Lieutenant-Colonel John Winn - obituary

Publié le par The Telegraph

Lieutenant-Colonel John Winn - obituary

Officer who defended a position at Anzio and saved wounded comrades under fire outside Florence.

John Winn during the war

John Winn during the war

Lieutenant-Colonel John Winn, who has died aged 94, was awarded an MC and the American Silver Star in 1944 during the Italian Campaign.

On the night of February 17 1944, Winn was serving with “A” Company, 1st Battalion the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire), near Carroceto in the Anzio beachhead, Italy, when his company was attacked. One platoon was overrun and the company commander was killed, but Winn, a subaltern, immediately assumed command, rallied the men and recaptured the lost ground.

The next day, the Germans brought down heavy artillery fire on the company position and, that night, they again attacked. By dawn, they had got through the wire defences and were within grenade-throwing distance. Winn was, by then, the only officer left in the company.

For the next eight days until they were relieved, Winn and his heavily outnumbered company held on and, despite taking severe losses, yielded no ground. The citation for the award of his Silver Star paid tribute to his courage and inspiring leadership.

John Frederick Winn, the son of a journalist, was born on March 24 1921 at Rock Ferry on the Wirral Peninsula. He was educated at Wirral Grammar School where Harold Wilson, the future Prime Minister, was head boy.

In 1938, he joined the Royal Insurance Company but, on the outbreak of war, he enlisted in the Army and, in 1942, was commissioned into the Loyals and posted to the 1st Battalion. He saw action in North Africa and, in January 1944, took part in the Anzio landings. 

Winn (with Pip Gleeve and E Hawkins), Trocadero, Rome, 1944

Winn (with Pip Gleeve and E Hawkins), Trocadero, Rome, 1944

Six months after the action for which he was awarded his Silver Star, Winn, by then a major, led a reconnaissance patrol to the top of the Fiesole Ridge, near Florence, in order to find out whether the Germans still held it in strength.

They were two-thirds of the way up this 1,200ft-high feature when a company on his right became engaged in a fierce fire fight with a strong German unit. The enemy was now in a state of high alert and Winn’s platoon came under attack. Hand grenades were lobbed into their midst and four Spandaus opened fire from the upper windows of buildings on both sides of them.

Winn dealt with one of the crews and silenced the second gun. He had, however, lost a third of his small force and decided to withdraw. Despite coming under intense fire from the two remaining Spandaus and shelling by mortars, he succeeded in evacuating all but three of the wounded men and bringing the rest of his patrol back to battalion HQ. The citation for his MC stated that he had shown great courage and outstanding leadership throughout the action. 

Wedding of Major J F Winn and Patricia Claire Halsall, 17 May 1947, St James Church Bebington

Wedding of Major J F Winn and Patricia Claire Halsall, 17 May 1947, St James Church Bebington

After the war, Winn served with his regiment in Palestine, the Lebanon, Syria and Eritrea. He spent two years with the Parachute Regiment and, after rejoining the Loyals, served first in Germany and then in Malaya in the latter phase of the terrorist insurgency.

In 1962, he took over command of 1 Loyals and saw operational service in Kenya and Swaziland. He was posted to Hong Kong in 1967 and was appointed OBE the same year.

Winn retired from the Army in 1972 and joined Barbour Index, the provider of information services to the construction industry. As finance director, he steered the company through a demerger, a stock exchange listing and several corporate acquisitions with no former experience other than keeping the accounts of the officers mess, a feat his chairman described as “truly remarkable”. 

Kuala Lumpur 1959: being awarded the Ahli Mangku Negara by the King of Malaya

Kuala Lumpur 1959: being awarded the Ahli Mangku Negara by the King of Malaya

He retired in 1985 and settled in the Isle of Wight. He became treasurer of the Royal Solent Yacht Club, enjoyed sailing around the south coast, and cruised extensively the waters around the Channel Isles and France.

John Winn married, in 1947, Patricia Halsall. She predeceased him and he is survived by their son and their daughter.

Lieutenant-Colonel John Winn, born March 24 1921, died June 24 2015

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