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Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, June 28, 2020

JC was a Para

Born on the 26th of April 1908 John Clifford Lord was one of larger than life types that populated the armed forces during, and after the Second World War. His hometown was Southport in Lancashire. He went to boarding school, then returned home to help his father, and brother, in their family business. However, this business ran into trouble in the Great Depression, and John Lord had no other choice but to leave and find alternative work. He decided upon the Police Force, however, to improve his chances of selection he decided upon a short service period with the Army, specifically the Grenadier Guards. At the time it was quite common for people to take this route into civil service. Thus, at the age of twenty-four, in March 1933, Lord signed up for a four year tour of service, with eight years on the reserve list. In 1937 Lord had reached the rank of lance sergeant, something quite unusual for those on short service contracts. When his tour of duty was finished, he joined the Brighton Police Force. 
RSM Lord. When I first saw his picture I thought of BSM Williams, played by Windsor Davies in "it aint half hot mum".

Unsurprisingly, as a reservist, when war broke out Lord was recalled to the colours, which occurred in December 1939. He was sent for refresher training and given his old rank back. From there he was instantly promoted to Sandhurst as one of the instructors, rising to Company Sergeant Major. He remained there until October 1941, when the brand-new British Paratrooper Regiment were being formed. He became the Regimental Sergeant Major for 3rd Parachute Battalion on its formation. As the men were volunteers from different regiments, they each had their own different way of doing things. This became startlingly clear on the first parade. The men had been grouped depending on their backgrounds. All the men formerly of light infantry regiments were in A Company, fusiliers in B and guardsmen in C Company, plus handful of others that were scattered about. On that first parade it was quickly found that the pace and tempo of movements during drill were vastly different with the light infantry doing things much faster than the slower more measured guardsmen, resulting in A Company completing the order, way ahead of C Company. As well as drill these traditional differences applied to other matters. RSM Lord tackled this by stating 'We are all parachutists and will do the same drill'. Drill from then on was conducted accompanied by a metronome. RSM Lord was credited with being instrumental in merging all the men into one coherent unit and founding the esprit de corps that would be present in the paratroopers. 
PAra's approaching Taranto
RSM Lord would stay with 3 Para for the entirety of the war, serving in Tunisia, Sicily and even landing at Taranto Harbour. He was then returned to the UK and would be part of the Arnhem operation. On the 18th, during one of the attacks to try and reach the bridge the Para's ran into heavy defensive fire, including a medium machine gun, which forced them back. During this battle RSM Lord was hit in the shoulder and evacuated to hospital. Where, in due course, he would be captured. 
Captured Para's at Arnhem.
RSM Lord knew that his primary role was to install discipline in the men and keep them focused and their spirits up. One of the ways he did this was by applying basic hygiene standards. One member of a group of freshly captured officers remembers they'd been fighting all week, and were dishevelled and varying levels of battered and in shock, when in walked RSM Lord, clean as he could be, and freshly shaved, and said to them 'Gentlemen, I think you should all shave!', then walked out. This action snapped the officers out of their shock and stirred them all to action to clean themselves up as best they could, following the RSM's example. 
Stalag XIB
RSM Lord was sent, along with other enlisted personnel to Stalag XIB. Here he found some POW's that had been in captivity since Dunkirk. The enlisted men were described as living in squalid misery, and defaulting to the lethargy that long periods of captivity usually result in. RSM Lord did what he could to tighten everything up, improve morale and give everything a soldierly bearing, and it worked. RSM Lord set up a command structure, with each hut becoming the equivalent of a company, and those in charge of each hut reporting to him as a sort of command group. 

At one point the Germans were withholding the Red Cross Parcels. RSM Lord approached the officer in charge and found out the reason why. The Germans were feeling unhappy that the appropriate respect was not being displayed to them from the enlisted personnel. RSM Lord then went back to his command group and instructed them to start saluting. The group to a man disagreed and were aghast at the situation. RSM Lord just told them to watch.

He approached the first German whom he would be able to salute. Ripped off a perfect parade ground salute, and yelled 'BOLLOCKS!'. The German, thinking this a word of greeting, or respect, tried to return the salute with the word. This of course amused the prisoners greatly and soon Stalag XIB was ringing to the enthusiastic cries of "Bollocks!" every time a German officer received a salute. The Germans were happy and so released the Red Cross parcels. 

As the war ground on the Germans began to suffer. RSM Lord convinced the Germans that some parts of the guard should be mounted by his own men. Eventually, the Germans withdrew in the face of approaching Allied armies, and the POW's took over the entire guard. When the first Allied forces arrived, they were met at the front gate by a paratrooper, immaculately turned out, with Red Beret, and thought that the Airborne forces had reached the camp ahead of them. 
RSM Lord outside Stalag XIB

After the war RSM Lord returned to Sandhurst as an instructor where he taught a great many people, including King Hussein of Jordan. He is rumoured to have once yelled on parade 'Mr King of Jordan Sir, you are without doubt the scruffiest Monarch I have ever seen on my parade ground!'. Lord retired in August 1963 and died some five years later.

Should you wish to read more on John Lord, there is a book on the subject, currently free online, which can be found here. It also includes a detailed description from Lord himself on the conditions in Stalag XIB which might be of interest.

Thank you for reading. If you like what I do, and think it is worthy of a tiny donation, you can do so via Paypal (historylisty-general@yahoo.co.uk) or through Patreon. For which I can only offer my thanks. Or alternatively you can buy one of my books.

Image credits:
www.paradata.org.uk, theguardsmuseum.com