2694706 John Huntington BRYSON, DCM, 1 Scots Guards

Discussion in 'The Brigade of Guards' started by dbf, Aug 11, 2011.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

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    From [The Glasgow Herald/i], June 12, 1940


    Thrilling Rearguard Action


    Thrilling descriptions of the fighting in Norway and the evacuation were given by members of the SCOTS GUARDS when they were landed at a British West Coast port yesterday. For 10 days the Guards fought a gallant rearguard action of 140 miles before re-embarking. During the 10 days they were engaged in almost continuous hand-to-hand fighting with the Germans.

    Guardsman BRYSON, from Cumberland, who has won the D.C.M. described the action which earned him that honour.

    “I was the No. 1 gunner in a Bren gun section,” he said. ”Our platoon had been practically wiped out, and one of our men was lying wounded some distance in front of our position. My sergeant took over the gun, and I crawled out to my wounded comrade.

    “We were operating in a wooded part of the country, and I managed to get a little cover. I succeeded in getting to the man, and, lifting him on my shoulder, I had carried him some distance when a party of Germans approached.

    “I lay down behind a fir tree, and had to smother the groaning of my companion, who was badly wounded in the back. The Germans were almost on top of us, and fortunately they swung off a bit to the left and passed without spotting us.

    “I then managed to get the wounded man back to our position, where he received attention.

    “Taking over my Bren gun again from the sergeant I ‘bagged’ in a short time about 60 Germans. I kept shifting from one position to another and letting go a short burst of fire each time. The Germans made towards me, but I continued to change my positions and kept mowing down the enemy while they were searching for me.

    “During all this time the sergeant was keeping me supplied with ammunition, which he was bringing forward rapidly.”

    Guardsman BRYSON, with this particular sergeant, figured with distinction in two other encounters with the enemy. In one the pair were responsible for bringing down an enemy ‘plane with their Bren gun.

    In the second exploit the two gunners spotted a patrol of about a dozen German cyclists which was in the vanguard of an advancing enemy column. With admirable deliberation the pair held their fire until the cyclists were close on them. The whole patrol was wiped out.

    The Guards fought in Norway for 73 days, and a company sergeant-major from High Blantyre said of their conduct “Guards’ discipline and tradition were always in evidence, and these carried us through in many a tight situation. Our rearguard action was magnificent. Bavarian Alpine troops were opposed to us, and there was much hand-to-hand fighting.

    “We were greatly superior to the enemy in this type of fighting and inflicted very heavy casualties.”

    Regarding the rearguard action, the sergeant-major said, “We would fall back probably 10 or 15 miles and take up a position at a bridgehead. This we would hold sometimes for nearly 24 hours. When arrangements were completed for retirement we would blow up the bridge and fall back to prepare another position for a stand. These tactics were adopted right up to the last minute before we left Norway.

    “When we arrived in Norway there was six to nine feet of snow on the ground. Our men knew nothing of skiing, but they took to it like ducks to water. Soon we were organising competitions, and gradually the men gained in proficiency until latterly most of them were quite good with skis and snowshoes. The training was something new for the men and they enjoyed it.”

    The sergeant-major told how one detachment, operating in snow about nine feet in depth, adopted something of the Eskimo tactic in preparing their encampment. The men dug down into the snow until they came to ground. Then they erected their tents in the hole. The tops were covered with blocks of wood and ice, so that the encampment was invisible from the air.

    “It looked like a vast snowfield,” he said. “Each tent had a primus stove, and fires were also lit from trees which they had found buried in the snow.”

    Indignation was expressed at the ruthlessness of the Nazi bombers. The first place the Nazi ‘planes made for, one Guardsman stated, was the hospital. Incendiary bombs were dropped on the buildings, which were set on fire. As casualties were being carried out on stretchers the ‘planes came down to little more than 50 feet and raked the men with machine-guns.

