Personal info

  • Name: John William CLEMENTS
  • D.O.B: 25th Aug, 1953
  • D.O.A: 12th Apr, 1976
  • D.O.D: 12th Apr, 1976
  • Award: George Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Schoolmaster, Sherrardswood School, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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Sources & Acknowledgements



The end of the Second World War left the world divided into two competing blocks, one free and led by America, the other Communist and led by Russia. In Europe this division was embodied by the Iron Curtain. In Asia after the Communists came to power in China in 1949, there sprang up what came to be known as the Bamboo Curtain. The period, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of Communism in Russia followed by the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, is characterized as the Cold War. In the West there was no armed conflict, the two superpowers, both with large nuclear arsenals, being constrained by the Balance of Terror. However, outside Europe, the post-war period saw the dismantling of the colonial empires and the emergence of the Third World. Here, particularly where nationalist movements were dominated by local Communist parties, there was often prolonged fighting. Both in Korea, formerly governed by the Japanese, and in Vietnam, previously a French colony, rival Communist and non-Communist states’ governments fought against one another. The Western and Communist powers viewed these administrations as their clients and international rivalries were played out in what were essentially civil wars. Though it had an active role in the Korean War, Britain was relatively fortunate in its own experience of decolonization. As far as this volume is concerned it is only necessary to note that in the late 1940s and 1950s it successfully combatted a Communist insurgency in Malaya and that in the 1960s it assisted its former colonies in Malaya and Borneo to resist the threat of Indonesian expansion. In the Falklands War of 1982 it defended the inhabitants of this South Atlantic territory from annexation by Argentina. It also itself experienced a period of internal terrorism occasioned by the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which began in the 1960s but could be traced back to the 1920s and earlier. Meanwhile, Australia had deployed advisors and troops in South Vietnam between 1962 and 1973. However, instability in the Middle East, where the secular nationalism of the post-war period has been overshadowed by Islamic extremism, now appears the major threat to world peace. The terrorist attacks on America perpetrated by Al-Qaeda on 11 September 2001 have led directly to Western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the former country, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have also contributed troops to the military operation.


 Mr. Clements was one of a party of six adults and thirty-seven children who were staying at a ski-resort in Northern Italy on an eight day visit. At about 4 a.m. on 12th April 1976, smoke was noticed and Mr. Clements was one of those who quickly raised the alarm and ordered the children to go downstairs. A number of children were led to safety through dense smoke by other members of the staff who, having got out of the hotel, then helped further children to escape from a first floor balcony to the ground. Meanwhile, Mr. Clements had climbed down from a third floor balcony on the West side of the building to a second floor balcony; he then reached the first floor where he organised a number of children into small groups and assisted them to escape by means of a rope he had improvised from knotted sheets. When the room was evacuated Mr. Clements refused to leave the hotel and went back into the building which in a matter of minutes was burning fiercely. He was seen on at least two occasions to go back into the hotel after carrying or dragging people out, and he ignored repeated attempts to restrain him. Mr. Clements was finally overcome by fumes and he died in the fire. Mr. Clements displayed outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty in circumstances of extreme danger. He showed no regard for his personal safety when he remained in the fiercely burning hotel in his endeavours to save those still trapped by the fire. 

(Third Supplement to The London Gazette of 6 December 1976. 7 December 1976, Numb. 47085, p. 16447)

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