Our Bill

Cpl John William Sawyers Gibson 


John William Sawyers Gibson born November 10th 1916 The son of Catherine Gibson and James Sawyers he was the Elder brother of Mary, Charles,Nora, Ada, and Jenny born and raised in Sunderland`s East End. Known to all as `Billy`. Joined the Durham Light Infantry on the 29th September 1933 having stated he was eighteen and given a date of birth of 10th September 1915 ! He  was at Fenham Depot where he gained his 3rd Class Education Certificate prior to joining the  1st Battalion at Catterick  on the 27th April 1934 (obtaining his 2nd class Education certificate  on the 28th September 1934) where he remained until  the 6th December 1935 when he was posted to 2nd DLI where he saw service in India arriving on 28th December 1935 and in the Sudan. He  re-joined 1st Battalion on the 30th October 1937 and was posted to Shanghai China.


Joining up !


 `Billy` (Right) photographed with his friend (Unknown) shortly after he joined the Army 1933 picture believed taken at Fenham Barracks near Newcastle

Western Desert

`Billy` pictured again on the right at the Battalion HQ at Mersa Matruh 1941 he was wounded twice during 1941 .May 15th Fort Capuzzo and November 21st 1941 Tobruk both fighting patrols. He was a member of the Anti-Tank platoon during his time in the desert and spent a couple of weeks attached to the New Zealanders Hq. Following service in the desert he saw service on Malta where he met a girl named Mary who he always vowed he would return to and bring her to meet his Mother .Mary lived in a small house in Dingli,Malta the address on Bill`s letters was no 10 Behind the Church, Dingli, Malta!

Bill returned to the UK in November 1943 and as he had over eight years service (continuous) overseas it was expected he would be incorporated into the training of new recruits but for whatever reason ,the imminent invasion of Europe or something else Bill was posted to the 6th Durham Light Infantry who were preparing for D-day.

A story emerged relating to the return of some of the 1st DLI it is certainly relevant to Bills story;-

Cpl James Bell who was wounded with the 1st DLI at Capuzzo. Invalided home he was in charge of the NAFFI at Brancepeth he recalled 15 regular soldiers from the 1st DLI who were sent there after Kos , the NAFFI girl gave them a bottle of Brown Ale each but they helped themselves to a crate !.The Naffi girl ran to Cpl Bell and complained he told her not to worry and he would look in on them in an hour or two ! Eventually he went in intending to close the NAFFI but  ended up having a bottle or two with them. Colonel McBain of the DLI entered the room and the men snapped to attention,a second Colonel from the Somersets followed behind He looked at these men and sneered "make the most of it because where you`re going it  won`t be pleasant!"  Col Mc Bain then  addressed the group and told them they were being transferred to other units  one soldier in particular Cpl Oliver DCM,was told he would be going to the Duke of Wellingtons Regiment.He addressed the two Colonels and said "Begging your 
pardon Sir but I`m a Durham, have been for over 15 years I wont be joining no Duke of Wellingtons!"  The Somersets Colonel angrily said you`ve no  choice in the matter its an order!" To which the Durhams soldier replied "Begging your pardon once more Sir but you can stick that order up your arse!" They all refused to go anywhere but the Durham Light Infantry and said they would rather bugger off than join anyone else .Cpl Bell recalled that Colonel Mc Bain arranged for them all to go to the 6th 8th  9th 10th and 11th DLI but they were split  up .Cpl Bell stated that he was aware that 7-8 were killed just after D-Day!

Strangely enough shortly after this episode `Bill` was Court Marshalled (For reasons yet to be determined) reduced to Private and fined a weeks wages .The wages were nothing but being reduced hurt his pride and he remarked in a letter to his Mother how he regretted leaving the Middle East and wished he could have stayed put! Strange things happened before he left for France which I cannot explain and the family who were around at that time have all passed on .Perhaps the strangest thing was he married ,not his Girl friend from Malta but a lady named Florrie Wilson in January 1944 but it is obvious from his letters shortly after that the pair regretted this and had there been time before the Invasion steps would have been taken to end this `marriage. Sadly there wasn't time and Bill never did return from france he was killed in Action near the French village of Verrieres on June 14th 1944.


