Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1944, Lieutenant John “Jack” Hollington Grayburn V.C., the Parachute Regiment, was killed in action at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.
After attending Sherborne School in Dorset, he joined the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and then the 1st (London) Army Cadet Force, the Queen’s Royal Regiment, before the outbreak of the second world war. In 1940 he was commissioned into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and three years later transferred to the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion - his former regiment being on the home front, he was anxious to see action. In 1944 he transferred to the 2nd Battalion, taking command of 2 Platoon, A Company.
For his actions during Operation Market Garden Lieutenant Grayburn was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The citation refers to his “supreme courage, leadership and devotion to duty”, stating how he “led his men with supreme gallantry and determination. Although in pain and weakened by his wounds, short of food and without sleep, his courage never flagged. There is no doubt that, had it not been for this officer's inspiring leadership and personal bravery, the Arnhem bridge could never have been held for this time.”
Lieutenant Grayburn had been ordered to capture the southern end of the bridge. His platoon was met with “a hail of fire” and he was wounded, yet continued on until ordered to withdraw when casualties became heavy, and was the last man to leave the bridge. The platoon then occupied a house which was crucial to the defence of the bridge; it came under attack from machine-guns, mortars and tanks, but his leadership and courage were credited for it not falling to the enemy. On the 19th it was set alight, making evacuation essential. The following day he ensured that the enemy could not gain access to other houses near the bridge – the Germans then brought in tanks, forcing the platoon to withdraw, and providing the enemy with the opportunity to lay demolition charges. Lieutenant Grayburn and his men drove them back in order for the charges to be defused, and was again wounded, but refused help beyond bandaging.
As an enemy tank approached, he stood up to direct his men, was fired upon and killed instantly. Major Allison Tatham-Warter’s report led to Lieutenant Grayburn being posthumously promoted to captain as well as being awarded the Victoria Cross. He is commemorated at the Sherborne School, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and the Chalfont St. Giles parish church. He was buried on the embankment, close to where he was killed, his remains being reinterred in the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery in 1948.
Jack, born in India and raised in England, was 26 years old and married with a son.