Winners of the Victoria Cross from the Division

 

During World War II members of the 7th Armoured Division won three Victoria Crosses. All three were awarded for conspicuous bravery during the battle of Sidi Rezegh on 21 November 1941. Here are details of their citations:

 

Brigadier John Charles "JOCK" CAMPBELL (1894-1942)

Brigadier (Acting) John Charles Campbell DSO, MC of the Royal Horse Artillery's citation reads:

Brigadier John "Jock" Campbell, VC, RHA"On the 21st November Brigadier Campbell was commanding the troops, including one regiment of tanks, in the area of Sidi Rezegh ridge and the aerodrome His small force holding this important ground was repeatedly attacked by large numbers of tanks and infantry. Wherever the situation was most difficult and the fighting hardest he was to be seen with his forward troops, either on his feet or in his open car In this car he carried out several reconnaissances for counter-attacks by his tanks, whose senior officers had all become casualties early in the day Standing in his car with a blue flag, this officer personally formed up tanks under close and intense fire from all natures of enemy weapons".

"On the following day the enemy attacks were intensified and again Brigadier Campbell was always in the forefront of the heaviest fighting, encouraging his troops, staging counter-attacks with his remaining tanks and personally controlling the fire of his guns On two occasions he himself manned a gun to replace casualties During the final enemy attack on the 22nd November he was wounded, but continued most actively in the foremost positions, controlling the fire of batteries which inflicted heavy losses on enemy tanks at point blank range, and finally acted as loader to one of the guns himself". 

"Throughout these two days his magnificent example and his utter disregard of personal danger were an inspiration to his men and to all who saw him. His brilliant leadership was the direct cause of the very heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy In spite of his wound he refused to be evacuated and remained with his command, where his outstanding bravery and consistent determination had a marked effect in maintaining the splendid fighting spirit of those under him".

Brigadier Campbell was appointed Divisional Commander in February 1942, but was killed in a car crash a few weeks later.

Victoria Cross website for Brigadier Campbell

London Gazette Entry for Brigadier Campbell, - 30th January 1942

 

2nd Lt. George Gunn (1912-1941)

2nd Lieutenant George Ward Gunn MC of the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, citation reads:

2 Lt. George Dunn, VC, J Battery, 3 RHA"On the 21st November, 1941, at Sidi Rezegh, Second-Lieutenant Gunn was in command of a troop of four anti-tank guns which was part of a battery of twelve guns attached to the Rifle Brigade Column. At 10.00 hours a covering force of enemy tanks was engaged and driven off but an hour later the main attack developed by about sixty enemy tanks. Second-Lieutenant Gunn drove from gun to gun during this period in an unarmoured vehicle encouraging his men and reorganising his dispositions as first one gun and then another were knocked out. Finally only two guns remained in action and were subjected to very heavy fire. Immediately afterwards one of these guns was destroyed and the portee of another was set on fire and all the crew killed or wounded except the Sergeant, though the gun itself remained undamaged. The Battery Commander then arrived and started to fight the flames. When he saw this, Second-Lieutenant Gunn ran to his aid through intense fire and immediately got the one remaining anti-tank gun into action on the burning portee, himself sighting it while the Sergeant acted as loader. He continued to fight the gun, firing between forty and fifty rounds regardless alike of the enemy fire which was by then concentrated on this one vehicle, and of the flames which might at any moment have reached the ammunition with which the portee was loaded. In spite of this, Second-Lieutenant Gunn's shooting was so accurate at a range of about 800 yards that at least two enemy tanks were hit and set on fire and others were damaged before he fell dead, having been shot through the forehead."

"Second-Lieutenant Gunn showed the most conspicuous courage in attacking this large number of enemy tanks with a single unarmoured gun, and his utter disregard for extreme danger was an example which inspired all who saw it. He remained undismayed by intense fire and overwhelming odds, and his gallant resistance only ceased with his death."

"But for this very gallant action the enemy tanks would undoubtedly have over-run our position."

Victoria Cross website for 2nd Lt. Gunn

London Gazette Entry for 2nd Lt. Gunn - 21st April 1942

 

Rifleman John Beeley (1918-1941)

Rifleman John Beeley, 1st Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps, citation reads:

Rifleman John Beeley, VC, 1st Bn. Kings Royal Rifle Corps"On the 21st November, 1941, during the attack by a Battalion of The King's Royal Rifle Corps at Sidi Rezegh against a strong enemy position the Company to which Rifleman Beeley belonged was pinned down by heavy fire at point-blank range from the front and flank on the flat and open ground of the aerodrome. All the officers but one of the Company and many of the other ranks had been either killed or wounded. On his own initiative, and when there was no sort of cover, Rifleman Beeley got to his feet carrying a Bren Gun and ran forward towards a strong enemy post containing an anti-tank gun, a heavy machine gun and a light machine gun. He ran thirty yards and discharged a complete magazine at the post from a range of twenty yards, killing or wounding the entire crew of the anti-tank gun. The post was silenced and Rifleman Beeley's platoon was enabled to advance, but Rifleman Beeley fell dead across his gun, hit in at least four places."

"Rifleman Beeley went to certain death in a gallant and successful attempt to carry the day. His courage and self-sacrifice was a glorious example to his comrades and inspired them to further efforts to reach their objective, which was eventually captured by them, together with 700 prisoners."

Victoria Cross website for Rifleman Beeley

London Gazette Entry for Rifleman Beeley - 21st April 1942

 

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