A Tribute to a World War II Hero

(Image ~ John Revell with Meath Care staff)

Meath Care would like to acknowledge all of our residents who served in the armed forces.  This is just one story of many – John’s special story.

John Revell was born in Cambridge, England on the 13th, July 1923.

He grew up in South End on Sea, Essex, close to the Thames estuary. Living close to the river meant many boyish adventures riding down to the flats, accompanied by his beloved pet dog.

His mother was an active member of the local Anglican Church and encouraged John to become a choir boy. She worked in a bakery and would bring leftover cake home at the end of her shift, much to John’s delight.

After attending a local primary school, John won a scholarship to attend a prestigious Grammar School.

He was an academic student who excelled in mathematics and sport, particularly rugby, which was a big part of his school life.

John matriculated from Grammar School in 1941 and commenced tertiary study at the London School of Economics.

By this time the war was raging and London was heavily bombed. His study was constantly disrupted as he spent many hours harbouring in bombing shelters.

Growing tired of the disruption, John decided to leave University and join the Commonwealth Bank where he worked for less than a year, before making the decision to sign up to the Navy.

His father tried to discourage him, having served in WW1 and understood all too well the hardships of war.

Regardless of his father’s advice, John applied and joined the Navy on January 22nd, 1942.

John was a sub-lieutenant on various landing craft tanks (LCT) which delivered supplies to the Allied Forces as they fought their way to Germany.

His LCT’s worked off Mulberry Harbour, an artificial harbour created by the British and secured off the coast of Gold Beach, Arromanches-Les-Bains, delivering supplies to the forces. They serviced the beaches of Gold, Juno and Omaha over a 3-month period as the allies gained ground.

Life at war was intense and culminated in the D-Day operations off the coast of Normandy between the 5th and 6th June 1944.

It was a foggy night on the 5th June 1944, when John and his cohort of one hundred and thirty- five thousand allied soldiers travelled through the darkness from England to France.

The conditions were rough and choppy with wave after wave battering their ships as they attempted to land off the coast of Arromanches-les-Bains in Normandy.

They battled on for 24 hours through the night where the foundations of victory were laid on the western front.  It was a turning point in the conflict and later labelled D-Day.

The French Government later described John’s role in the battle.

“Facing the danger of being shot at any time, you did whatever you could, in order to ensure your safe return and that of your fellow soldiers to England”.

In the face of such grave adversity, John remained courageous and steadfast, saving many lives on a day when 400 soldiers were lost.

After the D-Day landings, on November 1st 1944, he continued his service taking part in Operation Infatuate II at Walcheren, an Island off the coast of the Netherlands.

The mission served to protect the port of Antwerp, with the German forces still occupying the region, having access to a secure port was imperative in the final push to victory.

Upon arrival at Walcheren Island, a battle ensued and John’s 737 LCT came under attack from German artillery.

The ship’s engines failed and the crew disembarked to wait for high tide to enable them to be towed to safety.  It was here that John was hit by enemy fire and took a shrapnel flesh wound to his right thigh.

Despite his injury, he continued to fight in the South of France until the end of the war, a testament to his courage, determination and strength.

After being demobilized from service, he returned to work for the Commonwealth Bank.

A month later, In July 1945,  John married his sweetheart Eileen in his home village of South-End-on- Sea.  She made her wedding dress with fabric from Petty Coat Lane, bought on the black market as supply was scarce.

After they married,  life was difficult with a lack of housing and continued rationing meant food was scarce.

John was given the opportunity to swap his job in London with another Commonwealth Bank employee residing in Perth, Western Australia.

His colleague, an ex Australian pilot, married an English girl whilst in service and was keen to return to London.

John and Eileen, keen for adventure, packed up their worldly possessions and travelled by ship to start a new life in Perth, Western Australia, arriving on John’s birthday, July 13th, 1948.

The couple went on to have two daughters Anne and Judy and later 4 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.

Sadly, John’s wife Eileen passed away in April 2016.

His extensive service history was acknowledged on the 23rd September 2019 in a ceremony at RSLWA where he was presented with the Legion d’ Honneur – an award established by Napoleon in 1802, for excellent civil or military conduct.

It’s the highest of all French accolades acknowledging those for outstanding service to the nation.

During his extensive service John also qualified for the following medals;

Atlantic Star

Arctic Star

Italy Star

France and German Clasp

Defence Medal

War Medal 1939 – 1945

John now resides in Meath Care’s Dr Mary Surveyor Centre in Kingsley, Western Australia and receives daily visits from his devoted daughter Anne.