b. 22/12/1917 Benares, India. d. 06/05/1944 Kohima, India.
John Niel Randle (1917-1944) was born in Benares, British India on 22nd December 1917, the son of Dr. Herbert Niel Randle and Edith Randle (née Whitby). He had two sisters, an older sister also born in India, called Joan, and a younger sister, Rosemary Ann, who was born in 1920, after their return to England, in Teddington, Middlesex. He was educated at the Dragon School, Marlborough College, and Oxford University. At Oxford he qualified in Law and his best friend was Leonard Cheshire (later VC). In another link to a VC, he married Mavis Ellen Manser of Holywell, Oxford, sister of Leslie Thomas Manser VC, in Watford, Hertfordshire in 1942.
In May 1940, John, known as Jack, was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Norfolk Regiment, and in 1943, was promoted to Temporary Captain whilst in the 2nd Battalion. The 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment became heavily involved in the early months of 1944 in the Battle of Kohima, India, and it was there that Jack Randle would be involved in the action which led to the award of his posthumous Victoria Cross.
On May 4th 1944, at Kohima in Assam, a Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment attacked the Japanese positions on a nearby ridge. Captain Randle took over command of the Company which was leading the attack when the Company Commander was severely wounded. His handling of a difficult situation in the face of heavy fire was masterly and although wounded himself in the knee by grenade splinters he continued to inspire his men by his initiative, courage and outstanding leadership until the Company had captured its objective and consolidated its position. He then went forward and brought in all the wounded men who were lying outside the perimeter.
In spite of his painful wound Captain Randle refused to be evacuated and insisted on carrying out a personal reconnaissance with great daring in bright moonlight prior to a further attack by his Company on the position to which the enemy had withdrawn. At dawn on 6th May the attack opened, led by Captain Randle, and one of the platoons succeeded in reaching the crest of the hill held by the Japanese. Another platoon, however, ran into heavy medium machine gun fire from a bunker on the reverse slope of the feature. Captain Randle immediately appreciated that this particular bunker covered not only the rear of his new position but also the line of communication of the battalion and therefore the destruction of the enemy post was imperative if the operation was to succeed. With utter disregard of the obvious danger to himself Captain Randle charged the Japanese machine gun post single-handed with rifle and bayonet. Although bleeding in the face and mortally wounded by numerous bursts of machine gun fire he reached the bunker and silenced the gun with a grenade thrown through the bunker slit. He then flung his body across the slit so that the aperture should be completely sealed.
Randle’s body was recovered from the scene of the action, and he was buried in Kohima War Cemetery. Randle’s medal group is no longer intact with the campaign medals missing, and his Victoria Cross was donated to the Imperial War Museum, and displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON,.
BURIAL PLACE: KOHIMA WAR CEMETERY, KOHIMA, ASSAM, INDIA.
John Randle's medal on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT II, ROW C, GRAVE 8.
St Peter's Church, Petersham (Neil Bright)