D-Day heroes: Major John William Guy Shearman

Dr Jessamy Carlson, Family and Local History Engagement Lead at The National Archives (TNA), looks through TNA and Gazette D-Day records to tell the story of Military Cross recipient Major John William Guy Shearman.

Where can you search for D-Day records?

As the 80th anniversary of D-Day approaches, there are a variety of sources which can be drawn together across a number of major collections to learn more about this pivotal moment in the Second World War.

A number of records survive which can be accessed easily to pursue this kind of research, and additional records are being made available all the time. In researching individuals, personnel records for those who served in the Second World War are in the process of being transferred to The National Archives (TNA). Other records of the Second World War held by TNA include the records of honours and awards, including both the recommendations and the announcements, in addition to Unit War Diaries.

TNA’s research guides to the records of the Second World War can be found online.

How many medals and honours were awarded during World War 2?

The events at D-Day led to the award of a number of gallantry medals and honours. Over 10,000 Military Crosses were awarded to British and Commonwealth personnel during the Second World War (10,776 Military Crosses, 485 first bars and 20 second bars), while a further 180 Victoria Crosses were awarded for gallantry during the conflict, plus one Victoria Cross and bar.

One of these Victoria Crosses was awarded on D-Day to Stan Hollis, Company Sergeant Major, D Company, 6th Battalion Green Howards. You read more information about Hollis on the Imperial War Museum website.

Major John William Guy Shearman

Another solider celebrated for his actions on D-Day was Major John William Guy Shearman of C Squadron, 141st Regiment (The Buffs), the Royal Armoured Corps. He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery in action undertaken on 7 June 1944 (D-Day +1) and is cited as displaying “the finest qualities of a leader… an inspiration to his troops and all those with whom he has been in contact.” His citation can be see here within WO 373/49/51 (see below), which comprises the Recommendations for Honours and Awards for Gallant and Distinguished Service (Army).

It was acknowledged in the recommendation that his prompt action led to the silencing and destruction of several guns, plus the capture of some 150 prisoners of war. His award was gazetted on 19 October 1944 (Gazette issue 36753). This cross-referencing of multiple sources allows a bigger picture of an incident to be drawn together, and always makes for a satisfying piece of research.

Shearman’s Military Cross is on permanent display at the D-Day Story museum in Portsmouth. An image of the tank he was commanding on the day that his actions earnt him the Military Cross is also available in their collections.

Shearman passed away in 1992.Major John William Guy Shearman Military Medal recommendation

About the author

Dr Jessamy Carlson is the Family and Local History Engagement Lead at The National Archives. Jessamy leads the Community & Transport team in the Collections Expertise & Engagement department at The National Archives and is currently working on the re-cataloguing of WO 399, the records of pre-1939 military nurses, and on the history of the Home Office Research Unit, alongside other projects.

See also

D-Day and The Gazette - 80th anniversary


The National Archives, Recommendation for Award for Shearman, John William Guy

Publication date

15 May 2024

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.