In Jock McDiarmid, MM C de G I posted a plea for information or source material that would assist me to write a piece about a former World War II Special Air Service Regiment soldier who was School Sergeant at The Armidale School from 1957-59 and from 1961-April 1962.
There is not much about Jock on the web, but in the course of my researches I found on the UK online National Archive a PDF image of the commendation which was the basis for Jock being awarded a Military Medal in January 1944.
Jock was part of an operation which was part of the invasion of Italy from Sicily, across the Straits of Messina. They were to seize Bagnara, some thirty miles to the north of where the main forces had landed, and hold it until they arrived. The thinking was that with an enemy across their lines of communications, the Germans were less likely to make a stand in the toe of Italy. The operation was successful, but did not get off to a good start – they were landed to the north side of the town instead of the south, and were behind time according to the timetable they had been set, so a good deal of improvisation was required.
Jock’s commendation reads:
On the morning of September 4th 1943, Cpl McDiarmid’s sub section was advancing east of Bagnara when they came under heavy mortar and machine gun fire and he himself was shot through the ankle. He ordered his men to carry out a right flanking movement and, despite his wounds, covered the withdrawal of his sub section from a position which was continually under fire. He then crawled back, rejoined his men, and led them into the hills above the town in an effort to outflank the enemy position mortaring the road.
He refused to return to the R.A.P. [Regimental Aid Post] and continued to advance until he collapsed. Throughout he showed great devotion to duty, determination and courage, and by his complete disregard for personal safety inspired the men under his command to greater efforts.
The recommendation for the award of a Military Medal was signed by Major R.B. Mayne DSO, Royal Ulster Rifles, Major Commanding the Special Raiding Squadron. The grant of an immediate MM was signed by Major Mayne, H.R. Alexander, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief 15 Army Group, M.C. Dempsey, Lieutenant General, Commander XIII Corps, who led the invasion across the Straits and went on to command the Second Army in the invasion of Normandy, and B.L. Montgomery, General, G.O.C. Eighth Army.
There is a special psychology to the special forces soldier. Most elite athletes do best when there are girlfriends, family, friends and supporters cheering in the stands, which leads to the well known home ground advantage. The people who are accepted for special forces training and make it through are people who are assessed as being able to keep going in the dark when they are cold, wet, tired, hungry and in pain, and if there is anyone observing them at all, it won’t be anyone with their best interests at heart. Jock was one of those.