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John Vaughan

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John Needham Vaughan (3rd County of London Yeomanry and Trans-Jordan Frontier Force)

John Needham Vaughan began the war with 3rd County of London Yeomanry, "The Sharpshooters", an armoured regiment.  In November 1941, during Operation Crusader, the regiment was under command 22nd Armoured Brigade.  Captain Vaughan commanded a 'B' Squadron tank in the early fighting around Bir el Gubi.  On 19th November his tank was hit by fire from an anti-tank gun.  

During December 1941 and early January 1942, the regiment re-equipped and reorganised.  Not seriously wounded, Captain Vaughan - now Major - assumed command of a composite squadron formed by the regiment on 23rd January 1942.  In early February the regiment returned to Egypt to Sidi Bishr camp.

Major Vaughan was next in action at Gazala, where he commanded 'A' Squadron.  He was wounded again on 27th May 1942, on the second day of the battle.

The following reminiscences are published with the kind permission of Jeremy Vaughan.  

"In May 1942, at the Battle of Knightsbridge, when commanding "A" Squadron, Crusader tanks, I was wounded, this time rather more seriously, and retired to the 15th Scottish Hospital in Cairo.  On leaving hospital, many months later, I was interviewed, in Jerusalem, for the post of Adjutant of the mounted cavalry regiment of the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force.  My friends told me that I was mad to want to join a force that had a very tough reputation.  I removed my sling for the interview, was accepted, and joined "C" Squadron, of that Regiment, then stationed at Kadjou, on the Turkish frontier north of Aleppo.

The force was comprised of Arab soldiers, with its Base at Zerka in Trans-Jordan, Its officers were British, seconded from Regular cavalry regiments.  On the outbreak of war they naturally wished to rejoin their Regiments, but could not do so unless they were replaced by such as I.  Some months later I was posted to Regimental Headquarters, at Ourem el Jose, between Aleppo and Lattakia, as Adjutant.  In this position I was entitled to two chargers both fine greys, "Sultan" and "Saladin", about which rude remarks about "The Windsor Greys"' were made when they descended from the horse box that brought them from "C" Squadron to H.Q.

I had also acquired, from the Palestine Police, that excellent dog "Smudge", who accompanied, me everywhere, including breaking down the door of a loo [lavatory] in the Orient Palace Hotel in Damascus because he objected to being separated from me.  When I eventually returned, to England at the end of the war, en route to Nigeria, I left Smudge with one Tony Parsons, a gunner, who later became our representative at the United Nations, having by then 'lost' Smudge and acquired a knighthood: a net loss, in my view.

In June 1943 I applied for a Medical Board, and was graded "A". I wrote to the Colonel of my Regiment, the 3rd County of London Yeomanry, informing him of the Board result and asking to be allowed to return to them.  Many months went by, whilst I continued to serve with the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force, and I was not optimistic that my request would be granted, as I had heard that General Montgomery was against having officers in the 21st Army under him who had not been with him at the battle of Alamein, when I was in hospital.  Eventually permission was given, and I returned to England, rejoining my Regiment some six weeks before they embarked from Gosport on June 7th, 1944, D+1, for Normandy."

[On rejoining the regiment, John Vaughan reverted to the rank of Captain and joined 'C' Squadron.  On 28th June 1944 he destroyed a dug-in Panzer IV which had just knocked out three of the squadron's tanks from a range of 80 yards.]

"It was whilst an attack was in progress, in support of the infantry, that we were engaged by two German Tiger tanks, from opposite flanks.  We were successful in disposing of one, but the other put a shell right through my tank, killing the wireless operator and touching my left knee.  The knurled tip of the fuse cap, evidently whizzing round inside the tank, lodged in my throat one inch from the .jugular vein.  I had no knowledge of this until I was presented with it by the hospital staff of the Royal Infirmary, Liverpool.

After some months in this hospital I was moved to a hospital at Killearn, outside Glasgow.  Their excellent efforts resulted in my having nothing more inconvenient than a dropped left foot, which had to be held up by a spring attached to my knee.  Worn under my trouser leg, my appearance was not too unmilitary and I made sufficient fuss to be graded Medical Category B, without which I knew I would have to remain in England.

So I returned to the Middle East, this time to command a Squadron of the Mechanised Regiment of the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force, and to "Smudge".  They were stationed along the northern Syrian frontier, from Aleppo out to a place called Derik. This is in the extreme north east, between the Tigris and the Euphrates, and one of our concerns was to ensure the safe departure of the Free French, who were in danger of attack from the Syrians.

The 3.7 in howitzer troop of my Squadron was helpful in ensuring the peaceful handover of a typical Beau Geste fort to the Syrians, after which the G.O.C. inspected the Squadron and the Artillery Troop.  The mechanised regiment was also sent to the Bandar Abbas area of Persia, and it was here that Smudge took a strong dislike to our Adjutant, who some months later tried to shoot his Colonel.

At the end of the war the Colonial Office were recruiting suitable staff to employ as District Officers, etc.  As I had found that I seemed to get on well with native troops I applied, and was posted to Nigeria."


John Needham Vaughan died in October 2001.

Additional details from the War Diary, 3rd County of London Yeomanry.

Jeremy Vaughan is interested to hear from former members of the TJFF or their relatives.  Please click here to e-mail Jeremy

05 November 2012


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