Obituary | 24 June 2022

Maj Count John Colby Salazar MC

Maj Count John Colby Salazar MC The 'Buffs'

Major John Salazar died at his home in France on 1 August 2003, aged 84. He was born at Sandgate, Kent, on 19 March 1919 and was educated at Alphine College, Switzerland and South Leigh College, Oxford.
He enlisted at Pembroke Dock in May 1939 into the ‘Buffs’. After completing recruit training he was posted to the 1st Battalion the Buffs at Mersa Matruh in the October. Later serving in Palestine he was at Haifa when the Italians bombed the oil refinery on 10 June 1940. Selected for officer training he passed out from the OCTU at Cairo and was commissioned into The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment and joined the 1st Battalion in Jericho.

He served with the battalion from 1941 to 1945 first at Lemnos, Syria, and then at Tobruk where he took part in the battles of the garrison. He was awarded an Immediate MC for his leadership during the ‘Chindit’ operations in Burma in 1944. Here the Regiment was divided into two, 61 Column was involved in operations against the railway town of Indaw; and 2nd Lieutenant Salazar was ordered to move his platoon two miles south of the town to destroy as many Japanese and as much materiel as possible. A platoon ambush on a track leading to Andaw accounted for only two of the enemy, so he decided to move closer. By active patrolling, he located six fuel dumps; but in order to reach them the platoon would have to cross open paddy fields and pass along a path beside a Japanese company’s position.

Realising that the best chance of destroying the fuel dump was to keep the numbers to a minimum he decided to do the job alone and getting close to the enemy he fired incendiary bullets into the dump, destroying 200 49-gallon drums of oil and petrol. Withdrawing a short distance he lay in wait beside a track leading to the enemy’s position. Two runners appeared and he killed one and took the other prisoner, although the man was so badly wounded that he died. In May, 61 Column attacked a village and some enemy were killed and some ran off into a house. John took a patrol into the village and his section killed several Japanese and returned with seven pack horses loaded with booty. During the same night he led more patrols into the village to report on Japanese movements. After home leave he rejoined the 1st Battalion in India moving to Tripoli and Greece in 1948. A spell as Adjutant with the 1st Hertfordshire Regiment (TA) was followed by a five-year attachment to the 1st Battalion The Northern Rhodesia Regiment, which included a spell of 18 months in Malaya when he was mentioned in despatches.

Returning to the UK he served with the 1st Bedfords, and in Germany ran a winter warfare course at Goslar, and generations of NS men will remember how he taught them to build snow holes in which they were to sleep. On amalgamation with the Essex Regiment he served with the 3rd East Anglian Regiment in Germany and Malaya. In 1964 he served with the 6th Battalion King’s African Rifles in Dar es Salaam and on HQ staff in Nairobi. From 1964 to 1968 he was British Army liaison officer at the French Academy at Saint Cyr where he qualified as a French Army parachutist, retiring in 1974 from HQ Afcent. He retired to live in France but still came over to join in Regimental activities over the years.

John was a family man, the Regiment and family being the two great loves of his life. His record of service indicates the outgoing personality of the man. John was a born leader with a deep-rooted love of the Regiment he served so well. Eccentric at times, his pranks on Mess nights were original to say the least but always well mannered. He had a lovely sense of humour and was respected by all ranks. He married in 1946, Jeanne Oliphant, who survives him together with a son and daughter.

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