John Medley, who died on 7 August 1990 aged 80 years, had a long and eventful life.

After leaving school in Romsey he went as “Purser’s Boy ” on the Atlantic P&O runs.

After a spell of this, he joined the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars in 1932 at York and served in the 2nd Troop ‘C’ Squadron. Randolph Churchill was his Troop Leader, and Lt S T Eve was another one. He was promoted to Corporal in 1934.

He moved with the Regiment to Colchester and Aldershot and took part in various Tattoos, in addition to the normal routine of those days.

After completing his service in 1938, he went into the car trade, becoming a Ford salesman.

At the outbreak of war, he joined the 4th Hussars who at that time was stationed at Tidworth. Training took place on MKVIB light tanks which John referred to as MARS (Mobile Air Raid Shelters).

He was promoted to Sergeant when the Regiment embarked for the Middle East in November 1940 on HMS Orcades. They disembarked at El Kantara in the Suez Canal 6 weeks later and made camp near Ismailia near the old Battlefield of Tel-el-Kebir. The Regiment trained in this area and found time for some pleasures such as sailing on the lake.

From here they embarked on HMS Gloucester for Greece, landing at Piraeus on 10 March 1941, as part of the 1st light Armoured Brigade Group of the Expeditionary Force.

They were the first on the scene in front of the Aliakrion line on the Rover Vardar near Salonika and took part in the Battle for Greece in April 1941 and the subsequent fighting withdrawal to southern Greece and the Corinth Canal where the majority of the Regiment was captured.

After the bulk of his Regiment were captured in Greece he made his way down to the Southern tip of the Poloponisos where he “borrowed” a dinghy and rowed with several others to the island of Anti Kithira and then to Crete.

After spending about 12 months evading the Germans, he was taken off the South Coast of Crete by the SOE trawler HMS Hedgehog. He was then asked by the SOE Para-Naval Commanding Officer, Commander Pool RNR if he would volunteer to guide a raiding party of SBS to one of the Cretan airfields to sabotage aircraft. So after only a few weeks away from Crete he was once again evading German patrols.

After successfully completing his mission they all returned to the Greek submarine Papa Nicholas, being depth charged on the way. For this, he was awarded the DCM.

He then went as Number One on the SOE caique St John and later was given his own command of Santa Claus. He led many operations, landing agents and supplies in the Cyclades of Dodecanese.

On a raiding forces attack on the island of Milos, taking troops ashore from an RN cruiser, he and SOE caique Armadillo were nearly blown out of the water by a battery of 88mm guns.

His career with SOE culminated in the surrender to him of the German garrison on Santorini where he also rescued the crew of another SOE caique which the Germans had sunk weeks previously.

For his work in the Agean, he was awarded a bar to his DCM.

After the war, he returned to Bristol as a Ford representative and started and ran the main Ford dealership in that city.

After his retirement he became a keen artist, having his work displayed in West County galleries.

He was a good and loyal friend and helped many in times of trouble.

He also had a deep and abiding faith which helped him in the last 2 years of his life when he was dogged by increasing ill-health.

For his services, he received the DCM and Bar, one of only 9 such awards, the 1939-45 Star, the Africa Star and the Italy Star.

He is remembered by his contemporaries in the Regiment as a born leader and most remarkable man.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 4th Hussars
  2. Middle East (Greece and Crete) timeline
  3. Gallantry Award: Citation and Immediate Award for The Distinguished Conduct Medal: Sgt IAJ Medley