WIRRAL VC FOUGHT ON TILL DEATH
FIRED BATTERY’S LAST GUN AT 60 TANKS
HEROIC EXPLOIT IN LIBYA
Stirring stories of two soldiers in Libya who fought on in the face of certain death are revealed by the posthumous award of the V.C. to 2nd Lieut G. W. GUNN. R.H.A, son of a Wirral doctor and to rifleman John BEELEY, Kings Royal Rifle Corps.
Lieut GUNN continued firing the last anti-tank gun of a battery of 60 advancing tanks until he was shot in the head. His gallantry saved the British position.
The award for the two posthumous V.C’s for gallantry at Sidi Rezegh is announced to 2nd Lieut George Ward GUNN. M.C. Royal Horse Artillery and Rifleman John BEELEY, Kings Royal Rifle Corps.
2nd Lieut GUNN was the eldest of four sons of Dr and Mrs George GUNN of Church Rd, Neston and was 29yrs old.
On November 21st 1941, 2nd Lieut GUNN was in command of a troop of four anti-tank guns part of a battery of 12 guns attached to the Rifle Brigade Column. At 10.00hrs a covering force of enemy tanks were engaged an driven off, but, an hour later the main attack developed by about 60 enemy tanks. 2nd Lieut GUNN drove from gun to gun during this period in an armoured vehicle encouraging his men and reorganising his dispositions as fast as one gun then another was knocked out.
Finally only two guns remained in action and were subjected to heavy fire. Immediately afterwards one of these guns was destroyed and the portee of another was set on fire, and all the crew killed or wounded except the sergeant. The gun itself remained undamaged The battery commander then arrived and started to fight the flames. When he saw this 2nd Lieut GUNN ran to his aid through intense fire and immediately got the one remaining anti-tank gum into action on the burning portee, himself sighting it while the sergeant acted as loader. He continued to fight the gun firing between 40 to 50 rounds regardless alike of the enemy fire, which wass then concentrated on this one vehicle, and the flames which might at any moment reached the ammunition with which the portee was loaded.
In spite of this 2nd Lieut GUNN’S shooting was so accurate at a range of about 800yds that at least two enemy tanks were hit and set on fire, other damaged before he fell dead, having been shot through the forehead.
2nd Lieut GUNN showed the most conspicuous courage in attacking this large number of the enemy tanks with a single enamoured gun, and his utter disregard for extreme danger was an example which inspired all who saw it. He remained undismayed by intense fire and overwhelming odds, and his gallant resistance only ceased with his death. But for this gallant action enemy tanks would have undoubtedly overrun our position.
2nd Lieut GUNN was educated at Mostyn House School, Parkgate of which his father, amongst other institutions is medical officer. He afterwards went to Sedbergh School and on completing his education went to London as an articled accountant. When war broke out he was a chartered accountant and company secretary with Messers SISSONS and Co, Ltd, chartered accountants of New Board St, London.
He volunteered for enlistment on the first day of the war and was called up in December 1939, becoming a gunner in the Royal Horse Artillery. A few months later he entered an officers training corps camp and was commissioned in August 1940. Most of the time since he has spent in Libya, in May 1941 he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry and coolness, he inspired all ranks under heavy and close enemy fire particularly on January 4th and 5th as one of the heroic Tobruk garrison.
He was a bachelor, one of his brother is in the R.A, another in the R.AM.C, a third is a medical student. “We are very proud of him” said his mother last night to a reporter, “But I really think all who were with him deserve the V.C, all the fighting men deserve as much credit as he.”
RIFLEMAN WHO ATTACKED POST ALONE
The incident which carried the V.C for Rifleman BEELEY occurred the same day that Lieut GUNN showed gallantry. During the attack by the Kings Royal Rifle Corps against strong enemy position the company to which BEELEY belonged was pinned down by heavy fire at point-blank range, from the front and flank of the flat and open ground of the aerodrome.
“All officers but one of the company and many ranks had been killed or wounded” the official citation says. “On his own initiative with no sort of cover Rifleman BEELEY got to his feet carrying a Bren-gun and ran forwards towards a strong enemy post containing an anti-tank gun, a heavy machine-gun and a light machine-gun.”
“He ran 30yds and discharged a complete magazine at the post from a range of 20yds, killing and wounding the entire crew, the post was silenced and Rifleman BEELEY’S platoon was able to advance, but, Rifleman BEELEY fell dead across his gun, hit in at least four places, he went yo certain death in a gallant successful attempt to carry the day.”
“ His courage and self sacrifice was a glorious example to his comrades and inspired them to further efforts to reach their objective, which was eventually captured by them plus 700 prisoners.”
Rifleman BEELEY was born in Manchester 23 years ago and was a stone mason before he enlisted in 1939, his widow Private Betty BEELEY, aged 25, is an orderly in an ATS Company, attached to her husband’s regiment at Winchester, her home town
Copyright 2002 / To date