John Stevenson was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1918. He subsequently enlisted in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1935 and served with the 2nd Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry (the 52nd) in India.
In February 1941, John answered the call for volunteers for special service, and in due course was posted to No.6 Commando serving as a sergeant instructor at the Commando Special Training Centre at Lochailort, later becoming Company Sergeant Major of the Commando Training Centre at Achnacarry Castle.
On D Day, 6 June 1944, he landed with the 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion, a Territorial unit of the Ox and Bucks, as part of the 6th Beach Group at La Breche near Ouistreham. When the battalion supplied companies for the bridgehead defence, he rejoined 2nd Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry as CSM of Major John Howard’s D Company on 13 July, replacing CSM Richard Flexen who had become a casualty. He remained as CSM with D Company to the end of the Second World War.
John served with the Battalion in the Ardennes, the Rhine Crossing and during the Advance to the Baltic. As a result of his gallantry during the Rhine Crossing he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The citation for his award records:
"CSM Stevenson landed by glider East of the Rhine on 24 March 1945. The same night he was placed in command of a platoon of which the Platoon Commander had become a casualty. The platoon was on the East bank of the River Issel.The enemy was very close, and supported by self propelled guns. It was quite obvious that the position would rapidly become untenable unless the platoon could impose its will on the enemy. Throughout the night and the following day CSM Stevenson took all forms of offensive action, directed to the domination of the battlefield. He succeeded so well that his position was held against heavy odds. The enemy made several attempts to break in, but all were defeated. Small parties which did infiltrate were promptly destroyed. In order to draw the enemy's fire and to manoeuvre them onto his killing ground CSM Stevenson repeatedly exposed himself without thought of his own personal safety.
His courage and cheerfulness inspired the whole platoon. It was largely due to his infectious leadership that a most important position was held under great difficulties at a critical time."
On 1 October 1945, CSM Stevenson was appointed Acting Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, serving in Palestine as part of the 6th Airborne Division.He later served as RSM of the 7th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, from 1947 to 1948 and RSM of the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, from 1948 to 1951. In 1951, he rejoined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and was appointed RSM of the 1st Battalion, stationed in Cyprus and then the Canal Zone.
He was commissioned towards the end of 1955 and awarded the MBE in the New Year Honours of 1956. The MBE Citation notes:
"Regimental Sergeant Major J Stevenson DCM has given the Regiment exceptional service for many years. During the 1939-45 war his remarkable courage and powers of leadership earned for him a Distinguished Conduct Medal. Since the war, as Regimental Sergeant Major he has shown an unflagging zeal, an energy and enthusiasm that are beyond all praise.
He has patiently studied the National Service man, to evolve the right technique to get the best out of him; this, combined with his own marked powers of leadership, has made him both an instructor and disciplinarian of the highest order. He is respected by everyman in the Regiment, and they would follow him anywhere.
He never spares himself in any way. Nothing that is for the good of the Regiment is too much trouble for him. He works long hours, day in and day out, to ensure all is well, and obtains excellent results from the many young and inexperienced non-commissioned officers by his energy, and by the shining example he sets at all times. He instructs all junior non-commissioned officers in their basic duties, and he runs ten of these courses every year. Yet he starts each course with a vigour and enthusiasm that is undoubtedly infectious, and undoubtedly inspires his young students.
The Sergeants' Mess runs smoothly and well, with a remarkably fine spirit. Regimental Sergeant Major Stevenson guides it firmly, but never too firmly; once again, his sure control and personal example inspire the younger members both to work hard and get the best out of their soldiering.
In his spare time, of which he has remarkably little, Regimental Sergeant Major has made himself a considerable expert on Regimental history; he has read widely and well, and his enthusiasm for, and knowledge of this subject has done much to maintain the interest that is so important a background to all Regimental tradition and pride.
He has rendered very great service to the Army in general and this Regiment in particular. His energy, enthusiasm and magnificent leadership over the post war years have been superb. He has set and maintained the highest standards both on and off parade, and has set a personal example that is in the very highest tradition of the Service."
He was promoted to Captain in 1961 and Major in 1965. His overseas post war service included Penang, Brunei, Sarawak and Germany. John retired from the 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets, the successor regiment of the Ox and Bucks, in 1967.
Following his retirement from the Army he lived with his family in Winchester, Hampshire, and worked as a civil servant for the Ministry of Defence until his final retirement in 1983.
In 1954, John married Walburga Tetzlaff with whom he had twin sons, John and Mark. Walburga died in 1977, and later he was married to Jess McDonald, who died in 2000.
John Stevenson passed away in 2002.
Compiled with the assistance of Mark StevensonRead More