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RSM JC Lord: The story of a legendary RSM, paratrooper, leader, POW and Sandhurst Sergeant Major

#OnThisDay, 16 April 1945, at around 0950 Stalagluft 11B was liberated by the 8th Hussars. As a Corporal of the 8th Hussars stepped out of his tank at the front gate he saw a smart sentry snap to attention. Smartly dressed, armed and wearing his maroon beret, the Corporal assumed the 6th Airborne Division had beat them to liberate the camp. In fact, five days previously the German guards had handed over control of the camp to the senior Warrant Officer in Stalgluft 11B: WO1 RSM John C Lord, RSM 3 PARA.
In 1941 JC Lord became the first RSM of 3 PARA. He fought in North Africa and then jumped into Sicily as part of the 1 Parachute Brigade assault on the Primasole bridge. On 17 September 1944 he jumped into Arnhem with 3 PARA on Operation Market Garden. By the 25 September he, and the survivors of the Brigade, had been captured and moved to Stalagluft 11B.
On arrival RSM Lord found the prisoners were demoralised, dejected and had given up on the idea of surviving the war. The changes he brought about in the camp over next the seven months were credited with saving thousands of lives. The stories of him are legendary: He instituted the routine of saluting German officers whilst saying in your head ‘You bastards!’ He changed the burial routine in the camp into a formal parade so smart that the German officers were embarrassed at their own turn out and smartness. He marched into the officers block and reprimanded them for not shaving. When the German guards attempted to march him to another camp for being a trouble-maker he hid under the floorboards for five days. Upon liberation of the camp he refused to leave until the final British soldier had left.
After the war he became the first Academy Sergeant Major of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He held the job for a decade. In his memory WO1s at the Academy are known as Lords. The bar in the WOs’ and Sgts’ Mess is named after him and he is the only non-officer to have one of the prestige rooms in the Academy named in his honour.
He would tell new Officer Cadets ‘Gentlemen, my name is JC Lord. JC does not stand for Jesus Christ! He is Lord up there (pointing up to the sky with his pace stick) and I am Lord down here (pointing to the parade ground)!’ He was the Sergeant Major who first uttered the famous line to Officer Cadets ‘I will address you as “Sir”. But I won’t mean it. And you too will address me as “Sir”. But make sure that you do mean it!’
These days RSM JC Lord MVO MBE isn’t as well remembered as he should be. An inspiring soldier and leader with iron-hard discipline, JC Lord deserves to be a role model for every soldier and officer. Share this to make sure another generation of soldiers can understand the man and the legend.
You can find out more about about RSM JC Lord in ‘The Lord Down Here: Lessons on Discipline from RSM JC Lord’, where you can also read his famous speech to the Staff College on the subject and find the book about his life.
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