Personal info

  • Name: John Henry Cound BRUNT
  • D.O.B: 6th Dec, 1922
  • D.O.A: 10th Dec, 1944
  • D.O.D: 10th Dec, 1944
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Temporary Captain, The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment), attached 6th Battalion The Lincolnshire Regiment
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
View On Interactive Map

Sources & Acknowledgements

The Second World War 1944


After the Allies had captured German-held Sicily in August 1943, they landed on the Italian mainland in September and by the beginning of 1944 had conquered most of the Mezzogiorno. The Germans had been driven back to a series of defensive positions known as the Gustav (or Winter) Line. This ran across Italy, from Ortona on the Adriatic through Monte Cassino to the River Garigliano in the west. One of its strongest positions was at Monte Cassino on the western ridges of the Apennines which form the spine of Italy. Here four ferocious battles were to be waged between January and May 1944. The belief that the Germans would mount a stubborn resistance was the impetus behind the landings at Anzio on 22 January 1944. By outflanking the Winter Line in the west, it was hoped this would lead to its collapse while also posing a serious threat to Rome, only thirty-five miles north-west of Anzio. The enemy were taken totally by surprise and the Allies established a significant bridgehead but failed to take sufficient advantage of this bold stroke. By the end of January the Germans had brought up enough troops effectively to contain them, though desperate German attempts to destroy the bridgehead itself failed. It was only in the middle of May 1944 at the conclusion of the Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino that the Winter Line was finally breached in the west. On 25 May Allied forces fighting their way north made contact with those at Anzio and then advanced on the Italian capital. Rome fell on 4 June 1944. The Germans in Italy were, however, far from finished. To the north they had constructed a further strong defensive position, the Gothic Line. This ran from the coast at Massa in the west, then about fifteen miles north of Florence and along the ridge of the Apennines before reaching the Adriatic at Pesaro. Throughout the autumn and early winter the Allies fought their way towards this line and sought to breach it. On the Adriatic Coast Rimini was attacked and was captured on 21 September. Meanwhile, US Fifth Army prepared to cross the central Apennines, advancing up roads north of Florence towards Faenza and Bologna in the hope of breaking into the North Italian Plain. In fact, though their line was disrupted the Germans were not prepared to yield easily and by early winter it was clear that the most the Allies could hope for was to reach a line running west to east from La Spezia to Bologna and Ravenna. The campaign had developed into a war of attrition. Though Ravenna fell on 4 December, it was not until the Spring Offensive of 1945 that Allied forces finally succeeded in breaking through into the northern plain. Important as the fighting in Italy was it had always been intended as a distraction, a means to divert German resources which might be used to resist Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of German-Occupied Northwest Europe. On 6 June 1944 Allied forces landed along a 55-mile stretch of the Normandy coast from Cherbourg to Le Havre, the Americans to the west of Port en Bessin and the British and Canadians to the east. The Germans who were expecting an attack on the Pas de Calais at first believed the landings to be a feint and allowed the Allies to establish themselves. By 30 June, they had landed over 850,000 men in Normandy. Caen fell to the Allies on 9 July and while the British pushed south of it, to the west the Americans captured Avranches on 26 July, spread west into Brittany and south to Le Mans. They were thus able to swing round behind the German forces battling against the British and which were now threatened with being trapped in the Falaise pocket. Falaise was captured by the Allies on 17 August and by 21 August the pocket was closed. 50,000 troops of the German Seventh Army were trapped, about a quarter of those captured in the whole battle. The fall of Normandy sealed the fate of Paris. The Allies crossed the Seine west of the French capital on 20 August, and the city was liberated on 25 August. After the capture of Paris most of France passed rapidly into Allied hands and in the north they advanced into Belgium. Brussels was liberated on 3 September 1944 and Antwerp the next day. The Allies were now up to the German West Wall, the Siegfried Line, which stretched north as far as the Dutch border, where the Maas and the Rhine flowed towards the North Sea. The Allies in Operation Market Garden now planned to cross these rivers and by thus outflanking the Siegfried Line break through into the North German Plain before the onset of winter. On 17 September three airborne divisions attempted to seize five bridges over the Rivers Maas and Waal (one of the channels of the Rhine). The troops detailed to capture the bridge at Arnhem found themselves massively outnumbered and surrounded by German forces. By the time supporting Allied troops had fought their way north to the south bank of the river all they could do was organize the withdrawal of the survivors on the night of 25-26th September. While this bold move had been frustrated, the Allies had more success in clearing the Germans from the mouth of the Scheldt Estuary, a vital artery for supplies for the forthcoming advance into Germany. On 28 November the first supply convoy arrived in Antwerp. Such was the importance of the port that it was a major objective of the last German offensive of the war, the Battle of the Ardennes (the Battle of the Bulge), launched on 16 December 1944. Meanwhile, in the Far East, Japanese forces in New Guinea and the surrounding islands were in an increasingly desperate position and during the course of the year the tide of war also turned against them in Burma. At the beginning of 1944 the British had already begun operations in Arakan. What they did not know was that the Japanese themselves had two offensives planned. In the smaller of these, in February, their targets were British positions in Arakan around the Ngakyedauk Pass, north of Maungdaw. In the Battle of ‘The Admin Box’ the British recaptured the Pass on 23 February 1944 and by the beginning of March the Japanese threat here was contained. Far more serious, however, was a Japanese advance further north. On 8 March 1944 they launched an attack on Assam with the aim of capturing Imphal and Kohima. If successful, this would not only have pre-empted further British action in Burma but would have opened the way to the invasion of India. On 29 March the Japanese cut the road between Imphal and Kohima and by 8 April the small garrison at Kohima was itself besieged. The fighting at Imphal and Kohima was to be the turning point of the campaign. Both garrisons held out. The siege of Kohima was lifted on 20 April and that of Imphal two months later on 22 June. The Japanese were also suffering reverses elsewhere in Burma. To assist American and Chinese forces advancing towards Myitkyina on the Irrawaddy the Chindits attacked its rail link with the rest of Burma. Myitkyina eventually fell in August. In October the British began an advance along the road from Imphal to Tiddim. Their goal was Kalewa on the Chindwin, which was occupied on 2 December. At the same time their grip on Arakan was tightening.


