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John Winthrop Hackett

Servicenumber : 52752
Rank : Brigadier
Regiment : The Parachute Regiment
Unit : Headquarters 4th Parachute Brigade
Date of Death : 09-09-1997
Age : 86
John Winthorp "Shan or Shaun" Hackett was born on 5 november 1910 in Perth, Australia. He was a son of John Winthorp Hackett and Deborah Drake-Brockman. He had four sisters: Verona, Patricia, Joanna and Debbie. John Hackett sr. died on 19 february 1916, when John jr. was only five years old.  Within two years his mother married again, to Frank Moulden, later mayor of Adelaide. The whole family moved to Adelaide, where Shan Hackett went to pre-preparatory school. 
Soon after his tenth birthday Hackett was sent to a boarding school, the Geelong Grammar School in Melbourne. He was educated there for 8 years. In 1929 he travelled to London, together with his stepfather Frank Moulden, to study painting at the Central School of Art. They moved in with his sister Patricia, who was already living in London. By early summer 1929 he started to study Greats and Modern History at New College, Oxford. He stayed there till 1933. While he stayed in Oxford he was invited to the headquarters of the University Officer Training Corps. He took part in a sort of part-time military training during his time at the university. Apparently Hackett made the Royal Air Force his first choice and arrangements were made to follow a training course during the summer of 1930 at Haviland flying school. In 1931 Hackett took his supplementary reserve commission in the 2nd Dragoon Guards and spend part of his vacation carrying out his military training. Hackett was commissioned into the 8th Battalion King's Royal Irish Hussars in 1933. 
Hackett served in Palestine and was awarded a Mention in Despatches in 1936. From 1937 till 1941 he served with the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force where he was awarded a Mention in Despatches twice. He fought in the Syria-Lebanon campaign of the British Army untill he was wounded. He was awarded the Military Cross during this campaign.
In 1942 John Hackett married Margaret Fena in Jerusalem. 
During the North African campaign Hackett was commander of C Squadron of the 8th Hussars and was wounded again when his Stuart tank was hit during the battles for Sidi Rezegh airfield. Despite suffering burns, Hackett immediately moved himself to another of C Squadron's tanks and resumed command. He was awarded a  Distinguished Service Order. While recuperating in Cairo he was instrumental in the formation of the Long Range Desert Group, the Special Air Service and Popski's Private Army. 
In november 1942 Hackett raised and commanded the 4th Parachute Brigade. The first unit in the new formation was 151 Parachute Battalion, which was re-designated 156 Battalion.  In december 1942, with the formation of Brigade Headquarters under way, Hackett carried out his parachute training. The second unit in the brigade was the 2nd Battalion The Royal Susse Regiment. It was converted to a parachute battalion and then renumbered as 10th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. The last parachute battalion was the 11th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.
In 1943 the 4th Brigade was held in reserve for the invasion of Sicily. In september of 1943 the Brigade took part in the landings at Salerno. They arrived by ship and had to capture Monte Corvino. In november the brigade embarked at Taranto with the rest of 1st Airborne Division and sailed back to England.
On 18 september 1944 most of the Brigade landed on Ginkel Heath. It's task was to establish a defensive perimeter on the high ground to the north of Arnhem, so as to block the movement of any German forces from that direction. Just before Hackett hit the ground he dropped his walking stick. After landing he searched for it and while doing this five German soldiers surrendered to him. He found his stick and made his way to the rendezvous-point. Not long after landing Hackett met brigade major Bruce Dawson, who landed the previous day. He told Hackett that only 2nd Battalion had managed to reach the Arnhem bridge, that divisional commander Urquhart was missing and that the other battalion were held up by a strong German blocking line. This was confirmed by Lieutenant-Colonel MacKenzie who arrived at Hackett's headquarters. He told Hackett that Brigadier Hicks had taken over command of the division and that 11th Battalion was to be removed from his command to strenghten the push towards Arnhem bridge. The 4th brigade, minus 11th Battalion, advanced east along th line of the Arnhem-Utrecht railway, with 156 Battalion in the lead. Night already had fallen when the leading company of 156 Battalion ran into heavy enemy machine-gun and mortar fire from positions along the Dreyenseweg. This company was withdrawn into defensive positions with the intention to advance again in daylight. At that moment Hackett received further instructions from Brigadier Hicks, who was at command of the Division because Urquhart was still missing. Hackett was unhappy with these instructions and he went immediately to Divisional Headquarters at the Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek. There a heated discussion erupted between Hicks and Hackett. Eventually Hackett agreed to a plan to attempt to move on into Arnhem at first light. He expressed the clear intension of raising the matter of the command arrangements again if Urquhart did not return. He then went back to his headquarters where he spent a night disturbed by enemy bombing.
