Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2005-07 > 1120563009

From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: POTT; John-2005-UK
Date: Tue, 5 Jul 2005 12:30:09 +0100

Major John Pott
(Filed: 05/07/2005)
The Daily Telegraph &

Major John Pott, who has died aged 85, won an MC in Italy in 1943 and was
captured the following year in fierce fighting on the outskirts of Arnhem.

On September 18 1944, in the second lift of Operation Market Garden, 156
Parachute Battalion, part of Brigadier "Shan" Hackett's 4th Parachute
Brigade, was dropped north-west of the Dutch town of Arnhem. Before
nightfall, however, it ran into the forward defence line of the German 9th
SS Panzer Division and took casualties.

The next day, the battalion was ordered to capture the high ground at Koepel
in the first phase of its advance towards Arnhem to support the battalions
fighting in the town and relieve 2nd Parachute Battalion on the highway
bridge. "A" Company, commanded by Pott, advancing through scrubby woodland
towards its objective, the hill of Lichtenbeek, encountered strong
resistance from enemy infantry using stick grenades and supported by
half-tracks, and suffered heavy losses.

Pott decided to move as many survivors as he could muster to the top of the
hill, but they were attacked by the enemy in platoon strength. He waited
until they were 20 yards away and charged. The Germans took to their heels,
leaving behind five wounded and a machine gun.

Half an hour later, the Germans attacked again. With ammunition now
exhausted, Pott hoped to make another sortie at close quarters, but he had
only a handful of men left. He was then hit by three bullets and his
position was overrun.

As Pott lay on the ground, a German lieutenant told him that he could not do
anything for him for the moment, adding: "Your chaps will be back soon
anyway." His young soldiers gave Pott a most welcome drink of water and
marched off the walking wounded.

A few hours later, when Pott called out to see if there was anyone else
about, his batman and three other comrades emerged from the bushes. They
collected some jackets from the fallen to keep their OC warm for the night
and were then sent off to try to make their way back to the battalion.

The 4th Parachute Brigade did not succeed in breaking through the German
blocking line, and Pott lay in the woods for nearly 20 hours. Believing that
he was unlikely to live, he did his best to write a farewell letter to his
wife with his uninjured hand.

He was, however, found by members of the Dutch underground, carried off by
stretcher and then hidden in a shed by a Roman Catholic order while a doctor
was fetched to set his leg. His injuries were so serious that he had to be
moved to a hospital in Arnhem.

The Germans picked him up there and moved him to the military hospital at
Gronau; but, despite his injuries, he and a comrade subsequently escaped and
got across the Dutch border. They made their way to a police station but
were handed over to the Gestapo. Pott spent the remainder of the war as a
PoW at Oflag 79.

Robert Laslett John Pott was born on July 14 1919 in Khartoum, where his
father was serving in the Sudan Defence Force. He was educated at Wellington
before Sandhurst and was then commissioned into the King's Own Royal
Regiment and posted to India.

Pott accompanied the 1st Battalion to the Middle East and was wounded in
1942 in the Western Desert campaign while laying mines at night. Later that
year, when the ship taking the battalion to Cyprus was torpedoed, he played
a prominent part in rescuing the injured and those unable to swim.

After a short parachute course at Ramat David, Palestine, Pott transferred
to 156 Parachute Battalion based at Jenin and took command of "A" Company.
Soon after 156 Para moved to Tunisia, they held an airborne exercise in
preparation for the invasion of Italy and he made his seventh parachute

He said later: "No one saw my parachute open. There was just an untidy
bundle flapping above my head which no amount of shaking the rigging lines
would undo." He landed in a melon field unscathed but out of sight of his
comrades. When he joined them at the rendezvous, everyone asked: "Who was
that poor blighter who candled over there?"

In September 1943, 4th Parachute Brigade carried out a seaborne assault on
the important naval harbour of Taranto, Italy. Its first objective was the
airfield of Gioja del Colle 30 miles inland. When the 10th Battalion ran
into resistance, 156 Parachute Battalion was halted at San Basilio and moved
to the flank to attack a position held by the 1st German Parachute Division.

"A" Company, led by Pott, crossed a deep ravine swept by enemy fire and a
sunken road where they were held up once more before capturing two fortified
farm houses. He was awarded an immediate MC.

When the war ended, Pott was appointed adjutant at the Army Airborne
Transport Development Centre and then moved to the School of Air Support as

In 1951 he joined the Sudan Defence Force on secondment and, in 1958, after
two years in Cardiff with the Parachute Regiment, he transferred to the
Trucial Oman Scouts and took command of "C" Squadron.

In December that year, his squadron went to Muscat at the request of the
Sultan in preparation for an assault on the rebel-held mountain of Jebel

Pott established the base camp, the communications and donkey transport and
then organised the patrol base 7,600 ft up the mountain from which the SAS
launched their decisive attack.

The conditions on the mountain were alien to the Bedouin Arabs, most of whom
came from the western sands of the Trucial States. Ice formed overnight in
the water bottles and rain and sleet were encountered during the day. Pott,
however, through the strength of his personality and his physical toughness,
kept morale at a high level and welded his small force into a very efficient

Pott's final posting was at Fort George in Scotland, where he helped to set
up the Army Mountain Training Centre.

A man of strong religious faith, after retiring from the Army in 1972 Pott
went back to the Sudan to work with Across, the Christian relief

He eventually returned to Nethy Bridge, Inverness-shire, which had been his
home since the end of the war. He regularly attended reunions of his
battalion and annual commemorations at Arnhem, as well as keeping in touch
with the family there who had helped him when he was wounded.

Pott was appointed MBE in 1959.

He married, in 1941, Anna Frost, the sister of Lt-Col (later Major-General)
John Frost, who commanded 2nd Parachute Battalion on the highway bridge at
Arnhem. She predeceased him, as did one of their sons. Three sons survive

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

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