The family of a former Commanding Officer of Preston’s Loyal (North Lancashire) Regiment has donated his rare, and possibly unique, group of medals to the Lancashire Infantry Museum.Advertisement
Lt Col John Winn won the US Silver Star while fighting with the Loyals at Anzio in 1944. It is the first Silver Star – America’s 3rd highest award for valour in the face of the enemy – in the Museum’s medal collection, and when taken together with his other awards – which include a Military Cross and the Malaysian Ahli Mangku Negara – comprise what the Museum believes to be a unique medal group.
“Medals, and especially medal groups, are special,” said Jane Davies, curator of the Lancashire Infantry Museum. “They are unique to their recipients, and they illustrate the story of that man’s service in an always – unique way.
“John Winn was not particularly different from the thousands of officers and men who have served our regiments down the years. Yet he, like they, performed extraordinary deeds when called upon to do so, and his medals tell the story. That is why we cherish our collection. It commemorates lives and tells stories in a way that nothing else can. It is a privilege for us to be able now to add Colonel Winn’s medals.”
John Winn died earlier this year at the age of 94. In 1944, he was a young subaltern serving with A Company of the 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, in the bridgehead at Anzio, Italy. One platoon was overrun and the company commander was killed, but Winn immediately assumed command, rallied the men and recaptured the lost ground.
The next day, the Germans brought down heavy artillery fire on the company position and, that night, they again attacked. By dawn, they had got through the wire defences and were within grenade-throwing distance. Winn was, by then, the only officer left in the company.
For the next EIGHT DAYS until they were relieved, Winn and his heavily outnumbered company held on and, despite taking severe losses, yielded no ground.
Six months later, Winn, by then a major, led a reconnaissance patrol to the top of the Fiesole Ridge, near Florence. They were two-thirds of the way up this 1,200ft-high feature when a company on his right became engaged in a fierce fire fight with a strong German unit. The enemy was now in a state of high alert and Winn’s platoon came under attack. Hand grenades were lobbed into their midst and four Spandau machine-guns opened fire from the upper windows of buildings on both sides of them.
Winn dealt with one of the crews and silenced the second gun. He had, however, lost a third of his small force and decided to withdraw. Despite coming under intense fire from the two remaining Spandaus and shelling by mortars, he succeeded in evacuating all but three of the wounded men and bringing the rest of his patrol back to battalion HQ.
The citation for his Military Cross stated that he had shown great courage and outstanding leadership throughout the action.
After the war, John Winn served with his regiment in Palestine, the Lebanon, Syria and Eritrea. He spent two years with the Parachute Regiment and, after rejoining the Loyals, served first in Germany and then in Malaya in the latter phase of the terrorist insurgency.
In 1962, he took over command of 1st Loyals and saw operational service in Kenya and Swaziland.
John Winn retired from the Army in 1972 and became a Finance Director in industry, despite the fact that his only financial experience was keeping the accounts of the Officers Mess. He finally settled in the Isle of Wight, where he became an enthusiastic and skilled sailor.
His medal group will go on display in the Lancashire Infantry Museum shortly.
Will you visit the Lancashire Infantry Museum to see John Winn’s medals? Let us know in the comments below.