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Medicina, May 5th 1945
By Steven Broomfield (Museum Volunteer)
In our archives we have a fine collection of medals – for gallantry, for serving on long-forgotten campaigns, or for dedicated service to regiment and to country – but there are some which really stand out from the rest. This is the story of the Military Medal won by Number 7920470, Trooper George McGregor of the 14th/20th King’s Hussars on May 5th, 1945.
The 14th/20th King’s Hussars came late to the Second World War; they had spent most of it in India, or on internal security duties in Iraq and Iran. It wasn’t until early in 1945 that the regiment arrived in Italy, in preparation for the final offensive. Attached to the 43rd Gurkha Lorried Infantry brigade, one squadron of the regiment was equipped with armoured personnel carriers (APCs) while the other two squadrons had Sherman tanks.
On May 5th, the Brigade was exploiting a crossing of the Sillaro River and was tasked with capturing the important communications centre of Medicina, a town about ten miles to the east of Bologna. The APCs were carrying the 2/6th Gurkha Rifles and they, together with C Squadron in their Shermans attacked Medicina in the late afternoon.
Darkness was falling and resistance was strong: there were several deadly 88mm anti-tank guns and self-propelled guns, and the houses were alive with snipers and machine guns. C Squadron, commanded by Major ‘Bodge’ Browne, MC, led the way. After destroying two 88s, Browne’s tank was hit by a bazooka. He and his radio operator, Sergeant Evans, were wounded, and his gunner, Trooper Burt, was killed. The tank stopped, defenceless.
At this point the driver Trooper Stanley Armstrong from Carlisle, and the rear link radio operator (keeping communications with higher command) Trooper George McGregor from Wishaw both leapt out. With their pistols they drove off the bazooka crew (under heavy fire themselves), rescued Browne and Evans, and then reported to the squadron second-in-command, still under heavy fire and in danger from exploding ammunition in a self-propelled gun destroyed by their tank.
As a result of their bravery, McGregor and Armstrong were both immediately awarded the Military Medal.
In 1990, on his death, McGregor’s medals were put up for auction and the regiment was lucky enough to be able to purchase them and other items belonging to their owner … and uncovered an interesting story.
As he was in Italy, McGregor’s MM was not pinned on his chest by the King, but arrived in the post with a covering letter. We are told that he was very anti-Royalist and actually sent his MM back. It was then returned, pointing out that he had insulted his King, his Country and his Regiment!
This time he kept the medal, together with his service and campaign medals (War Medal, defence medal, 1939-45 Star and Italy Star) but he never wore them. All are still in the packaging they arrived in, completely pristine. He also kept various badges and insignia, and a lovely ‘sweetheart badge’ in mother of pearl, and all the paperwork connected to his MM – even an official note informing him of a £20 honorarium paid to winners of a Military Medal.
George McGregor was a reluctant hero. He never spoke of his bravery or of his medals. When asked, he said he had done nothing to merit them and the Military Medal had been given to him ‘by mistake’.
Sadly we have no photograph of George McGregor, but we are proud, 75 years on from that dark, desperate evening, to be able to pay tribute to a very unassuming hero. Hussar!