Bills Poem `The Siege of Tobruk`

The Siege of Tobruk

 Might I ask a little query which is making me quite weary ,

For the answer can`t be found in any book

And the news in Palestine tell`s of Aussies all the time

Are there any British Tommies in Tobruk?

We hear nothing else but Aussies and their  Catastrophic losses,and the way they save our lives,

By hook or by Crook,In the middle of the crisis the Question still arises ,

Are there any British Tommies in Tobruk?

There were Kiwis we were told,Czechs,and Poles and Springboks bold,

And the Indians command a second look,

But its only fair to state that we have`nt heard of late,

Are there any British Tommies in Tobruk?

For the people back in Blighty must be feeling rather flighty!

And I`m sure their faces show a puzzled look,

When they read in all the papers nothing else but Aussie Capers!

They must wonder if there are any British Tommies in Tobruk?


But the truth will out one day for it always does they say,

And I think we`ll read  in every History book!

That the Aussies bold and Gay went to Tel-Aviv to play,

Whilst the  Tommies done the scrapping in Tobruk !


1st DLI and 5th RNF

Billys tongue in cheek version of the 1stDLI`s involvement in the actions at Tobruk

Letters Home



The photograph had a covering letter from Col D Fenner who had donated 
the photograph he wrote" I thought you might like this photograph of my 
company just prior to D-Day most became casualties in the opening month 
of the Normandy Campaign....those old sweats are wearing their Africa 
Star Ribbons whilst our replacements have none...I cannot remember all 
who feature but  I do remember CORPORAL GIBSON who is seated front row 
second left he was unfortunately KIA 



 Men of `D` Company 6th DLI sealed camp Romsey eve of invasion`

( D Company was my Uncle Bills Company he is seated front row second from the left )


Various letters home to his Mother including the last letter he ever sent (Blue field envelope)

The letter was postmarked 14 June 1944 the Frank shows the time as 10;15hrs..This was the exact time his battalion crossed the start line for the attack on the French Village of Verrieres..shortly after they were ambushed by troops of the Panzer Lehr Division firing from concealed positions in a ditch at the edge of the Cornfield..during the course of this action  Cpl JW S Gibson was killed in Action

The contents of `Billy`s` last letter home ending ..until I see you again..Your Loving Son Bill.

Close up of the Postmark the date 14 June 44 can be seen clearly however this scan does not show the time which due to the passage of time is well worn.

Christmas Card to his Mother

Regimental Christmas Card sent to his mother

Simple Christmas Greeting Home 

Battalion Photograph showing them `Forming up`

At Rest


Commonwealth War Grave Details (Corrected)


Initials:J W S
Nationality:United Kingdom
Regiment/Service:Durham Light Infantry
Unit Text:6th Bn.
Date of Death:14/06/1944
Service No:4450472
Additional information:Son of James Patrick and Catherine Gibson; husband of Florence May Henry Gibson, of Sunderland.
Casualty Type:Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference:XV. G. 1.

Bayeux Military Cemetery


Official photograph of the Grave of Cpl J W S Gibson  recieved by his mother after the end of World War Two

The same grave photographed by my son `James` in June 2008

Bill`s record of Service


 Record of Service showing the years 1933-1944 in which he saw service with 1st DLI up until 1935 when he was posted to 2nd DLI returning to 1st Battalion in 1937 he saw service in China before moving to his War Service with  `C` Company 1st DLI .On his return to England in November 1943 he was posted to 6th DLI in preperation for the invasion of Europe joining them as part of a draft of 17 NCO`s and other ranks in January 1944.Serving in `D` Company he made the landing in France on 6th June 1944 D -Day.On the 14th June 1944 Cpl J W S Gibson,"our Bill" was killed in action around the village of Verrieres in France,he was 27 (although the CWGC lists him as 28)

`Bills` record of service recorded by him up until he left Malta to date we are unsure if he went to the Island of Kos with the rest of the 1st Battalion His sister `Mary` has added the final entry in ink at the bottom of the page,

Even in War...In God we Trust.......


The service bible was all that was returned following his death on June 14th 1944