The man in charge – Major Howard

Major John Howard is known as one of the most able and successful leaders of the Second World War after what he achieved on the 6th June 1944.

PictureThe eldest of nine children, John Howard was born into a working class family, his father having served in the trenches during the First World War.
​After finding himself jobless in 1932, he enlisted in the British Army aged 19. He became a member of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and was soon found to be gifted in his physical training and academic exams. Shortly after, he applied to become a commissioned officer, his request denied, he was instead promoted to the rank of Corporal.
​After completing his six year enlistment period in the British Army, he was discharged, before he joined the police force in Oxford. A year later, in 1939, he married Joy, who he would go on to have two children with.
​Three months after the outbreak of war, in December 1939, Howard re-enlisted in the British Army, resuming with his rank of Corporal. Again in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, Howard found himself promoted to Company Sergeant Major in just five months, an indication of his ability as a soldier.
​Howard was finally offered an opportunity to attend officer training, which he took, graduating in 1940, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 2nd Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He held the rank of Captain shortly after, for around twelve months.
​Howard volunteered for the airborne arm of the 2nd Battalion of the Ox and Bucks, and in doing so took a voluntary demotion back to a Lieutenant, commanding a platoon instead of a company.


Statue commemorating Major John Howard, DSO, in France


​In May 1942 he became a Major, commanding D Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
​In doing so, Howard became solely responsible for the training of the men, which would ultimately lead to the invasion of Normandy and the capture of the bridges at Ranville and Benouville.
​After D-Day, Howard set about retraining his men, in the hope of redeployment, however in November 1944, Howard was involved in a car accident which meant he was hospitalised for the remainder of the war. Consequently, he was not involved in the 6th Airborne’s later engagements, including the Battle of the Bulge.
​After being invalided out of the army, Howard became a civil servant. After retirement in the 1970s, Howard became known for revisiting Benouville every year to lay a wreath for the men he had lost during Operation Deadstick.
​Major John Howard died in 1999, aged 86, having been awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Distinguished Service Order.

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