Lieutenant John Hollington Grayburn.

Victoria Cross: John Grayburn

in Arnhem/General information

Lieutenant John Grayburn was one of five British soldiers to earn a Victoria Cross during the Battle of Arnhem – the highest British military award.

Lieutenant Grayburn was one of the 700 British airbornes to defend the northern ramp of the Rhine Bridge through Wednesday 20 September. On Wednesday, September 20, Grayburn was killed under the Rhine Bridge ramp when he was shot by machine gun fire from a German tank.

Prior to his death, Grayburn had been injured several times in battles with the Germans. Those injuries were no reason for Grayburn to stop fighting.

John Grayburn was part of the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Parachute Brigade led by Colonel John Frost. Together with the rest of the battalion he reached the Rijnbrug on Sunday evening September 17, 1944.

First injured
The British soon discovered that the bridge itself was defended by German soldiers. In an attempt to take out the Germans, Grayburn led his pack in an attack on the bridge that evening. Grayburn injured his shoulder in the attack.

Meanwhile, the British had concluded that the German fire was too intense. The British were fired upon by a pair of 20 mm guns and the machine gun of an armored car. The airborne soldiers withdrew.

Together with the soldiers of his platoon, Grayburn occupied one of the houses on the north-east side of the British sector. For the next 24 hours, the Germans, supported by tanks and mortars, made several attempts to drive the British out of the house, but under Grayburn’s leadership, the airborne soldiers persisted.

From the nomination for the Victoria Cross:
“The house was detached and difficult to defend. The fact that it did not fall prey to the enemy must be attributed to Lieutenant Grayburn’s great courage and inspiring leadership. He constantly exposed himself to the fire of the enemy as he stood between his platoon moved and encouraged his soldiers. He seemed totally unaware of the danger. ”

The following day the Germans tried again to conquer the house, but just like the day before, all attacks led by Grayburn were repelled. The Germans then set fire to the house with high-explosive shells, after which the house finally had to be evacuated.

On the morning of Wednesday, September 20, Grayburn attacked with some of his soldiers to prevent the Germans from occupying a few houses a little further. The surprised Germans withdrew.

However, a little later the German troops were back, supported by tanks. The intense fire from the tanks forced Grayburn to leave his position. The Germans advanced and tried to place explosives under the ramp of the Rijnbrug on Marktstraat to destroy the ramp in case XXX Corps managed to push through to Arnhem.

Grayburn led an attack to temporarily retaliate the Germans. The attack was successful and the explosives were removed by the British. Grayburn was injured again in this attack. This time he was shot in the back, but Grayburn refused to leave the battlefield.

When the Germans returned moments later, again supported by tanks, Grayburn rose to order his troops to withdraw. The tank was only a few feet away from him and then opened fire with his machine guns. Grayburn was fatally affected.

From the nomination for the Victoria Cross:
“For a period of more than three days, Lt. Grayburn led his men with great bravery and determination. There is no doubt that the Arnhem bridge could never have been held without this officer’s inspiring guidance and personal courage.

Lieutenant John Grayburn is buried at the Airborne cemetery in Oosterbeek.

The five Victoria Crosses during the Battle of Arnhem were awarded to:
Lieutenant John Hollington Grayburn
Flight Lieutenant David Samuel Anthony Lord
Lance Sergeant John Baskeyfield
Captain Lionel Queripel
Major Robert Henry Cain .

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