The next morning the 4th Brigade tried to seize and hold the Koepel height, a wooded ridge that rose beyond the Dreyenseweg. 156 Battalion was to advance with the railway on its right and to the left 10th Battalion would advance along the Arnhem-Amsterdam road. Unfortunately the Germans received reinforcements and were able to use their armour. 156 Battalion's attempts were again rebuffed with heavy losses, especially among officers. 10th Battalion also found a reinforced enemy and was unable to advance towards Arnhem. Casualties were mounting in both battalions and ammunition was running short. It became clear to Hackett that he had not the strenght to continue any attempt to move in to Arnhem along his present route and he was becoming concerned at the potential threat of German encirclement.
Not long after 1400 hrs General Urquhart came to the headquarter of Hackett. They agreed to withdraw the 4th Brigade south of the railway after the expected landing of the Polish glider lift in the area of the 4th Brigade. As the withdrawal of 10th Battalion began, the leading elements found their rendez vous in enemy hands and had to fight their way out. As the battalion withdrew the Polish lift started landing. The Polish that landed had to unload the glider in the middle of a heavy firefight between the Germans and the 4th Brigade. They could not destinguish friend from foe and that caused casualties on both sides. 
Eventually 10th Battalion, with a number of Poles, reached the railway and moved west to Wolfheze. A large part of 10th Battalion and some of 156 Battalion proceeded to Woldheze, where they were surrounded by Germans and had to surrender. The rest of 4th Brigade withdrew through a culvert beneath the railway. Just before dark Hackett and his men were in the woods between Wolfheze and Oosterbeek. It was decided they would stay there and would try to reach the divisional area in Oosterbeek at first light the following morning. 
At first light 156 Battalion set off towards Oosterbeek. After running into more strong German positions 10th Battalion was put in the lead along a new axis. It moved off in a haste and contact was lost with the rest of the Brigade. 10th Battalion eventually managed to reach Oosterbeek. Hackett and his headquarter troops and some units of 156 Battalion were still fighting in the woods. Hackett himseld was fighting with a captured German Mause rifle. He was directly and personally involved in the fighting. A German self-propelled gun fired some shells into the group, setting on fire one of the jeeps. The jeep contained ammunition and was standing close to a jeep with a wounded officer strapped on a stretcher mounted on it. Hackett dashed through the flames and jumped into the jeep with the wounded officer. He drove the casualty off to a safe distance. Ahead of the group a hollow in the woods was occupied by some Germans. Hackett ordered 156 Battalion to rush the position and capture it. Screaming and yelling the men attacked the hollow and the Germans ran away. The hollow was now in their hands and here they defended themselves against German attacks. There were now barely more than eighty all ranks with insufficient arms and dwindling supplies of ammunition. Several German attacks were beaten back. By now dusk was gathering and Hackett was concerned that the Germans would make one last major effort before dark to eliminate his position. He explained his concerns to his remaining officers and NCO's and told them he wanted to rush the enemy and break through to the divisional area. He just had time to go around the position to say goodbye to his wounded and told them he was sure the Germans would deal decently and properly with them. He then wasted no time and shouted the order to go. In a single group, screaming and yelling burst over the lip of the hollow and made for the lane that led downhill towards Oosterbeek, bayonets fixed and weapons in hand. The Germans fired at them but were unable to stop the groups progress. After about four hundred metres they reached positions of the Border Regiment. Hackett quickly went to Divisional Headquarters to report to General Urquhart. Urquhart then gave Hackett command over the eastern side of the perimeter, a line that roughly ran south from somewhere short of the railway, down Stationsweg and over the crossroads where the main dressing stations were, to join the river in the vicinity of the Old Church. Hackett located his headquarters in the Westerpark estate, between the Hartenstein Hotel and the Schoonoord Hotel. 
Whn Hackett visited Thompson Force near Oosterbeek church he was wounded in the face near Kate ter Horst's house. When Major Powell of 156 Battalion visited him on thursday 21 september the wound was covered with a dressing.  
On 24 september, while walking back from a visit of inspection to his units holding the perimeter, to the few slit trenches in the grounds of the Hartenstein Hotel that constituted his brigade headquarters, Hackett was hit by shrapnel from mortar bombs. He was wounded in the left thigh and in the stomach. The author of 'From Delhi to Arnhem' (John O'Reilly) wrote about this on page 252: 'Apparently Hackett had just visited the Reconnaissance Squadron HQ, where he had discussed with Captain Allsop how to guide the Polish reinforcements into his sector. Allsop gave Hackett a runner, who he would use later to notify him of the Poles' arrival at Brigade HQ. Hackett then began to return the short distance to his HQ, the shelling and mortaring insensifying as he passed within 100 yards of the Hartenstein. At that moment he was hit in the stomach and left thigh by spliters from a close burst. The runner too was hit and his leg was shattered. Waiting for the first lull, Hackett then walked to the Divisional Regimental Aid Post, where he arranged for a party to collect the wounded runner.'
