Weir, Adrian John Anthony
John Weir was the younger son of Wing-Commander Archibald Graham Weir (who was lost at sea on active service in April 1941) and Mary Evelyn Oldfeld Weir (daughter of Canon Charles Oldfield Bartlett, Canon of Gloucester) of Pensbury House, Shaftesbury, Dorset. He was also the brother of Flying Officer A. Nigel C. Weir, DFC (I1932-1937, RAFVR), who was shot down and killed in November 1940 (see individual entry).
He came to Winchester from Abberley Hall, became Senior Commoner Prefect, and went on to gain a scholarship in Modern Languages at Brasenose College. He was captain of 1st XI soccer in 1938/1939 and spent two years in OTH VI; he shot for two years in the Country Life competition, and for four years was the winner of Kirby Foils and became Public Schools Foil Champion in 1938. He commanded the winning House Platoon of the OTC in 1939.
In his House platoon was Henry Anthony Pawson (B1934-1940, Staff 1949), whose memoirs (“Indelible Memories”, privately published, 2004) mention Weir as follows:
“The Sergeant was John Weir, who was my closest friend at school. With his brother we went shooting on the Solway Firth one winter holiday. The beautiful sight of the geese flighting in against the cloudless sky particularly impressed me, but I was not much of a threat to the birds… That trip put me off shooting for good, but merely enhanced the pleasure John took in it, sometimes to an almost obsessive degree… [Weir’s death] was particularly upsetting for me as he had been such a fine friend at Winchester College. He had captained the soccer XI in which I played and had been outstanding as a dashing forward in Winchester’s own peculiar version of football.”
Weir left Winchester in March 1939 and spent the summer at home, intending to go up to Brasenose that October. However, on the outbreak of war he attempted to join the RAF like his father and elder brother. Meeting with delay, he went to Oxford for two terms, passing the examinations required for a ‘War Degree’. He then tried the RAF again: he was accepted, only to be turned down again due to an unsuspected problem with his ears.
In September 1940 he joined the Scots Guards, and in March 1941 gained his commission as a Second Lieutenant. He went to Cyprus with the Household Cavalry in January 1942, having been attached to them at Windsor for a year but returned to his own regiment in Syria in September.
After a long trek across North Africa, his battalion joined the Eighth Army shortly before the attack on the Mareth Line. He was awarded the MC for particularly good work on several patrols around Enfidaville in April 1943: Pawson’s book records the circumstances. “Much earlier he had been wounded in Africa near Mareth. Within a fortnight John was back leading his carrier platoon in three exceptionally successful patrols. These netted around fifty prisoners, gathered crucial intelligence, and prevented the mining of a key road, for all of which Weir was awarded the MC… In his report on that campaign, his Commanding Officer’s comments included: “The outstanding officer of the Battalion is John Weir, who is absolutely first-class with his carriers.”
He was promoted to Captain in July 1943 and took part in the original landing at Salerno, soon after being appointed Adjutant.
In January 1944 he was transferred to 1st Battalion, on the Anzio front, with the acting rank of Major. The battalion was under the command of a fellow Wykehamist, Lieutenant-Colonel David Scrymgeour-Wedderburn DSO (K1925-1930). Anzio was an expensive battle for Wykehamists, and four died in 1st Scots Guards alone. On February 4th 2nd Lieutenant Duncan Gilbert Scott McMurtrie (I1937-1941) was killed in action; Captain John Henry Lund Sinclair (I1934-1939), a member of Weir’s Company, followed on February 8th; and Scrymgeour-Wedderburn died of wounds on March 1st 1944, having been injured by the same blast which killed Weir.
He was killed in action by shell-fire on 28th February at the age of twenty-three.
Tony Pawson recalled:
“The timing and manner of his death made it the more distressing. By then he was a Major in the Scots Guards, and his battalion had just been moved to a rest area to await being shipped away from Anzio and re-organized after its multiple casualties. As a long-serving officer, John qualified for return to England, and an eagerly-awaited marriage.
Often a barrage of shells only causes a few casualties. In this instance just three ‘strays’ were devastating. The first wounded an officer. As others ran to help two more hit the trees beside them. That turned the shells into lethal ‘airbursts’, which instantly killed John and four other officers, and mortally wounded the Commanding Officer [Scrymgeour- Wedderburn].
The Scots Guards history records how good an officer Major Weir had been: “John Weir was probably the best Company Commanderin the Brigade”…
But the final judgement on an officer is what his men think of him. When he was killed their comments to his family were equally effusive. One wrote: “Right Flank Company mourned John’s death to a man. Many have I heard – old soldiers too – say that he was the best Company Commander they ever had.”
His Sergeant’s letter was in the same vein: “Many of the platoon spoke to me of how they admired and liked your son’s firm, but friendly, manner in the way he treated officer, or NCO, or guardsman alike.” (Tony Pawson, “Indelible Memories”, 2004)
His loss was a final blow to a family shattered by its losses in the war, as can be seen from a notice in The Times of April 26th 1944:
A service will be held at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Shaftesbury, at 1215 on Monday, May 1st, in memory of Major John Weir, MC, Scots Guards, recently killed in action, and of his father, Wing Commander A.G. Weir RAF, lost at sea on active service in April 1941, and of his elder brother, F/O Nigel Weir DFC, RAFVR, killed in action, November 1940.
Weir rests in grave V.H.3 of the Beach Head War Cemetery, Anzio. As The Times’ obituarist put it: “That he should have been killed by a chance shell at Anzio is a tragedy for his many friends and for the regiment. But there is another side of him without which the picture is incomplete – his pursuit of shooting on the Solway, in Syria, and even in the marshes of the Garigliano; his love of the country and especially of Pensbury, to which so many of his letters referred; his love of his many friends of very different types; his devotion to his family. And so John has followed worthily in the footsteps of his father and brother, leaving behind him many proud hearts.”
- Surname: Weir
- Forenames or initials: Adrian John Anthony
- House: B
- Years in School: 1933-1939
- Rank: Major
- Regiment: 1st Battalion, Scots Guards
- Date of Birth: 22nd August 1920
- Date of Death: 28th February 1944
- How Died: Killed in Action
- Location in War Cloister: Inner A2
- Decoration: MC
- Burial Site: Beach Head War Cemetery, Anzio: Grave V.H.3