John Niel Randle was born in Benares (now Varanasi), India on 22 December 1917, son of Dr Herbert Niel Randle, Librarian of the India Office Library and Professor of Philosophy at Queen’s College, Benares and his wife Edith Joan, daughter of William Chaffey Whitby. He was educated at the Dragon School, Marlborough College and Merton College, Oxford and was commissioned into the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 24 May 1940. In 1942, he married Mavis Ellen, daughter of Thomas James Stedman Manser, engineer with the Post and Telegraph Department in India, and his wife Rosaline Ellen Louisa (née Edwardes). During the Battle of Kohima, he commanded B Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment.
Supplement to The London Gazette of Friday, the 8th of December, 1944
The War Office, 12th December, 1944
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to:
Lieutenant (temporary Captain) John Niel Randle (130097), The Royal Norfolk Regiment (Radlett, Herts.).
On the 4th May, 1944, at Kohima in Assam, a Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment attacked the Japanese positions on a nearby ridge. Captain Randle took over command of the Company which was leading the attack when the Company Commander was severely wounded. His handling of a difficult situation in the face of heavy fire was masterly and although wounded himself in the knee by grenade splinters he continued to inspire his men by his initiative, courage and outstanding leadership until the Company had captured its objective and consolidated its position. He then went forward and brought in all the wounded men who were lying outside the perimeter.
In spite of his painful wound Captain Randle refused to be evacuated and insisted on carrying out a personal reconnaissance with great daring in bright moonlight prior to a further attack by his Company on the position to which the enemy had withdrawn.
At dawn on 6th May the attack opened, led by Captain Randle, and one of the platoons succeeded in reaching the crest of the hill held by the Japanese. Another platoon, however, ran into heavy medium machine-gun fire from a bunker on the reverse slope of the feature. Captain Randle immediately appreciated that this particular bunker covered not only the rear of his new position but also the line of communication of the Battalion and therefore the destruction of the enemy post was imperative if the operation was to succeed.
With utter disregard of the obvious danger to himself Captain Randle charged the Japanese machine-gun post single-handed with rifle and bayonet. Although bleeding in the face and mortally wounded by numerous bursts of machine-gun fire he reached the bunker and silenced the gun with a grenade thrown through the bunker slit. He then flung his body across the slit so that the aperture should be completely sealed.
The bravery shown by this officer could not have been surpassed and by his self-sacrifice he saved the lives of many of his men and enabled not only his own Company but the whole Battalion to gain its objective and win a decisive victory over the enemy.
John Randle is buried in Kohima War Cemetery, Nagaland. There is also a memorial in St Peter, Petersham, Surrey. His only son, John, was also educated at Marlborough College and founded the distinguished Whittington Press. His brother-in-law, Flying Officer Leslie Thomas Manser, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, was also awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, for remaining at the controls and thus enabling his crew to bail out after their Manchester bomber was shot down, during the first ‘Thousand Bomber Raid’ on Cologne on 30-31 May 1942.