1st Edition PB 2008
John “Tim” Timothy was one of the longer serving officers of the Parachute Regiment
in World War II. He served the regiment with distinction and took part in the
Bruneval Raid, as well as airborne operations in North Africa, Italy and Arnhem where
he was taken prisoner. He subsequently escaped from Oflag VIIB in Bavaria and met
up with American Forces.
He displayed great qualities of leadership, endurance and courage which resulted
in him being awarded the Military Cross on three separate occasions.
His full wartime biography and personal experiences are told in Tim’s Tale.
A summary of the biography is provided below:
Tim enlisted into the Grenadier Guards in 1940 and was quickly identified as
officer material. He was commissioned into the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment
on 21 December 1940.
He joined the Paras at the formation of No 1 Parachute Brigade in September 1941.
Initially with 2 Para, he was the OC of Rodney section on the Bruneval Raid (Operation Biting)
Later on in 1942 Tim became liaison officer with the first American Airborne Unit
into the UK. He is believed to be the first British Para to be awarded American jump wings.
He also jumped into combat with them into North Africa for Operation Torch having flown
1500 miles from Cornwall.
He rejoined 2 Para in January 1943 and was involved in bloody fighting against axis
forces in Tunisia where he won his first MC. In the Bou Arada sector he led a night
raid which resulted in the capture of a platoon of Italian soldiers providing valuable
intelligence for the Brigade. Later in the Beja sector his platoon successfully mounted
a valiant defence when they became completely surrounded by enemy forces. At the end of
this day of bitter fighting Tim attacked a machine gun nest single handed, killing six
Germans and bringing back 2 German machine guns.
John missed the Sicily landings due to ill health but was soon back into action when
he dropped behind enemy lines for Operation Simcol (October 1943). As a result of his
gallantry on this mission he was awarded his second Military Cross. This search and
rescue mission for escaped allied POWs following the Italian Armistice was highly dangerous,
since he was at risk of being shot as a spy by Italians, Germans and British all at
the same time! John operated for a month behind enemy lines before being lifted off with
rescued allied POWs by the Royal Navy.
Having completed a company commanders' course in the summer of 1944, John was promoted
to Major on 1 July and assumed command of R Company 1 Para.
He made his 4th (and final) combat jump into Arnhem. R Company acted as the spearhead for
1 Para in their advance to the objective but quickly came under serious fire from men of
the 9th Hohenstaufen SS Panzer Division at Wolfheze. R Company held the Germans at bay while
the rest of 1 Para tried to push onto the bridge. But as a result of this engagement
John’s company sustained 50% casualties. Eventually John was able to move on and rejoin
the rest of 1 Para on the western outskirts of Arnhem near to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital
on the Monday evening. Early on Tuesday morning 1 Para led their final attack in an
effort to reach 2 Para at the bridge. The attack was launched against 5 German
battlegroups in strong defensive positions. Although initially the attack made good
progress it soon ran into serious trouble. By now John was back in front leading the
charge for the whole battalion with the 6 remaining men of R Company.
They made it to within 1000 yards of the bridge before seeking shelter in a house where
they were eventually overrun by the Germans and taken prisoner. For his gallantry
and outstanding leadership John was awarded his 3rd Military Cross.
As a prisoner John was shunted through various camps until eventually in January 1945
they arrived at Eichstatt (Oflag VIIB) in Bavaria. In March, with rumours of the Russians
closing in, they were put on notice to march to another camp. While on the march John
made his escape with fellow Para officer Major Ronnie Stark also a company commander
from 1 Para (and who also served with Tim in 2 Para in Tunisia). They were able to live
rough off the land with some assistance from foreign farm labourers and eventually joined
up with American forces.
Tim declined the opportunity to take over his old company in 1 Para preferring to return
to civilian life now that hostilities were over. Prior to demobilisation he reverted to
the rank of Temporary Captain and acted as military adviser for a film called
“School for Secrets” produced and directed by Peter Ustinov.
After his Army service he resumed his post with Marks and Spencer with whom he remained
for the rest of his working career. He took well earned early retirement at 59 and
eventually settled in South Devon.