Durnford-Slater, John Frederick

Date of birth:
1909
Date of death:
February 5th, 1972
Service number:
41090
Nationality:
British (1801-present, Kingdom)

Biography

John Durnford-Slaterís father was a Captain in 2nd Bn. Royal Sussex Regiment and was killed during World War 1.
Durnford-Slater enrolled in the Military Academy Woolwich in London at the age of 18 and was posted in the Royal Artillery in 1929. He served in India for six years and returned to the UK in 1935.
Right after the British Expeditionary Force was evacuated from Dunkirque, Churchill decided to establish a unit which was called the Commando later on. Durnford was chosen to lead nr. 3 Commando. He started recruting men from various Army units who subsequently underwent training in Largs in Scotland. One of their first operations was a raid on Guernsey. The attack itself ended in disaster but the lessons learned proved to be valueable. Following the Channell Islands there were raids on the Lofoten, Vaagso, Dieppe and Sicily.
October 1943 he returned to England to participate in preparing plans for the invasion. After D-Day he served in France and Germany and was active in logistics, plannning and administration.
After the war he remained in the Army until he became a reservist in 1948.
He lost his life in 1972 in a railway accident.

Promotions:
January 31st 1929: 2nd Lieutenant
January 31st 1932: Lieutenant
August 1st 1938: Captain
January 31st 1946: Major
August 11th 1948: Resignation of commission, transfer to reserve of officers
January 24th 1964: Age limit for reservist reached

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel
Unit:
No. 3 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, British Army
Awarded on:
May 27th, 1941
Awarded for:
Operation Claymore
Mentioned in Despatches
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel
Unit:
No. 3 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, British Army
Awarded on:
April 3rd, 1942
Awarded for:
Operation Archery
Action:
Citation:
"Lt-Col JF Durnford-Slater was the senior officer ashore during the operations at Vaagso in Southern Norway on 27th December 1941.He was in command of the assaults on the Isle of Maaloy at the town of South Vaagso, and was in immediate charge of the operations ashore following the landing on the latter objective. The task with which he was faced was not an easy, the oppositon was unexpectedly heavy , and at once developed intot house to house fighting.Under such conditions ,when it was extremely difficult to maintain effective command over the many independent actions, which were being fought, to gain control of the town ion time for the various tasks to be completed. Lt-Col JF Durnford-Slater on two occasions went forward to take charge of the situation , only returning to HQ in order to report progress to the Flagship at one period when the street fighting had become very bitter in character and when th etwo leading troops had lost 5 out of 6 officers and nearly 40% of their effectiveness,he immediately took personal command of the leading troops , reorganised his fo, set the attack in motion again and completed the capture of the town. At this time any delay or hesitation might have had serious results .he was constantly under fire , and both his orderlies were wounded besides him.his personal courage , complete coolness, and quick grasp of the situation were outststanding ,throughout the day and rightly inspired complete confidence. As a result all his alloted tasks were completed and casualties inflicted on the enemy at least dioubled those suffered by his own troops from enemy action. he left South Vaagso in the last craft to put off from any landing place."
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel
Unit:
No. 3 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, British Army
Awarded on:
October 21st, 1943
Awarded for:
Operation Husky
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Action:
Citation:
"On July 10th and 13th 1943.Lt-Col JF Durnford-Slater carried out two successful operations.the first(10th) which was vital to the safe landing of 5th Division on beach 44. His task, the destruction of a 5-gun howitzer battery two miles north east of Cassibile. the second(13th) the capture of a bridge in the rear of the enemy lines, vital to the advance of the XIII Corps.In spite of outclassed in weapons ,the Germans employing tanks and heavy mortars, Lt-Col JF Durnford-Slater and his Commando having seized th ebridge formed a bridgehead , held on for 18 hours until relief could get through. Lt-Col JF Durnford-Slater displayed the greatest courage ,determination and tenacity.His complete disregard for personal safety proved an inspiration to his men and in the face of heavy casualties he cheered and forced his men to hold on and fight back until relief arrived, thus the bridge being saved from enemy demolition."
Details:
Awarded as an immediate DSO.
Second DSO awarded as a bar for on the ribbon of the first DSO.

Sources

  • - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 35172 published on the 23 May 1941
    - Second Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 35510 published on the 31 March 1942
    - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 36217 published on the 19 October 1943
    - WW2Commando
    - Ferdinand(o) Family History Site