John Richard Easonsmith

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John Richard Easonsmith
Black and white picture of a man with a short beard wearing a buttoned jacket and light-coloured trousers, facing left with his hands in his pockets
John "Jake" Richard Easonsmith
Nickname(s) Jake
Born (1909-04-12)12 April 1909
Bristol, England
Died 16 November 1943(1943-11-16) (aged 34)
Leros, Greece
Buried Leros war cemetery grave reference 3.B.3
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1939–1943
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Commands held Long Range Desert Group
Battles/wars

Second World War

Awards Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross

John ("Jake") Richard Easonsmith DSO, MC (12 April 1909 – 16 November 1943) was an officer in the British Army during the Second World War who rose from private soldier to become commanding officer of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) until he was killed in action in 1943.

His fellow-LRDG officer W. B. Kennedy Shaw described him as: "Brave, wise, with an uprightness that shamed lesser men, he was, I think, the finest man we ever had in the LRDG."[1]

Early life[edit]

John Richard Easonsmith was born in Bristol 12 April 1909, the son of George, a well known local printer and member of Bristol Savages and Daisy Easonsmith. Easonsmith was educated at Mill Hill School in London, and Clifton College Bristol. After leaving school he joined W.D. and H.O. Wills a British a tobacco importer and cigarette manufacturer in Bristol. Afterwards he entered the wine trade as a salesman with the Emu Australian Wine Company Limited. Recreationally he was a member and played for the Clifton Rugby Football Club.[2] He married Honor Gertrude Marsh and together they had a daughter.

Military career[edit]

At the start of the Second World War Easonsmith joined the 4th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, a Territorial Army unit that converted to the 66th Search Light Regiment Royal Artillery.[2] By August 1940, he had been promoted to sergeant and recommended for a commission, at the same time transferred to the Royal Tank Regiment. Having completed his officer training he was promoted to lieutenant in July 1940,[3] posted to the Middle East in December, 1940. On arrival he was selected to serve with the Long Range Desert Group.[4]

His first command with the LRDG was with the New Zealand 'R1' Patrol which was the patrol that collected the Special Air Service after their failed first mission Operation Squatter.[5] By August, 1941, he had been promoted to captain, and in January 1942, it was announced that he had been awarded the Military Cross.[6] Easonsmith was also the overall commander of the successful Barce Raid, commanding two patrols, the New Zealand 'TI' and the Brigade of Guards 'GI' patrols. and also elements of Popski's Private Army.[7] Following which in October 1942, he was promoted to major, and awarded the Distinguished Service Order in November.[8]

In October 1943, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assumed the command of the Long Range Desert Group. The LRDG was involved in the Dodecanese Campaign and was sent to Leros. Easonsmith was killed in action on 15 November 1943, during the Battle of Leros, apparently when he was shot by a German sniper while carrying out a lone reconnaisance of a village.[9] He is buried in the Leros military cemetery.[4][10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kennedy Shaw, p. 106.
  2. ^ a b Bristol Evening Post 24 November 1943: Obituary John Richard Easonsmith
  3. ^ "No. 34911". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 July 1940. p. 4731. 
  4. ^ a b The Times 15 January 1944: Obituary, John Richard Easonsmith
  5. ^ "Easonsmith, John Richard (Jake)". Special Forces roll of honour. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  6. ^ "No. 35396". The London Gazette. 26 December 1941. p. 7334. 
  7. ^ Molinari, pp. 71–72
  8. ^ "No. 35799". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 November 1942. p. 5141. 
  9. ^ diting John Richard Easonsmith
  10. ^ CWGC record for Lt-Col J.R.Easonsmith DSO MC

References[edit]

  • Molinari, Andrea, Desert Raiders: Axis and Allied Special Forces 1940–43 (Botley, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2007) ISBN 1-84603-006-4
  • Lloyd Owen, David, Providence Their Guide: The Long Range Desert Group 1940–45 (London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd, 1980) ISBN 0-24553603-5
  • Kennedy Shaw, W. B., Long Range Desert Group (London: Greenhill Books, 1989) ISBN 1-85367-024-3