Hackett managed to reach the medical aid post in the cellar of the Hartenstein Hotel.After a couple of hours it was decided to evacuate the wounded from the cellar. Hackett was driven in a jeep to the St Elizabeth Hospital. Here he was examined by a doctor who discovered the stomach wound. Without delay Hackett was taken to the operating theatre where the severe stomach wound was brilliantly operated on by Captain Alexander Lipmann-Kessel. A splinter of around two inches square wich had cut twelve perforations and two sections in Hackett's lower intestine was removed. Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant Dave Morris of the 11th Battalion gave blood that was given to Hackett during the surgery. 
When Hackett was brought in to the Elizabeth Hospital he was entered in the medical register as a Corporal Hayter, to conceal Hackett's senior rank. Sergeant Bert Tenucci of 16 Parachute Field Ambulance removed all of Hackett's insignia. 
As soon as Hackett was able to sit up he began to make notes recording the course of 4th Parachute Brigade's battle during the seven days in which he had been engaged as it's commander and in writing citations for those of his officers and men he had observed as behaving in a particulary meritorious fashion.
Hackett stayed at the St. Elizabeth Hospital for around two weeks. One day Lipmann-Kessel brought a Dutchman wearing a red cross armband to Hackett's bedside. He introduced the man as Piet van Arnhem (real name Pieter Kruijff), who was the leader of the resistance in Arnhem. When the Germans wanted to move all the remaining patients from the Elizabeth Hospital Pieter Kruijff came to the hospital with a red cross car. He talked to Lipmann-Kessel, Father McGowan and Hackett and it was decided to get Hackett out.  He was dressed in civilian clothes and half carried by Pieter Kruijff he walked out of the front door of the hospital. He was then brought to Ede, to a house were Brigadier Lathbury, commander of 1st Parachute Brigade, was also hiding. In the evening Hackett was brought to another house of the same Dutch family, called De Nooij. Here a Dutch doctor treated Hackett's wounds. He was later taken to the house of Colonel and Mrs Boeree, also in Ede, but not long after returned to the De Nooij family.
At the end of january 1945 Hackett was moved to Maarn. Here he met Lipmann-Kessel, who also managed to ecape, again. Some days later he was moved to Schoonhoven. There he crossed the Rhine in a little boat and was hidden in a village called Groot-Ammers. There Graeme Warrack joined Hackett. The next day Hackett moved to Sliedrecht.
On 6 february 1945 Hackett made it back to the Allied lines. With help of the resistance he escaped through the Biesbosch. He was moved from Sliedrecht to Lage Zwaluwe by boat. In Lage Zwaluwe he was welcomed by an old friend, Tony Crankshaw of the 11th Hussars. 
After returning to England Hackett was not able to return to active duty until his physical condition had been restored. In january 1946 he was posted to the headquarters staff of 6th Armoured Division, then stationed in Padua. On 8 march 1946 he was to assume the appointment of head of the intelligence branch of the Allied Commission for Austria. 
In september 1947 Hackett returned to Palestine where he assumed command of the Trans Jordan Frontier Force. Under his direction the force was disbanded as part of the British withdrawal from the region. After attending Staff College in 1951 he was appointed to command the 20th Armoured Brigade and, on being promoted to Major General, assumed command of the 7th Armoured Division. In 1958 he became Commandant of the Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham, and was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1961. He became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Ireland Command in 1961 and was knighted (Knight Commander) on 2 june 1962. In 1963, he was appointed to Ministry of Defence as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, responsible for forces organisation and weapon development and became the leading figure in the reorganisation of the Territorial Army. In 1965 he was promoted to General and given command of the British Army of the Rhine and the parallel command of Nato's Northern Army Group. 
After retirement from the Army in early july 1968 Hackett continued to be active in several areas. From 1968 to 1975 he was Principal of King's College, London. He wrote several novels, about his experiences in the war and some novels.
John Winthorp Hackett died in his home, Coberley Mill on 9 september 1997. In the presence of a great congregation, his memorial service was held in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields on 24 november in the same year. He was cremated and the final journey of his ashes was back to the land of his birth and to the family mausoleum in Perth, Australia. 
Hackett in the background (left) behind Prince Charles and Dutch Queen Beatrix in september 1994. 
Hackett and Dutch Prince Bernhard in september 1994.
Sources: Website http://www.pegasusarchive.org, Wikipedia, 'Shan Hackett, the pursuit of exactitude', 'I was a stranger', 'From Delhi to Arnhem' and 'Red Berets and Red Crosses'. 


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