Service number 102077
Died: March 30th 1943
Samuel John was born at 51, St. George’s Square, London SW to Samuel Pratt Berens Bucknill and his wife, Helen Julia Rennie. He had an older sister.In 1911, the family were living at the same address and employing six servants. Samuel senior was Secretary to the Law Society until 1914.
Samuel John was educated at Eton and matriculated in 1921.
On March 25th 1924, he arrived at Plymouth with his father from Port Limon, Costa Rica on the Crijnssen. They are described as “merchants”.
In August 1927, he sailed for Montreal describing himself as a Bar student. He arrived back in England from Quebec, on September 21st 1928, living at 2 South Eaton Place.
On February 7th 1932, he arrived at Liverpool from Lagos describing himself as a Barrister-at-Law living at 2 South Eaton Place, W.
In 1933, he married at Mildenhall, Maureen N Lyttleton. He married, secondly, Mrs Olivia Leveson nee Campbell, a grand daughter of the 3rd Earl Cawdor on January 21st 1943. She lived at 10, Belgravia House, Halkin Place. London SW1.
Samuel was a Major in the 1st Battalion, the Irish Guards when he was killed on March 30th 1943.
His name is on Face 13 of the Medjez el Bab Memorial, Tunisia.
He is commemorated on the MCC Roll of Honour.
The following is the report from his Company’s records:
“At 1 a.m. on 30th March 1943 No. 2 Company filed down the track past the Doll 's House and through No. 3 Company. It had not rained all day, and it was a clear, cold night lit only by the stars. A sharp wind blew across the valley from the ridge. No. 11 Platoon went by led by Lieutenant Colin Leslie; then came Major Bucknill with C.S .M. Ferguson (“the Skipper "), Lance-Corporal Fildes, carrying the Company's wireless, and Captain Bethell, R .A., with his signallers; after them came No.10 and No. 12 Platoons. Lieutenant Tony Rochford, commanding No.12 Platoon, brought up the rear; he waved cheerfully as he disappeared into the dark. Half an hour later Captain Kennedy reported that No.2 Company was all across the Beja road and that there was not a sound to be heard.
About five o'clock Colonel Scott, with field glasses the size of hock bottles, and the Brigadier went up to the observation post under the Hurricane. The Adjutant and the Signal Officer were there already with the control set. They could say that the Company was all right so far, because Corporal Fildes had been sending a regular tuning call—a faint whisper—"Paddy two, Paddy two." At half-past five Corporal Fildes spoke at last, "Sunray for Sunray, " and Colonel Scott snatched the spare headphones from Lieutenant Synge.
Major Bucknill's voice was conversational. "No trouble so far. We dodged two patrols on the way over. We are more than halfway up the slope and have been for some time. It is much steeper from now on. Colin will start climbing again in a few minutes. Have the guns got one up the spout? So long. Over." "All set here. Good luck, Sam. Off. "
Fifteen minutes ticked slowly by on the watch propped up in front of the O .P. The irregular harassing fire continued monotonously like maroons as it had done for the past hour—bang bang! pause, bang! pause, bang, bang, bang! pause . A thin crackle drifted across the valley. "Listen. " It came again, louder and longer. "My God! M.Gs." "And grenades. Listen." "And mortars. Look." Short flashes burst on the hillside and faint white pillars of smoke appeared against the dark background. Suddenly, Major Bucknill came up on the air. " I want support on the eastern edge, now." The F.O.O. must also have been calling to his guns at the same time, for a troop behind the farm immediately shot a short concentration. The noise of the shell bursts rolled away, but the crackle of small arms continued. It was just beginning to get light, and then with a violent crash the barrage came down on Recce Ridge.
After ten minutes there was a break in the gunfire while the barrage lifted to the rear of the ridge. Through their glasses the observers could see dots moving on the crest of the ridge; there were very few of them, and they soon disappeared. The wirelesses were quite dead, and nobody could see the flicker of a lamp or a Very light. For an hour the guns fired their set tasks. The unnatural silence which followed was cut by the short tapping of Brens and the long, hysterical whir-r of Spandaus There was still no call for artillery support, no signal for smoke. In the O .P. the Brigadier was tugging his moustache while Colonel Scott never took his eyes from his glasses. "What can be happening, Andrew?" As if in answer Colonel Scott shouted, "Here they come. Oh, thank God! Well done!”
Small groups of men came over the top, joined each other and split apart again as mortar bursts puffed up between them. They trickled down the slope, halted and turned back. The firing increased, and now the Spandaus drowned the Brens. More groups came round the side of the hill and disappeared into the dark undergrowth.
There was firing on the top and bottom of the ridge, but the middle was dead. Colonel Scott called for smoke and the guns started again, raining canisters on the ridge. The fall of smoke brought a wild outburst of firing, but it died away as the wind dispersed the cloud into wisps. All along the line of its position the Battalion watched and listened. The firing on the ridge became shots irregular. There was no sound of Brens now, only isolated rifle machine pistols answered by the faint rattle of Schmeisser
”All over now, one way or the other," said Colonel Scott. "Keep up Rawlinson, the smoke as long as possible " He ordered Captain Little force back from M'Dakrene and sent Lieutenant McInerney and two detachments of mortars out on the left to help the men of No. 2 Company on their return journey. "They will be coming back by sections, if at all. " It was half-past eight.
Five wounded men came back on the left—Sergeant Deazley, Sergeant Mears, Guardsman McCafferty and two gunners, and were picked up by Lieutenant McInerney . Two unwounded men came in later on that night, Guardsmen Mills and Cox. That was all out of 103 officers and men.”