    The padre, the Reverend J. HAMILTON, St. Andrew’s, Perth, praised the Navy. “When we were being taken off,” he said, “a destroyer came into the wharf, tied up, took 500 men on board, and was steaming out again inside eight minutes.” The padre also spoke of seeing a Red Cross ambulance machine-gunned from the air by a Nazi aeroplane, although it was clearly marked.
  2. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Service Number 2694706
    Died 26/02/1944
    Aged 32
    2nd Bn. Scots Guards
    D C M
    Son of Robert and Mary Bryson; husband of Megan Bryson, of Clapham, London.
    Location: Italy
    Number of casualties: 1190
    Cemetery/memorial reference: II. O. 12.
    See cemetery plan
  3. Good evening.
    I have posted elsewhere to say I have finally made arrangements to visit Norway next May to visit grave of my Scots Guard cousin, buried in Mo i Rana.
    I was searching on NA website and did find the citation for the above but couldn't see a date for his valour. I think, when he says most of his platoon were wiped out, that he is talking about my cousin and the other soldiers killed then. There were 7 Scots Guards killed around the same date, 17 May.
    Do you know how I would find out if he was in the same platoon? All I know is my cousin was in the Right Flank. Thank you.
  4. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    Hi Sarah,

    If you look at the original citation you will see that the phrase “Number 16 Platoon” is struck through.

    My understanding is that there were usually 4 Platoons to a Company - usually numbered 1 to 4 (or A to D) so Number 16 would be in Number 4 Company - in 1st Scots Guards parlance/tradition Left Flank Company.

    Orbats: Scots Guards

    Following the above paragraph Number 1 Company were Right Flank Company.

    Like you I think the citation relates to the rearguard action at Mo I Rana on 17th May 1940 when 3 companies of 1st Scots Guards held up 1,700 German Mountain troops.

    As I said when you posted last year my relative Gdsn Devlin was wounded and taken prisoner in that action. I know he was in Left Flank as I remember as a child seeing the June 1940 letter sent to his father from his Company Commander Major The Viscount Garnock. He apologised for typing the letter but explained he had been wounded in the arm earlier in the action at Mo I Rana.

    You may be able to identify your cousin’s platoon if you have a look for a mention of him in the Scots Guards Missing Personnel file for the Norway Campaign. I don’t think there is a copy posted on the forum so it would either need a personal visit to U.K. National Archives or a request for a look up & copy by one of the members who offer that service.

    I’ll have a look through the Regimental History pages for the Norway Campaign (that Stuart Avery kindly copied for me last year) in the next couple of days to see if anything leaps out that might assist you in your search.

    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
  5. Hello! Thank you.
    I would be very interested in that missing file as 5 soldiers' graves were unknown until years later. I have messaged CWGC to ask how they identified the graves.
    Let me know if there is anything you want photographed.
    For interest, I made contact with the local history society and will be shown round Mo by a local resident. It turns out she is the daughter of the young Norwegian boy who is mentioned in the war diaries! He ran from a family farm to tell the SG that there were Germans! She heard all his stories and is very interested and knowledgeable. I can't wait! I've now been on three trips to Italy on WW2 to learn about the Italian campaign; the handbooks produced by Frank de Planta for the trips were so brilliant that I am trying to make my own - copying maps, gathering stories and reading every book I can.
    CL1 likes this.
  6. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    Hi Sarah,

    I’ve had a look at the pages in the official history about the obviously “forlorn hope” rearguard action at Mo I Rana.

    There is mention of the “young unnamed boy” alerting Left Flank to the landing of German Parachute troops.

    It describes the wounding of Major Lord Garnock as he tried to make contact with Right Flank to ask for support to his 16, 17 & 18 Platoons (perhaps HQ Co had several Platoons numbered from 1 upwards?) in the woods.

    It describes that in response to the request for help Right Flank sent one Platoon to assist.

    Hopefully if the Platoon is mentioned by number in the WD that will answer your query - if not there will be a good chance that the Platoon number will be listed in the NW Europe Expeditionary Force Missing Personnel file.

    I note that 58 OR’s were wounded during the Norway Campaign of which 56 became POW. I suspect the majority - if not all - of the wounded who became POW were casualties left behind in the aftermath of the evacuation of Mo.

    I’ve not had sight of the WD. It might be worthwhile contacting Drew5233 as he may already have a copy.

    Good Luck



    I’d be very happy to discover which Platoon in Left Flank my relative served in:salut:
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
    dbf likes this.

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