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John Richard Easonsmith


Ltnt-Colonel John Richard Easonsmith DSO MC - Service No. 140546. Born 12th April 1909 in Bristol. Died 16th November 1943 aged 34. He attended Mill Hill School in London. His parents lived in Bristol. Grave Ref 3.B.3 Leros, Greece. Next of Kin George Easonsmith, Rudgeway, Glos.

The spelling on the Clifton War Memorial says Eason-Smith. This is incorrect it should say Easonsmith.

Before the war he was a travelling wine salesman with the Emu Wine Company, based in Bristol. He originally joined the the old 4th Glosters (66th S.L. Regt.) at the beginning of the war and was transferred to the Royal Tank Regt.

Above logo of the Emu Wine Company. It has a website at In 1976 it was acquired by Thomas Hardy.

Easonsmith was Commanding Officer of the Long Range Desert Group nicknamed The Scorpions. An elite Special Forces Group that operated behind enemy lines.

In May 1943 the LRDG was sent to Lebanon, where it was trained for a new role in mountain warfare. However, it was then unexpectedly posted to the Aegean. There it took part in the battle for Leros, where Jake Easonsmith, was killed.

Above left a 18 year old Jack Easonsmith from the 1927 group of 4 Clifton XVs at Clifton College. Above middle and right in the desert during WW2.

Above Jake Easonsmith in the Tank Regiment Unifrom.

Above left Jake Easonsmith in desert clothes. Above right in desert. The story goes that the photographer who took the photo in arab clothes (above left) montaged a few palms and camels in the background and sold it all over Egypt as a Christmas card, one of which Jack received from one of his men. Jack Easonsmith regularly contributed to the Clifton RFC WW2 Newsletter.

Jake Easonsmith an an unidentified Kiwi trooper clean weapons.

Above Guy Prendergast DSO (LRDG CO; right) and Jake Easonsmith DSO, MC (2nd in command and future CO).

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) was a British Army unit during World War II. The unit was founded in Egypt following the Italian declaration of war (June 1940) by Major Ralph A. Bagnold with the assistance of Captains Clayton and Shaw, acting under the direction of General Wavell. The group specialised in mechanized reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and desert navigation. The group was disbanded at the end of the war. The LRDG was nicknamed "the Mosquito Army" by Wavell. Special Air Service soldiers would refer to it as "the Libyan Desert Taxi Service". The unit, initially known as the Long Range Patrol Group, was assigned 150 New Zealand volunteers. Bagnold had reasoned that the New Zealanders, being mostly farmers, would be more adept at using and maintaining machinery. Later additions to the group included British and Rhodesian units.

Despite the determined efforts of the LRDG's leaders, and the gallantry of its officers and soldiers, the unit never really discovered a consistent role after the fall of Tunisia. It was unfortunate, too, that the completed retraining of the LRDG should have coincided with the illfated campaign in the Dodecanese, and, in particular, with the badly planned haphazard attempts to seize and hold the islands of Cos and Leros. It was a tragically vague campaign - no wonder that Jumbo Wilson, considered responsible for some of its folly, should have been known by the irreverent as the `Wizard of Cos'. Many fine lives were lost in a cause which, as Lloyd Owen remarks, `few really understood'. Tragically, too, Easonsmith, perhaps the greatest of the LRDG's civilian soldiers, was killed leading a pointless patrol on Leros, and denied the chance to restore his unit's fortunes.

Above: Leros Cemetry - Website of the Long Range Desert Group Preservation Society. - Another LRDG site, has background information on vehicles and equipment and an extensive bibliography.

Bristol Evening Post Wednesday November 24th 1943

Played for Clifton Lieutenant-Colonel Easonsmith Dies in Action The Evening Post regrets to announce the death of Lieutenant-Colonel J. R. Easonsmith D.S.O. M.C. of Lower Hazel, Rudgeway. Aged 34, he was the son of the late Mr George Easonsmith, a well-known Bristol printer and prominent member of Bristol Savages and Mrs Easonsmith. Colonel Easonsmith was educated at Mill Hill and was at one time with W.D. and H.O. Wills, afterwards entering the wine trade. He will also be remembered as a playing member of Clifton Rugby Club. Joining the old 4th Glosters (66th S.L. Regt.) at the beginning of the war, he subsequently transferred to the Royal Tank Regt. And saw service in the Middle East with the Long-range DesertGroup. Married in 1935, he leaves a widow and one daughter.

His Obituary appeared in The Times on January 15th 1944. It said

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN RICARD EASONSMITH, D.S.O., M.C., Royal Tank Regiment, who has been killed in action at the age of 34, was educated at Mill Hill School, and joined the staff of Messrs. W. D. and H. O. Wills Limited, of Bristol, and later Emu Australian Wine Company Limited. On the outbreak of war he enlisted in the 66th Searchlight Regiment, but his powersof leadership were quickly recognized, for by August, 1940, he had been a sergeant in his original unit, recommended for a commission, transferred to the Royal Tank Regiment, and completed his training as an officer. In December, 1940, he was posted to the Middle East, being selected on arrival for the Long Range Desert Group. By August, 1941, he had been promoted captain, and in January, 1942, it was announced that he had been awarded the Military Cross. In October of the same year he was promoted maajor, and the award of the Distinguished Service Order soon followed. In October, 1943, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel on assuming the command of the Long Range Desert Group, but late in November last came the news that he had been killed in action. Lieutenant-Colonel Easonsmith, who was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs George Easonsmith of Bristol, leaves a wife and a daughter, aged two.

His sister Nancy Margaret Easonsmith died suddenly on 25th August 1946, aged 42.

Above the Bristol Evening Post of June 11th 1945 ran a piece on Jake Easonsmith with the headline "He Bowled Out Italians with Bombs". The Western Daily Press also ran a piece on April 5th 1945 with the headline "Jake Dessert Ranger"

His wife Honor Gertrude Easonsmith remarried on 2nd April 1947 to Major K. P. Hardinge-Carter.