John Marshall was commissioned into The Royal Leicestershire Regiment but volunteered for Airborne Forces and undertook Parachute Course 13 at RAF Ringway in May 1942.
He had held the post of Brigade Major for the 1st Parachute Brigade, from the U.K. to North Africa and in the early part of that campaign (October 1942 – January 1943) and was then Second In Command for the 2nd Parachute Battalion in North Africa, January – June 1943.
In July 1943 he was posted back to the United Kingdom and took up the post of Second In Command for the 8th (Midlands) Parachute Battalion.
In the book ‘A Fierce Quality, The Fighting Life of Alastair Pearson, DSO & Three Bars, MC.’ By Julian James there are two references to John Marshall on pages 88 – 89:
‘The day of Pearson’s arrival came and the whole Battalion was on parade, waiting for him to appear. He turned up in an old fashioned staff car and got out. He was greeted by the Battalion Second-In-Command, Major John Marshall. Marshall would have been the Battalion Commander if Pearson had not suddenly become available.
Pearson inspected the front rank and then returned to his car. He stood on the folding steps, a feature of such vehicles, and addressed the assembled troops. “I have never seen such a shower in my whole life,” he said. With that he got into his car and drove away. The effect was devastating. Before he left, Pearson told Marshall that he would return the following day and he expected everyone to be in brand new uniforms, including the officers. The Quartermaster belonged to that breed who believed that ‘stores are for storing and issue’s is for issuing!’ Nevertheless, new uniforms were produced for everyone and the whole Battalion spent the intervening twenty-four hours polishing and scrubbing everything that did not move.
The next day Pearson returned and inspected the Battalion. Once he had seen all the troops, he returned to the front and said to them: “I am pleased to command you.'
Within six months the 8th Battalion was one of the best in the Division. In between there was a great deal of hard work and training to be done. Marshall briefed Pearson on everyone within the Battalion and proved to be an extremely loyal and helpful Second-In-Command.
On the 6 June 1944 he flew to Normandy on board aircraft 252, which was hit by flak. He was wounded and taken prisoner. He was eventually moved to a Prisoner Of War Camp and Hospital at Rennes, where he was planning to assist others with an escape plan, when the Gestapo started to take a keen interest in them, so it was shelved. They were liberated by advancing American Forces in late July or early August 1944.
In October 1944 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the 2nd Parachute Battalion. He was responsible for reforming and re-training the battalion after its return from Arnhem. He relinquished command of the battalion back to Lt-Col. JD Frost on his return from POW camp in October 1945.
After the war and on return to its peacetime establishment he had to revert to his previous rank of Lieutenant, but was promoted to Captain on 31 January 1946 and in 1950-51 he served in the Korean Campaign.
In 1954 he was appointed to command the 12th Battalion (TA) The Parachute Regiment and became the first Commanding Officer of the newly formed 12th/13th Battalion. It was largely due to his tact and inspiration that the amalgamation of the Yorkshire and Lancashire Battalions was so successful. He was for many years a member of the Parachute Regimental Committee.
John Marshall unfortunately drowned whilst swimming on a holiday in Ireland, 9 September 1960.
Courtesy of Bob HiltonRead More