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Meredith, John Thomas - DCM

Rank : Regimental Sergeant Major; Captain (ACF)

Army Number : 4852785 and (ACF) 431626

Unit : 1st Bn, Depot

Biography :

John Meredith was a legendary member of The Royal Leicestershire Regiment. He enlisted in 1923 in the then Leicestershire Regiment. He served in 1st Battalion in Aldershot, Egypt and India (Kamptee and Ambala 1927-31), at the Depot as Sergeant Instructor 1932-35, and again with 1st Bn (Jubbulpore 1936-38, and active service in Waziristan 1938-39). Representing the Battalion for three years in India as a member of the Rifle Shooting Team, he also played for the Battalion hockey team as a half-back. Although never a regular player for the cricket team, he was a useful stand by. Rising steadily through the ranks (Lance Sergeant 16.8.1929, Sergeant 6.7.1931, and C.S.M. 22.6.1939.) by 1940 he was WO1 (RSM) of 1st Bn, continuing to hold that appointment at Agra and thereafter. In 1941 when the Battalion moved to Malaya he had already declined a commission, preferring to remain the RSM – in which rank he was quite outstanding in peace, in war and as a Prisoner of War. After the Japanese invasion of Malaya, in the two month retreat he never lost the offensive spirit and was quite fearless. The success of the amalgamation of the decimated 1st Leicestershire and 2nd East Surrey Regiments into The British Battalion in December 1941 was largely due to his tact and his quiet but determined strength as RSM. He was awarded the D.C.M. (L.G. 13.12.1945) for his conduct at Bukit Timah (Singapore Island) on 11 February 1942. With the surrender of Allied Forces at Singapore on 15 February 1942, the survivors of The British Battalion became POWs. Throughout 3½ years in the very difficult conditions of POW life Meredith was able, through his personality, to maintain discipline and never lowered his standards. All knew that he was scrupulously fair to everyone and that he was not afraid of the Japanese guards. As with many of The British Battalion men he was assigned to Construction Group II on the Burma-Thai railway when he arrived with his CO Lt Col Morrison's X Party from Singapore at the end of October 1942. He went north with the Construction Group and returned to Chungkai, and later – when the railway was complete – to Tamuang, where the Officers were split into a separate camp from the men. On one occasion towards the end of captivity, Meredith was in a large Other Ranks camp at Tamuang when the Japanese called for 200 volunteers to repair some railway bridges which had been badly damaged by Allied bombing. There were only about 30 volunteers. When it became known that Meredith had volunteered to go in charge of the party, another 500 more immediately volunteered – a remarkable tribute to his character and qualities as a leader as these volunteers came from about 30 different units. After liberation in August 1945 Meredith remained in Bangkok with the CO at POW HQ.
He was repatriated to England and, after a short period as RSM of the ITC at Strensall, in 1946 was appointed RSM of the Regimental Depot at Glen Parva Barracks. Yet again he turned down a Quartermaster Commission in the Regiment. He was RSM there for 7 years, instilling pride in his Regiment and the highest standards among many hundreds of National Service recruits. In 1953 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and retired after 30 years with the Colours.
Settling in South Wigston, on 20.10.1953 Meredith was commissioned 2Lt in 1st Cadet Bn ACF (The Royal Leicestershire Regiment) and appointed Acting Captain. On the ACF’s reorganisation he joined the Leicestershire & Rutland ACF, becoming Adjutant and Chief Instructor and thereby continuing to be an inspiration to the youth of Leicestershire. He was promoted Lt on 26.11.1955. He resigned his commission on 15.10.1956.
He was also an active member of the Regiment’s Old Comrades’ Association, and was its Standard Bearer right up to his death in 1964, from illness caused by the deprivations of incarceration in the Far East. His medals are in the collection of Leicester City Museums Service.
In April 2016 he was shortlisted for Leicestershire County Council’s Green Plaque award.


By the retirement of RSM Meredith the Regiment has lost one who has served it with unfailing loyalty in War, in Captivity and in Peace for 30 years. The following is a record of his service:

12 July 1923 - Joined Depot
1924 - 1st Battalion, Aldershot
1925-27 - 1st Battalion Egypt and Cyprus
1927-31 - 1st Bn Kamptee and Ambala
1932-35 - Depot as Sergeant Instructor
1936-38 - 1st Battalin Jubbulpore
1938-39 - 1st Battalion Razmak
1939-40 - 1st Battalion Agra
1941-42 - 1st Battalion Malaya
1942-45 - 1st Battalion (as POW in Malaya and Siam)
1946 - Strensall ITC
1946-53 - RSM at Depot

This list is very well for record purposes but it by no means gives the full picture of RSM Meredith; to get such a picture one must consider his human side, and it is here that he has always been outstanding. He has that rare knack of giving orders without making those who carried them out feel that they were being "Ordered About". It was this quality above all others which has made him so well liked by everyone, and which enabled him to keep, what must have been the happiest Sergeants' Mess in the Army. His sense of humour has always been a real asset to him, particularly so during his 3 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Malaya and Siam, where his cheerfulness and loyalty saved many unpleasant incidents. During his campaign in Malay he was appointed RSM of the British battalion, and as such had the difficult task of welding together remnants of the 1st Battalion and the 2nd Battalion The East Surrey Regiment. The success of the British Battalion during the Campaign and their survival in captivity was in no small measure due to his unfailing courage, loyalty, tact and cheerfulness in very adverse circumstances. It was in this Campaign that he won his DCM. He was offered a Commission at the beginning of the War but he refused it as he thought that he would be more of a benefit to the Regiment as RSM. He was offered a Quartermaster's commission in 1947 but again declined it. All RSM Meredith's old friends will be very glad to hear that he is taking up a job with the Army Cadet Force in Leicester where he will be of invaluable assistance in training future 'Tigers'. His retirement will be a great loss to the Regiment, and the Depot where he has become almost an institution, will seem strange without him. He now has a house in Wigston and it is hoped that he and Mrs Meredith will be seen for many years to come at the Depot.

Date of Birth : 11.1.1905

Place of Birth : Grantham, Lincs

Date of Death : 25.2.1964

Place of Death : Leicester

Civil Occupation : Adjutant of the Leicestershire & Rutland ACF

Period of Service : 1923-53

Conflicts : Waziristan, WW2

Places Served : Egypt, Cyprus, India, Waziristan, Malaya, Thailand

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