Loveday, John Noel Ronald
He was the younger son of Arthur Frederic Loveday OBE, of Aynho, Oxfordshire, and Pall Mall, London. His mother – Mary Cornelia Loveday – was the sister of Sidney Eric Backus (C 1904-1908). His elder brother, George Arthur Loveday, also came to Winchester (H 1923-1928).
Loveday began his schooling at Twyford, where he played in both the cricket and soccer XIs. In 1924 he came to Mr. Robinson’s House, eventually becoming a School Prefect as well as a House Prefect.
From 1929 to 1932 he studied Law at Hertford College, Oxford, gaining Second Class Honours. On leaving university he joined the 16th/5th Lancers, distinguishing himself by his horsemanship and playing polo for the regiment. In 1936 he gained his captaincy, at the time the youngest Captain in the army. He then served as Adjutant of the Regiment. In 1938 he went out to India, but by 1939 he was serving in the United Kingdom as a GSO3.
On June 23rd 1940 he married Miss Nancy Buxton, daughter of Ivor Buxton of Ware, Hertfordshire; the couple had a daughter.
After his unit had been mechanized in 1940, he was promoted to Major, and attended Staff College in 1941. He was attached to 27th Lancers in 1942, and in 1943 served as Brigade Major of 21 Armoured Brigade in Libya and Tunisia. When taken prisoner in Tunisia and lined up against a wall to be shot, he fell, feigning death, and managed to escape. He then returned to 16th/5th Lancers as second-in-command for a period, before being promoted Lieutenant-Colonel and going to Italy in November 1943, on the HQ Staff of 46th Division. After a spell as OC 48RTR in 1944, he finally went on to command his parent regiment.
16th/5th Lancers had landed at Naples in January 1944, and enjoyed an enviable combat record in terrain far from ideal for tanks. Loveday was killed in action near Monte Cassino on May 15th 1944, aged thirty-three. Nicolas Mosley – son of Sir Oswald Mosley (H 1909-1912) – was with an infantry battalion which Loveday’s unit was supporting, and explained in his memoirs (“Time at War”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006) how Loveday died:
“The day after our crossing of the Rapido we were on standby all day to take the lead in the big push to the north. The starting time for this kept being, as usual, postponed. There were said to be not enough tanks yet across the river; the blocking-off of the monastery by smoke had to be renewed. When we had been crossing the river, the smoke had often enveloped us like a low-lying fog; now, in the clearer morning air, the monastery floated like a celestial city above a fitful low-lying cloud. During the day we moved closer to our leading positions, but even with the smoke clearing it was difficult to make out anything of the larger picture. The Liri river was a tributary of the Rapido, running into it from the north; the landscape of the valley was a pleasant one of low undulations and clumps of trees. All we knew of the battle was from what we heard, and endured, from what seemed to be the random violence of exploding shells and the wailing of the Nebelwerfers, which we had christened Moaning Minnies. We learned that our commanding officer, Colonel Goff, had been killed by a shell from one of these while trying to see what lay ahead; also killed with him was the commanding officer of the tank regiment appointed to work with us.”
James H. Hughes, with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, recalled that: “At 1500 the London Irish were to pass through the Inniskillings on their attack, but German gun-fire caught the CO’s order group, fatally injuring the CO of the Rifles and the CO of the Lancers, and seriously wounding several of the officers as well as most of the signal team… In this part of the campaign the German shell-fire and mortar-fire including the Neblwerfer… was far worse than anything we had seen in Africa and Sicily.”
After his death Loveday was mentioned in despatches. He was: “amongst the most brilliant of our young soldiers… for whom every man in the regiment was ready to do anything.”
Loveday is buried in grave XI.E.4 of Cassino War Cemetery. The inscription which his family chose to add to the gravestone is:
“These are the souls / To whom great valour / Gave glory
- Surname: Loveday
- Forenames or initials: John Noel Ronald
- House: H
- Years in School: 1924-1929
- Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
- Regiment: 16th/5th Lancers
- Date of Birth: 22nd March 1911
- Date of Death: 15th May 1944
- How Died: Killed in Action
- Location in War Cloister: Inner E2
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: Cassino War Cemetery: Grave XI.E.4