Bond, John Richard Frederick
John Richard Frederick Bond (C 1933-1938) was born on 22nd June 1920, the only son of Major General R L Bond, Royal Engineers, DSO., MC. and Isabelle (daughter of Colonel T J R Mallock) who lived in Compton, Surrey. He came to Winchester from Edgeborough School near Guildford. He was nick-named “The Colonel” and from the first looked like becoming a soldier. He made his mark early in athletics, posting records at the time for the high jump and in the Senior hurdles. He was in VIs in 1937 and in the Soccer XI in 1937 and 1938. He was Senior Prefect of his House in his last year.
He went to Woolwich in 1938 and received a commission into the Royal Engineers in June 1939. He served with 4th Field Squadron, Royal Engineers, which were part of 2nd Armoured Division from May 1941. The unit embarked at Liverpool on 5th October 1940, and after a protracted and circuitous journey, arrived at Suez. Bond was in No.3 Troop, and participated in an attack on the Jarabub Oasis, the easternmost of a string of oases which provided access for Allied special forces to raid enemy lines of supply. A fellow officer, John Constant, recorded : “Then the Squadron’s Third Troop went to join an Australian Armoured Cavalry Regiment three hundred miles back across the sand sea, in order to clear the Italian Garrison at the Jarabub oasis, and John Bond’s gallantry here was rewarded with the Military Cross”. However, there is no mention of this award in other souces or on his headstone and it is likely that this was a recommendation for a Military Cross, which was rejected.
There were continued concerns that 2nd Division were under-prepared for the coming attack. “As the enemy activities stepped up, and conflicting orders appeared to be given by GHQ and by the General at Barche, we realised that this 2nd Armoured Division was a division in name only. Not only was its HQ completely untrained, there were grave deficiencies in the signal equipment, resulting in interminable delays and insufficient battery-charging capacity; even worse, the armour was not battle-worthy… The only infantry we had to cover an area the size of Wales was one newly arrived battalion of the Rifle Brigade, the Territorial “Tower Hamlets”; they had not even been acclimatized to the desert conditions, but the deficiencies in their training were fully compensated by their enthusiasm.”
On 8th April 2nd Armoured Division found themselves caught in a pincer movement between Italian and German forces. Some of the men mananged to avoid capture and were evacuated to Cairo, including Bond who, with Constant, had had an exciting time in the desert after escaping when their Commanding Officer surrendered to the Germans at Mechili. Having managed to steal one of the German vehicles, “after a couple of hours they met a motorcycle and sidecar with a German soldier in it. Unsuspecting, he turned in our direction and was all trusting until the last minute, when he suddenly realized that I had evil intentions: indeed, my pent-up anger now had an outlet, indeed a blood-lust. Panicking, as he tried to turn his front-wheel, he fell off, and I did not stop until my front-wheel was actually touching his shoulder; John leapt out and menaced the poor wretch, as I went round behind and grabbed the rifle from his side-car. He was obviously terrified, but we were then faced by awful doubts: did international Law permit one to tie up a prisoner-of-war? Did we have any rope? No. Taking the wheel in turns, how could we guard a prisoner? What we did was to take his boots and all his clothing, except for his uniform shorts; we took his rifle and ammunition, his watch and water-bottle, and kept them all in the driver’s cab. We bashed his motor-cycle with a pick-axe to render it useless.” (Recollections of John Constant)
They aimed for the Egyptian frontier which the Italians had marked with a huge wire fence with occasional passages through it. They kept checking the back of the vehicle with its captured German and were shocked to find, early in the morning of 9th April, that he was not there, and assumed he must have been “bumped” out during their journey across the desert “scarps”. Eventually they arrived at Matruh and reported to the local garrison HQ, being sent on to Tobruk where nearly 300 men of the Field Squadron who had avoided capture were gathered. Bond was promoted to temporary Captain and on 29th April, with Constant, was given the daunting task of rebuilding their shattered unit.
“John had gone as advance party for his Troop which, by the next day, we had made up to its war establishment in men, and in most equipment, though not quite in vehicles. In spite of those casualties and the many disappointments in the desert, all ranks shared a feeling that our one year of existence had not been in vain. Both the Squadron and the Field Park had carried out their duties, in training and in operations, with a degree of honour, and all ranks had emerged resilient and more experienced.”
2nd Armoured Division went on to be involved in operations in Libya in November 1941 which led to the relief of Tobruk early in December. As the advance west continued, Bond and his men reached Mechili in Cyrenaica, scene of his capture and escape. There, on December 21st 1941, aged twenty-one, Bond was killed by a land-mine:
“Soon afterwards, John Bond, who had escaped with me from the Germans at Mechili in April, was tragically killed there, when he was leading a mine-clearing operation. That was on the very same day as I had had a very close shave, neutralizing a new type of Italian anti-tank mine, when each of the others in that minefield had exploded, as they had all been booby-trapped.”
Bond was buried in grave 2.E.14 of the Benghazi War Cemetery. The inscription on his tombstone reads: “Underneath/Are the everlasting arms”
On December 21st 1943, the following notice appeared in the In Memoriam section of The Times: Captain John Richard Frederick Bond, RE, who gave his life to save others in Libya, Dec. 21, 1941, aged 21 years. Beloved only son of Major-General R.L. Bond and Mrs. Bond, GHQ, New Delhi. “My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, but my wounds and scars I keep with me, who have fought God’s battles.”
- Surname: Bond
- Forenames or initials: John Richard Frederick
- House: C
- Years in School: 1933-1938
- Rank: Captain
- Regiment: Royal Engineers
- Date of Birth: 22nd June 1920
- Date of Death: 21st December 1941
- How Died: Killed in Action
- Location in War Cloister: Inner A1
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: Benghazi War Cemetery: Grave 2.E.14