John (Jack) Russel Bruckmann was born in Kimberley, South Africa on 8 January 1921.
Attestation and Training
19 April 1940. Attested for service as a Corporal in the Kimberley Regiment.
22 July 1940. Corporal Kimberley Regiment at Zonderwater
17 January 1941. Posted as 2nd Lieutenant to 9th Infantry Brigade (Kimberly Regiment)
21 January 1941. Moved from Military College to 9th Infantry Brigade.
28 August 1941. Recorded on the strength of the Infantry Recruits Training Depot.
The Kimberley Regiment were formally mobilised for service on 22 July 1940. John Bruckann was selected as a candidate for a commission and sent on a four month officers’ course at the South African Military College and was subsequently commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 17 January 1941 and immediately posted back to the Kimberley Regiment. On 9 January 1941, the Regiment was posted to Windhoek in South West Africa (now Namibia) where its activities were described as:following “…the keep fit routine, weapon training, tactics etc. becoming almost perfect. Route marches were the order of the day, marches of 25 miles taking place once and sometimes twice per week.”
After receiving his commission, John spent some eight months with his Regiment undergoing training in anticipation of active service, Undoubtedly keen, he was clearly determined to serve on the war front but unfortunately the Kimberley Regiment was not destined to serve as an independent dedicated unit during the War. In September 1941, John Bruckmann was posted as a member of a “Kimberley Regiment draft” he was at least administratively posted to the Imperial Light Horse. After undergoing a period of orientation and training in the desert he was posted further to the Dukes, the same regiment with whom his father had served during the campaign in German South West Africa in 1915 during the Great War.
John’s South African service records record the following details:
J.R. Bruckmann – First period of overseas service
9 September 1941. Off strength Infantry Recruits Training Depot Premier Mine. Left concentration area.
10 September 1941. Embarked at Durban for Middle East per S.S. Dunera on transfer to Kimberly Regiment.
29 September 1941. Disembarked at Suez.
14 November 1941. Posted to Imperial Light Horse ex Kimberly Regiment Draft .
19 March 1942. Ceases to be attached to the Kimberly Regiment.
27 March 1942. Posted to D.E.O.R. 1 Infantry Brigade from Infantry General List.
As expected, John Bruckmann’s South African service documents do not give any details about his movements after disembarking at Suez on 29 September 1941. It is possible that he arrived in time to join the Regiment and to take part in their baptism of battle at Bardia which opened on 31 December 1941. it seems almost certain that Bruckmann would have more likely spent this time undergoing further training and acclimatisation in the desert. This was followed by a short period of leave (perhaps in Alexandria) from 19 April to 26 April 1942 and it was only thereafter that he would have joined the forward lines of his new Regiment, this now being the Dukes. Quite probably he took part in the phased withdrawal from the Gazala Line and the Regiment’s evacuation from Tobruk. A photograph published in Neil Orpen’s history of the Dukes and his entitlement to the Africa Star with 8th Army clasp clearly confirms that he took part in the major Battle of El Alamein in October 1942.
J.R. Bruckmann – January to October 1943
by 30 September 1943. On conclusion of leave to report to O.C. D.E.O.R. To report to Hay Paddock for posting to 6th Armoured Division pool, Middle East.
22 October 1943. On strength Hay Paddock. Struck off strength B.S.D. Hay Paddock.
22 October 1943. On embarkation. Embark per SS Selandia
9 November 1943. Disembark Suez
15 November 1943. Seconded to UK Forces for duty with Infantry Units of British Army.
It is safe to assume that John Bruckmann embarked with the Dukes at Suez for Durban per the Nieuw Amsterdam in the New Year and arrived at Durban on 13 January 1943. A couple of days later he was in Cape Town where he was granted a period of leave until 28 February 1943.
It was during the next 6 to 8 months that so many South African underwent retraining in anticipation of the formation of not one, but two Armoured Divisions for service in Italy. Bruckmann took part in this and quite evidently when he realised that the Dukes per se would not take further part as a Regiment in the anticipated campaign in Italy he volunteered to be seconded to a British Infantry unit to ensure that he had the opportunity to see further action. In the end it was only the single 6th South African Armoured Division (which included my father’s Prince Alfred’s Guard) which was to serve in Italy. This explains why, even though Bruckmann was still a member of the Dukes at the end of his armoured corps training in September 1943 that he was later recorded as being seconded from the South African Armoured Corps. After arriving in Suez per the SS Selandia on 22 October 1943 Lieutenant John Bruckmann was posted to the 2nd London Irish Regiment and joined this Regiment in Italy.
J.R. Bruckmann – Service with 2nd London Irish
22 December 1943 W/Lt JR Bruckmann (UDF) posted to 2nd London Irish
9 January 1944 21h00 Platoon H Company returns to Montenero. Convoy away safely. W/Lt Wessels and W/Lt Bruckmann to hospital.
29 Feb 1944. Discharged from hospital
3 March 1944. John Bruckmann, joins 2 LIR in Italy. Posted to “E” Company.
16th May 1944 Lieutenant Bruckmann wounded at Sinagoga – not seriously.
“E Company’s experience was little better. Both of Mervyn Davies’ (OC, E Company) subalterns (i.e. Lieutenants Bruckmann and Mosley) and were hit at the beginning of the attack and a dozen others of his men went down as it ended. Among them were Sergeant Mayo and Corporal O’Reilly who died in the assault – both distinguished veterans and both with the Military Medal. Mayo (Sergeant EC Mayo MM) was buried where he fell by his own men of 8 Platoon. They put up a cross there with a tender message of affection scrawled on it for their sergeant.”
Two weeks later John Bruckmann had the unenviable responsibility of writing letters to the Next of Kin of those members of his platoon who were killed in this action. Quite remarkably the original letter written by him to the widow of Eddie Mayo has come to light. Not a particularly pleasant task for a young 23 year old Lieutenant.
By a most daring feat of arms they captured a German on the outskirts of the farm, and obtained valuable information. Immediately a plan was made for ‘E’ Company to capture the farm area, which they accomplished with fire support. Later, as ‘F’ Company went up to help hold off a counterattack, they passed into a minefield and two officers, Major RW Boyd, MC, and Lieutenant J. Bruckmann, and two other ranks were killed. CSM Kelly, DCM, took over the company and the farm area was held.
That same night, other battalions attacked Spaduro from the left flank and the height was finally captured. The London Irish took well-deserved credit for a part of this success because they had distracted the enemy’s attention and drawn most of their fire. The Divisional Commander and the Brigadier emphasised this point in complimenting the battalion later on its work. The London Irish losses were five officers killed (Major RW Boyd, Lieutenant S. Thompson, Lieutenant V. Bryning, Lieutenant J. Bruckmann, and Lieutenant C. Cramb). The last two were South African officers seconded to the battalion, One officer, Major Davies, was wounded just as the attack on Spinello was assured. Fourteen other ranks were killed and fifty wounded. Sergeant Farthing unhappily died of wounds.”