Major Robert Easton DSO MBE

Royal Armoured Corps

Royal Armoured Corps

The Distinguished Service Order is awarded for meritous or distinguished service by officers during wartime, usually in actual combat. It is usually awarded to officer ranked Major or higher. In the British Army during the Second World War it was the second highest award that officers could receive, after the Victoria Cross.

Major Robert Easton, from Portsmouth, was commissioned into the Lancashire Fusiliers as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1935. During the Second World War he transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, who in 1941 were converted from an infantry Battalion to a tank unit, being renamed the 142nd (2nd Suffolk) Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps. Cross-posting of officers from one regiment to another often took place if there was a shortage of officers in one and an overflow in others. At some point prior to 1944 he was also awarded an MBE, a medal that is awarded for a significant contribution to military service.

In 1944 the 142nd Regiment were fighting in Italy, in the 25th Army Tank Brigade, supporting Canadian Forces. The citation for his DSO takes up the story:

Major Easton’s Squadron was in support of the Royal Canadian Regiment during the advance along the Liri Valley, and in support of the 48th Highlanders of Canada during the attack on the Adolf Hitler Line near Pontecorvo. In action with both these Battalions, Major Easton has shown very great powers of command, inspired leadership and extreme coolness under fire.

In an attack in support of the Royal Canadian Regiment on 16th May 1944, shortage of ammunition and tank casualties resulted in only three tanks being available to remain in close support of the infantry on the objective, of which one was Major Easton’s. He took personal command of this composite troop, and gave the utmost support to the infantry under heavy mortar fire and some Anti Tank fire for several hours.

During the attack by the 48th Highlanders of Canada near Pontecorvo on 23rd May, when both infantry and tanks were pinned down by Machine Gun and Anti Tank Gun fire respectively, Major Easton’s Squadron was in action for some 12 hours. Throughout the action Major Easton maintained superb control of his Squadron and never once relaxed his efforts to assist the infantry on, despite a steadily diminishing number of tanks at his disposal. In order to exert maximum control he had to position his tank in full view of the enemy Anti Tank Guns.

Throughout the action he showed outstanding calmness, disregard of danger and overwhelming cheerfulness which were an inspiration to his Squadron, to the Regiment and indeed to the infantry he was supporting.

Major Easton also commanded a small composite tank force placed in support of 4 Canadian Recce Regiment on 22 May, in an attempt to turn the right flank of the enemy line. Again his complete disregard of danger greatly assisted in the clearing of a serious block to the advance, during which he carried out a mine recce on foot under heavy mortar and small arms fire.

The information passed back by Major Easton during these operations has invariably been useful, accurate and very full.

Major Easton’s DSO was announced in the London Gazette on 24 August 1944, just 10 days before he was killed in action on 3 September 1944. He is buried in Montecchio War Cemetery, Italy.



Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, World War Two

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