 In Italy, on 9th December, 1944, the Platoon commanded by Captain Brunt was holding a vital sector of the line. At dawn the German 90 Panzer Grenadier Division counter-attacked the Battalion’s forward positions in great strength with three Mark IV tanks and infantry. The house, around which the Platoon was dug in, was destroyed and the whole area was subjected to intense mortar fire. The situation then became critical, as the anti-tank defences had been destroyed and two Sherman tanks knocked out. Captain Brunt, however, rallied his remaining men, and, moving to an alternative position, continued to hold the enemy infantry, although outnumbered by at least three to one. Personally firing a Bren gun, Captain Brunt killed about fourteen of the enemy. His wireless set was destroyed by shell-fire, but on receiving a message by runner to withdraw to a Company locality some 200 yards to his left and rear, he remained behind to give covering fire. When his Bren ammunition was exhausted, he fired a Piat and 2 in. Mortar, left by casualties, before he himself dashed over the open ground to the new position. This aggressive defence caused the enemy to pause, so Captain Brunt took a party back to his previous position, and although fiercely engaged by small arms fire, carried away the wounded who had been left there. Later in the day, a further counter-attack was put in by the enemy on two axes. Captain Brunt immediately seized a spare Bren gun and, going round his forward position, rallied his men. Then, leaping on a Sherman tank supporting the Company, he ordered the tank commander to drive from one fire position to another, whilst he sat, or stood, on the turret, directing Besa fire at the advancing enemy, regardless of the hail of small arms fire. Then, seeing small parties of the enemy, armed with bazookas, trying to approach round the left flank, he jumped off the tank and, taking a Bren gun, stalked these parties well in front of the Company positions, killing more and causing the enemy finally to withdraw in great haste leaving their dead behind them. Wherever the fighting was heaviest, Captain Brunt was always to be found, moving from one post to another, encouraging the men and firing any weapon he found at any target he could see. The magnificent action fought by this Officer, his coolness, bravery, devotion to duty and complete disregard of his own personal safety under the most intense and concentrated fire was beyond praise. His personal example and individual action were responsible to a very great extent for the successful repulse of the fierce enemy counter-attacks. The next day Captain Brunt was killed by mortar fire 

(Supplement to The London Gazette of 6 February 1945. 8 February 1945, Numb. 36928, p. 791)

Copyright © 2023 VC and GC Association. All Rights Reserved. Created by Glide.Design