The Resilient Leader: Regimental Sergeant Major John Clifford Lord


REGIMENTAL SERGEANT MAJOR JOHN CLIFFORD LORD (2613527) MBE, was Academy Sergeant-Major at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

RSM JC Lord MBE trained King Hussein of Jordan, the Duke of Kent and along with many others.

JC Lord was born on the 26th April 1908 in Southport, Lancashire. He enlisted into the 3rd Grenadier Guards on the 27th March 1933. JC Lord got posted to Egypt on 14th November 1933, where he remained until 8th April 1936. He left the British Army on the 26th March 1937, and two days later joined the Brighton Police Force. He served with the police until the 3rd December 1939. Rejoining the Grenadier Guards on the following day.

JC Lord qualified as parachutist on 30th November 1941 and Regimental Sergeant Major, to the 3rd Parachute Battalion.

With the paras, he participated in the operations in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. He dropped with the Airborne Forces at Arnhem, there captured and he was taken to Stalag XIB. Whilst there he defeated chaos, misery and boredom. And restored a running organisation, strict discipline to the exacting Guards’ standard in the prison camp.

At Arnhem, after Major General l Urquhart found himself cut-off with the 3rd Battalion on Sunday 17th September. RSM JC Lord appointed himself as the General’s bodyguard.

Gen Urquhart later wrote:

“As I came out into the road, I found myself accompanied by a massive shape which turned out to be the 3rd Battalion’s RSM, a six feet two inches Grenadier named Lord. ‘From now on, sir,’ he informed me, ‘I’m your bodyguard.’

Not even Generals like to admit that they need protection, and I gave some nonchalant response; nevertheless I found his presence rather reassuring.”

The following day, RSM Lord was still with Urquhart and “B” Company when trapped in Arnhem. They waited for the cover of darkness before moving. A party of Germans, unaware of the closeness of the British, placed themselves in perfect view of their position. Several of the British soldiers were keen to open fire on them, but Major Bush ordered them not to. RSM Lord was present and was in agreement; it would have been folly to begin an unnecessary skirmish and risk serious retaliation. With the General and Brigadier Lathbury in the same building.

RSM Lord joined the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment as RSM in September 1941. He held this appointment until wounded and captured at Arnhem in September 1944.

During this time he has earned a great reputation in his Battalion and in the 1st Parachute Brigade. His Warrant Officer’s drive and character made men from over fifty Regiments into a first-class Battalion. RSM Lord served with distinction throughout the North African campaign in the winter of 1942/1943. His gallantry in action was always an example to the Battalion. Later, he fought with gallantry in Sicily and at Arnhem, wounded JC Lord was taken prisoner. RSM Lord captured on Thursday 21st September. Sent along with a great number of other Arnhem survivors, to Stalag XIB at Fallingbostel.

At Stalag XIB he showed himself to be the outstanding personality in maintaining a high state of morale amongst the prisoners. Officers and men arriving arrived to an the excellent bearing and turnout of the prisoners.

Before arriving at the camp, the camp was in a desperate condition. JC Lord took over its administration and worked to improve it until liberation on the 27th April 1945. In honour of this, and his excellent service throughout the War, RSM Lord was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE):

When a party of liberating officers paid the camp a visit they found a guard who was smartly turned out. Then the figure appeared, the R.S.M. himself. Gleaming brass, immaculate webbing, razor-edge trouser creases, dazzling boots, a spectacular salute.

RSM JC Lord carried out daily inspections and guard mounting. He wasn’t fearful of reprimanding officers who didn’t show leadership. The RSM was most unpopular when he introduced these changes. But in time the prisoners’ waning self-respect was restored and their self-discipline. JC Lord built up the inner resilience of his fellow prisoners and saved the health and lives of some through his determination.

After the war JC Lord became Regimental Sergeant Major to the New College Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst on September 1947. He became the RSM at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in September 1948.

In 1963 Mr.Lord was appointed MVO (5th Class). Retiring on the 1st September 1963, after 15 years as the R.S.M. of Sandhurst.

JC Lord passed away on the 21st January 1968 at Camberley, Surrey. His Majesty King Hussein was one of a procession of men who, in “This is your life” on BBC television in 1959, paid tribute to R.S.M. Lord, subject of the programme.

Standing to attention beside Mr. Lord, King Hussein referred to his time at Sandhurst and said:

“I think I will remember those days to the end of my life, and I will remember R.S.M. Lord, for if anyone influenced us I think he had a great deal to do with it.”

In ‘To Revel in God’s Sunshine -The Story of the Army Career of the late Academy Sergeant Major J.C. Lord MVO MBE As related by former Recruits, Cadets, Comrades and Friends”. Compiled by Richard Alford page 102 first paragraph says:

I agree with Emerson when he said, “Trust men and they will be true to you. Treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” Its jolly easy to say that and its jolly easy to think that all you’ve got to do is give an order. and, we go out and they get on with it. Well. It’s not so, because to do that, you’ve got to train with them, you’ve got to get to know one another, you’ve got to give of your best, and set the standards. Then you can trust them and they will trust you. You treat men greatly by briefing them properly or working with them or bringing them along in the right lines. Now that, I firmly believe, should be the approach of soldiers and leaders throughout all armies and all services.

Beyond armies and services, beyond soldiers and officers may we all learn from the stories of such men as RSM JC Lord and build a resilient future.

Here are some pictures of RSM JC Lord

Mohammed Abbasi

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