LCol JRO. Counsell, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion 1945

Lieutenant Colonel JRO (Jim) Counsell DSO (Bronze Lion of the Netherlands)

Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 48th Highlanders of Canada

13 April to 1 October 1945


Lieutenant Colonel JRO “Jim” Counsell, DSO was the last Commanding Officer of the wartime 1st Battalion 48th Highlanders. Having been Adjutant in England, before leaving for Sicily he joined the newly formed D Company and served with them as Company 2IC,  Company Commander from Pachino until the end of the Italy Campaign. He was awarded an immediate Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his gallant and aggressive style of leadership in the battle for the Hitler Line. He became Battalion 2IC in April 1945. Forced into command following the death of LCol Don Mackenzie.  Commander 1 CA Inf Bde – Brigadier Des Smith arrived at the Highlanders Battalion Headquarters to announce that would be no outsider coming to take over the Highlanders and that LCol Jim Counsell had been confirmed as Commanding Officer effective 13 April 1945.

He brought them home on 1 October 1945 and led them down University Avenue and back the Armoury where the 1st Battalion was born six years prior. In front of the VIPs,  family and previous generations of Highlanders gathered, he took the podium to  reply to the remarks by the Mayor and said:

“Let us not forget the men we left behind in Sicily, in Italy and Holland,” he said. “Had it not been for them, you would not be giving us this great reception. Their courage and sacrifice has let us come home, just as they have preserved our wonderful civilization for us.” He then stepped down to stand in front of the Regiment. (Dileas: page 782)

Colonel Counsell’s contributions are well told on the pages of  Dileas.  Lesser known is a contribution he made to the ethos/nature of the modern post-war Regiment.  When questions of perhaps maintaining some distinguishing elements on uniforms worn by 1st Battalion/2nd Battalion Highlanders, during communications between himself and the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion,  Counsell was resolute that his Battalion would have none of that type of thing  and that once he dismissed him there would be no such distinctions (A Highlander is a Highlander).  This set the tone for a strong post war Regiment.



Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

At about 0730 Hours on 25 May 1944 then 48th Highlanders of Canada supported by a squadron of tanks from 142 Regiment Royal Armoured Corps broke out of the Bridgehead (MR731157) in the Adolph Hitler Line which they had established on the previous day. Maj JB Odell Counsell commanding the left forward company had in support a squadron of Churchill tanks.

On approaching their position two lead platoons came under fire from at least 25 automatic weapons sited on high ground to their front and left. From this fire, one of the platoon commander and five NCOs soon became casualties. At this stage Major Counsell went forward moving in full view of the enemy and with complete disregard to the withering machine gun and mortar fire, he reorganized the leaderless platoon. Then he quickly ordered forward the reserve platoon and led his company to the face of the hill. During this time contact with the supporting tanks was lost so Major Counsell approached them himself, still under heavy fire, and arranged for their further support onto the objective.

Due to his prompt decision and aggressive action his company pushed forward on to the hillside and maintained their position there forcing the enemy to withdraw. Throughout the action his gallant leadership and courageous example were an example to all ranks under his command. CG40 p4127 30-Sep-44

Netherlands – Bronze Lion
48th First Bn (WW 2)
Service number
Data source(s)
*Reinforcement Draft 10 Jun 1940
Notify me of

0 Comments or suggestions
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments