Press to Show/Hide Menu

John MacMillan Stevenson PATTON, GC, CBE

No. & Rank at the Time of Action: Lieutenant

Unit/Occupation: 1st Battalion, Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers

Date and Place of Birth: 29th August 1915, Warwick, Bermuda

Family: Son of Mrs Katie Patton (nee Studivant); First wife Mrs Mollie Patton (nee Teskey); Second wife Mrs Ann Patton (formerly Byrd, nee Sherwell). Father of four sons and two daughters. Distantly related to the US General George S Patton.

Additionally from his son George Patton: His father was also John Macmillan Stevenson Patton. Married my grandmother (a southern belle from Mississippi) relatively late and died of TB at about age 40, when my father was about 5 years old. My grandmother, Katie Sturdivant, subsequently married Colonel Colin Osborne, of Burlington Ontario. I don't know where the Colonel's rank came from - he was a rather distant character who spent his time rescuing failing companies as I understand it.

Early Life: Moved to Burlington when he was six after his mother remarried a Canadian and moved again to Hamilton. Studied Chemical Engineering at QueenÂ’s University, Kingston and later gained a law degree from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia.

Date and Place of GC Action: 21st September 1940, Weybridge, Surrey

The London Gazette: 17th December 1940

Citation: "The King has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the GEORGE CROSS, for most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out very hazardous work, to:-

Lieutenant John MacMillan Stevenson Patton Royal Canadian Engineers."

Account of Deed: Lieutenant Patton was not a member of the established Bomb Disposal Unit, but was called upon urgently to help when a large bomb fell in an aircraft factory at Weybridge on 21st September 1940. Not being able to discover any obvious method of disarming it, he wisely decided that his best course was to remove it to a safe place as soon as possible and as carefully as possible. He towed the bomb away on a skid behind a lorry and dumped it in a bomb crater, where it exploded violently but harmlessly a few hours later.

Remarks: First overseas recipient of the GC. Later served in India and Burma during the war.

Additional Information: The award of CBE (Civil) to The Hon. John Macmillan Stevenson Patton GC, was announced in the London Gazette on 1st January 1974, p.18, "For public services in Bermuda."

Final Rank: Captain

Other Decorations/Medals: 39/45 Star - France & Germany Star - Defence Medal - Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (CVSM) and clasp - Centennial Medal - EIIR Silver Jubilee Medal. CBE

GC Location/Sale History: Medals are held by the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa

Date and Place of Death: 13th May 1996, Bermuda

Cause of Death: Cancer

Burial/Cremation: He is buried in the family grave (a sort of in-ground vault, really) in the churchyard of Christ Church, Warwick, Bermuda. This is a Presbyterian church and he was for many years an elder of the church.

Obituary: (The Times, 20th May 1996; p20)

John PATTON, GC, CBE, former Minister of Public Works, Fisheries and, Agriculture in Bermuda, died on May 13 aged 80. He was born in Warwick, Bermuda, on August 29, 1915. Although he was not a member of the Bomb Disposal Unit, John Patton was prepared to risk his life unhesitatingly when during a daylight raid a bomb fell on the Vickers aircraft factory at Weybridge on September 21, 1940. At the time he was stationed in England with the Royal Canadian Engineers. The bomb lay on the ground where it had fallen without exploding.

Patton could see no obvious means of disarming it, so decided to remove it to a safe place as quickly as possible, sincerely hoping that it had a long-delay fuse. With the help of another officer, he manhandled the bomb onto a sheet of corrugated iron which was then hitched up to a lorry. The bomb was then towed away and tumbled into an existing bomb crater, where it later exploded with great violence, but without causing any damage. Patton's George Cross, gazetted on December 17, 1940, acknowledged his bravery and presence of mind. Had the bomb exploded before it was able to be deposited in the crater it would have killed him and severely disrupted aircraft production.

John MacMillan Stevenson Patton was born in Bermuda but grew up in Canada, to where he moved at the age of six with his mother after the death of his father. They settled in Burlington, Ontario, and Patton was educated at Trinity College School; Westda1e Collegiate Institute; Queen's University Kingston (Chemical Engineering); and Dalhousie University.

When war broke out in 1939 he wanted to join the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers but was turned down because of a hammer toe. Unperturbed, he had the offending protuberance surgically removed and reapplied. This time he was accepted. He was serving as a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Engineers 1st Battalion at the time of the air raid on the Vickers factory

After the war Patton returned to Bermuda were he played an influential role in community life as a magistrate and politician. Holding a seat in the Bermuda Parliament from 1958 to 1974, he was a founder member of the United Bermuda Party. Under its first leader, Sir Henry Tucker, he served as Minister of Public Works and Fisheries, from 1968 to 1974. He was also a member of the Board of Education, 1950-63, and was chairman of the Marine Board, the Board, of Works and of a number of other committees. He was appointed CBE for his work for the community.

In retirement he enjoyed working his garden and also visiting flea markets, where old gadgets and machines were a source of perennial fascination to him.

John Patton's first marriage was dissolved. He is survived by his second wife Ann, and by the four sons and two daughters of his first marriage.

Memorials: 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Engineers, in Edmonton, Alberta and see Correspondence from his sons below for more.

Town/County Connections:

Correspondence: Additional information from Hugh Halliday

Late in the war, with his degree in chemical engineering (Queens University), he was active developing fuels for flame throwers. Post-war he served in United States (sharing flame- thrower technology). Returned to Canada and obtained law degree (Dalhousie). Practiced law in Bermuda where he was elected to the legislature (1956); became a cabinet minister; retired from politics in 1974. Lengthy obituary in Toronto Star, 16 May 1996.

On the morning of 21 September 1940 at about 0830 hours, Hawker Aircraft Factory at Weybridge was attacked by an enemy aircraft. Three bombs were dropped, two of which exploded, doing slight damage. The other, a 500-pound bomb, penetrated the factory roof, passed through a wall at the end and came to rest on the concrete driveway outside the erecting shed, having failed to explode. As the explosion of the bomb at the position where it rested would have caused considerable damage, its immediate removal was a matter of national importance. A messenger from the factory came over to "A" Company, 1 Canadian Pioner Battalion, Royal Canadian Engineers, to enquire if there was a bomb disposal section in the company. There was not, but Lieutenant Patton at once realized the gravity of the situation and notwithstading the fact that he had no instruction in or experience of the handling of delayed action bombs, undertook without hesitation to remove the bomb to a place where the consequences of any explosion would be negligible. Lieutenant Patton, having seen the bomb, sent at once for a truck and a length of cable. Then, obtaining a sheet of corrogated iron he, with the assistance of four volunteers of Hawkers Detachment of the Home Guard - Sergeant Tiller Burrow, W.J. Avery, E.A. Masltn and C. Chaplain - rolled the bomb onto the sheet of corrogated iron and lashed it in place. He then attached the shet of iron to the truck by means of the cable. Captain Cunington, temporarilu in command of "A: Company, 1 Canadian Pioneer Battalion, who had by this time arrived at the scene, cleared a path for the bomb and undertook to drive the truck to an old crater about 200 yards away, partially filled with water, whwre it could do no harm. The task was successfully accomplished in little more than hanlf an hour from the time the bomb had fallen. The initiative, leadeship and cool courage displayed by Lieutenant Patton were of the highest order, and the promptness of his action combined with the complete disrgegard of danger displayed by himself, Captain Cunnington, Sergeant Tiller Burrow and Privates Avery, Masltn and Chaplain resuted in the removal of a serious threat to the productive capacity of this aircraft factory. The bomb in question exploded the following morning

Correspondence: Significant contributions from George and Tim Patton in Bermuda have been incorporated into the above. Nov 2004.

Although he was born in Bermuda, he actually grew up in Burlington and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and returned to Bermuda only after the war. He attended Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and met my mother there . He acquired Canadian citizenship as a result of his war service. His half brother, Colin Osborne, was killed by accident with an "unloaded" pistol at a training camp in Ontario, and never made it overseas.

A parcel of land in Hamilton, Ontario, was donated to the city in his name by a grateful citizen and a park was named after him there, but the name was subsequently changed to that of a city alderman.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation did two pieces on him for the major nightly news, which will still exist in the archives.

His GC was really very much out of the ordinary, in terms of his war service:

As a chemical engineer he developed a method for producing gelled gasoline for use in flamethrowers - the result of which was something like a quadrupling of the effective range. He never wanted to talk about this aspect of his work, but it was in fact the reason for his promotion.

Subsequent to this he went via Egypt to India and Burma, where he spent the bulk of his time harrying the Japanese supply lines, cutting communications lines, etc., while building roads and communications facilities for his own side. He developed a quick and cheap method for building bridges across the many small rivers in the area, of which he was particularly proud.

In recognition of his one day in bomb-disposal he was made an honorary member of the British bomb-disposal corps - although I confess I don't know the correct name. Part of the Royal Engineers I imagine. Maybe you could look that up at your end. He frequently wore the tie they gave him at VC/GC reunions in the UK, several of which I attended.

He was a Member of Colonial Parliament in Bermuda for 17 years I think, and while he was in every way a modest guy, he enjoyed being a biggish fish in a small pond.