up a line from Mersa Matruh to Buq Buq and act as rear-guard for the remnants of the withdrawing 8th Army, hold off the enemy and let through the retiring columns. A column made up mainly of the 69th Infantry Brigade and the Divisional artillery took up position around Buq Buq to cover the withdrawal of the 10th Indian Division, which had been in Sollum and act as their rear-guard back to Mersa Matruh; which the latter reached on the night of the 22/23 June 1942. The Fifty Div column withdrew to Sidi Barrani on 24 June 1942 and arrived at Mersa Matruh on 26 June 1942.

    Fifty Div was now to take up a defensive position south east of Mersa Matruh, but following a change in Army Commander it was decided not to hold Mersa Matruh but instead to retire to the El Alamein line. Fifty Div was again ordered to take up a rear-guard position 2 miles east of Mersa Matruh and cover the withdrawal of other formations, including again the 10th Indian Division and X Corps HQ. However, on the afternoon of the 27 June 1942 an enemy column of some 2,000 vehicles crossed the Siwa Road to the south east of Mersa Matruh. Both the 10th Indian Division and Fifty Div were now isolated.

    Fifty Div was ordered to attack the enemy communications; destroy transport, disorganise supplies and delay their advance. The attack was to go in with 69th Infantry Brigade on the left and 151st Infantry Brigade on the right, both supported by light tanks. Very shortly after the attack commenced they were engaged by a superior force and casualties for both sides were heavy. Eventually a withdrawal was ordered and Fifty Div was back in its position east of Mersa Matruh at dawn on the 28 June 1942. It appears that your father in law may have been wounded in this action.

    I will see what I can find out about the 7th Bn Green Howards carriers retiring via Tobruk on the 14/15 June and the Fifty Div attack on enemy communications on 27/28 June 1942 and revert ASAP.

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  9. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello again, Steve,

    Nothing yet about the 7th Bn Green Howards carriers, but I have some further information that will, hopefully, answer part of your initial query and a parallel that may explain why your father in law withdrew via Tobruk. This parallel will need further investigation before it is proven.

    We know from Message # 8 that Fifty Div attacked the Axis forces in the west in two brigade columns, being the 69th and the 151st Infantry Brigades. The plan was to attack west, move south 60 miles around Bir Hacheim and then east 200 miles to the Egyptian border. The 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry, 151st Infantry Brigade, would have been the last to leave as it had the furthest to travel, and so had been given permission to use the coast road as an alternative route. Given that by the time the 9th DLI was due to move off the enemy was very alert to what was happening, it was decided that it would use the coast road route.

    It was joined in its withdrawal to the coast road by the rearguard/outpost party of mixed arms, including one section of the carrier platoon from the 6th Bn Durham Light Infantry, 151st Infantry Brigade. Could this be a parallel with your father in law’s journey i.e. he was in the 69th Infantry Brigade’s rearguard/outpost party and it was too late to leave to the west, so went north to the coast road?

    It had been intended that 9th DLI would travel via the ‘Gazala pass’, which led to the coastal plain, but it was mined heavily and impassable. Instead, they travelled via the ‘El Agheila pass’ which the South African sappers cleared of mines to allow the column to continue its journey. Could this be the ‘gap’?

    Hoping to avoid a German roadblock of tanks on the coast road five miles to the east, which was covered by a Bty of field guns, they crossed the coast road onto a track and travelled east parallel with the coast. However, they bumped into German infantry that were blocking the track at ‘Mrassus’, which were supported by seven tanks. These were attacked by a mixed force of 9th DLI infantry, 6th DLI carriers, two S African armoured cars and one S African 25-pounder filed gun, and the track cleared. The S African 25 pounder Bty also put the German field guns out of action. Could ‘Mrassus’ be the place name you were trying to decipher?

    Eventually Tobruk was reached and the journey to Bir Thalata continued.

    I have the Green Howards regimental history on order and will revert again when I have had time to review this period of time; unless someone else can add information/confirm in the interim.

    Best,

    Steve.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    It would be great to have it now, even with his passing, but filling in his movements from the date of the deed on the Gazala line 15th June, to him eventually going into the bag on the 28th are also important to us.

    Hi Steve,

    I've had the Green Howards Regimental History for a few weeks now-I I'll see how good it is using the above dates. I'll post the pages for you tonight.

    Cheers
    Andy
     
    Jonathan Ball likes this.
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Hhahahahaa Think I may move into the N. African Campaign at some point. Your man gets a mention in the Green Howards History !
     
  12. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    First of all I thought we start with a rather nice map:
    [​IMG]
     
  13. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    And then the text-enjoy:
    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]
     
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  19. Steve Wakefield

    Steve Wakefield Junior Member

    Steve, Andy. Thanks for such stirling work. Beer is deffo on - John would have.

    The "gap" is confirmed as "Divisional gap", as closer examination shows "Div" then a ^ and above I think is "isional" written over.

    I note that Sgt Usher was awarded a MM for what looks like an identical action, during the same night/early morning, under the same 2 Lt's Evans and Depoix. In fact the wording of our citation is pretty much what is printed in the book for Sgt Usher in that we have " he led his section into the attack with the greatest determination when an enemy force which included four tanks was encountered".
    While wishing to take nothing away from Sgt Usher, I wonder if in the heat of the battle, and such a confusing withdrawal, an action may have been attributed to the wrong Sgt?
    Also we were led to believe that Johns direct commanding officer was KIA, possibly at Mersa,partly explaining his non award, and also the citation we have was written at El Alamein some 17 days removed from the action, by a person who may not have been present?
    Is there a B Davis? on record ( the guy who wrote the citation?)
     
  20. Steve Wakefield

    Steve Wakefield Junior Member

    How would we get a copy of Sgt Ushers citation for his MM?
     

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