Sergeant John (Mucky)Mason DCM

"The Ghost Gunner of Monte Cassino”

1910 - 2005


Details of a Limited Edition from the Royal Mint
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B
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D
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Take a look at B1 underlined credits and D1 is our John Mucky Mason
click on any of the above to see enlarged
Below is the Royal Mint website with details on how to get yours it is limited to 1000 sets so be quick
http://www.royalmint.com/store/Medals/MINMEDDA.aspx






Daughters Barbara and Marilyn at the back
with niece Irene next to John


the music being played is
'Loves Old Sweet Song'
by
Gordon McRae and Jo Stafford
(John favourite song and was played at his funeral)

Click on the photos to see larger version

It was with a great sense of loss that I heard that John(Mucky) Mason had died on Saturday the 8th of October 2005.

I never met him,but he was one of those soldiers whose name and exploits live on long after they leave regular service,and indeed live on long after their time on this earth.

As a young Fusilier,I had heard tales of “The Ghost Gunner of Monte Cassino” and later made it my business to find out more about it.
The following is just a short story(there are many) illuminating some of the character of this highly admirable man

The place was Monte Cassino Italy,and the date was 1944.
John Mason was the Pl Sergeant of the Vickers Machine Gun Platoon,of the 2nd Bn The XXth The Lancashire Fusiliers.
The Platoon was dug into a ridge almost within grenade range of the German positions in the Monastery,which had already repulsed attack after attack.

The 2nd Bns positions were so exposed that there could be no movement during daylight,and things were at something of a stalemate.
When in close contact with the enemy and in effect pinned down,it is important that the some kind of offensive work be done,if morale is not to suffer.

The idea was formulated which came to be known as the “Ghost Gun of Cassino”:-


The following is an extract(abridged) from “The Monastery” by Major F Majdelany MC:


There were other things about Sergeant Mucky. Those who had shared slit-trenches and dug-outs with him through three campaigns would tell you that not a single day had ever gone by without Sergeant Mucky writing a letter to Mrs. Sergeant Mucky. If as often happens during operations-two or three days passed without it being possible to get mail back for dispatch, that made no difference. The letter was written every day just the same. Sometimes as many as six piled up before the opportunity occurred to get them censored and sent back.
After his wife and his baby girl, Sergeant Mucky had one other love-the Vickers machine-gun. He devoutly believed that it was the most beautiful and splendid thing that man had ever created. To clean it and care for it was an honour: to fire it at Germans was the highest of all pleasures: to teach and initiate other men into its uses was an apostolic mission.
At the present time he was in charge of the platoon up on Machine-gun Ridge. I 'phoned him and told him that the C.O.. and I would be visiting him around seven that night, so that he could warn his sentries.
. A hoarse Lancastrian voice challenged us. The figure of Sergeant Mucky stepped from behind a large boulder. He carried a tommy-gun and appeared to be wearing a tea-cosy of huge dimensions. As we finished the climb, I remarked that his headdress appeared to have surpassed itself, even for him. He told me it was an ordinary sandbag, with the opening rolled down into a thick lyre. It fitted neatly over the usual woolly cap, he said, and it was very warm.
I told him about the Ghost Gun. He thought it over for a long time. Then he smiled very broadly and said: 'It's a good idea.' We were enormously relieved that he approved. A Lancashire soldier's approbation is not easily won.
We had arranged for one of the reserve guns to be brought up for the experiment. As soon as it arrived we set off into No-Man's-Land, with the gun and a large amount of cable. The three of us picked our way forward, John, Sergeant Mucky and myself, and after we had gone about three hundred yards we found a spot that seemed to meet our require¬ments. Two rocks between which the gun could be wedged and a number of small bushes that could be used for camouflage.
Bathed in moonlight, the Monastery looked incredibly beautiful. And horribly near.
It was a strange sensation being there with just two others in that lonely expanse of stillness. The sudden hysterical screech of a Schmeisser. The steady chug-chug of a distant-answering Bren. Then utter silence. Then the low chilling burr of the M.G. 42, which is Germany's best machine-gun, and sounds like a distant motor-cycle moving at a hundred miles an hour. And behind us, regular as a bus service, the noise of tearing silk as giant shells from the heavy batteries at Piedmont sped swiftly over.
Then a green light soared up near Cassino Castle. It hovered for an instant desperately-then flopped down like a dying bird. The usual tense reaction. Ours or theirs? A signal? For what? We waited for the outburst of artillery and mortar fire. There was none. There was nothing but silence. It must have been a windy sentry. Tearing silk again. Screeching Schmeisser again. Three screeches-long screeches. Then silence.
One was conscious of being very near to danger without being afraid in the way one is afraid while being shot at. The danger was impersonal. In a way it was exhilarating. A sort of emotional astringent. I imagine it was something like the feeling mountaineers have during a difficult climb.
The bright moonlight added to the general eerieness. You could see the Monastery so clearly you felt it must be bound to see you-though you knew that was impossible.
We had a lot of trouble fixing the two-hundred-and-fifty¬round belt so that it would feed the gun automatically, in the absence of a man to hold it, but the job was eventually done. The gun and the ammunition were immovably wedged in position. The muzzle was pointing towards the windows at the right or northern end of the Monastery¬the end the shells could not easily reach, and therefore the best preserved part of the building.
Well pleased with ourselves, like schoolboys who have at last managed to put together a complicated new toy, we turned our back on the screech of the Schmeissers, and crept slowly back towards the ridge and the noise of tearing silk. As we went along we set the cable, which we'd attached to the trigger mechanism of the gun, against smooth rocks which would act as pulleys.


Back in the little cave, which was Sergeant Mucky's headquarters, we held our breath as the great moment arrived for the first pull. John solemnly grasped the cable and tugged. Nothing happened. We each had a pull in turn. Nothing happened. There seemed to be a lot of play in the cable, and it was like pulling elastic. We had a final despairing tug together. But the gun wouldn't play. With one voice we swore. Then we wearily made our way back to the gun. Nothing had moved. The connections were still secure. It must be the cable. So on the way back this time we selected the route for the cable more carefully and succeeded in eliminating several corners.
Once more we pulled. This time, to our unspeakable joy, there was a triumphant rattle in front, and half a dozen rounds zipped away towards the Monastery windows. We were so delighted with our success that we couldn't leave the toy alone. We went on having pulls to see who could get the longest burst away, until the gun jammed. Then we made the journey out into No-Man's-Land for the third time to load the gun with a new belt. Back in the cave, we just had one more short, sharp pull to make sure the thing still worked. Then the temptation to go on playing was sternly resisted.
The Ghost Gun plan was explained in detail to Sergeant Mucky. Each morning, shortly after first light, he was to take a new belt out, and aim the gun carefully at one of the Monastery windows-a different window each day. Then at intervals throughout the day he was to pull the cable and loose off a provocative burst. When the answer¬ing machine-gun and mortar fire came back-as it cer¬tainly would-he was to let it have its say. Then after allowing the Boche time to pat themselves on the back for silencing our gun, he was to fire another burst, which would serve as a sort of rude gesture. This was calculated to enrage the Herrenvolk and tease them into wasting a lot of ammunition on an unoccupied area; to act as a general


The Ghost Gun was a great success. It gave the machine ¬gunners a new interest in life. Every day it fired its teasing little bursts at the Monastery windows. And the rising tide of the Herrenvolk's irritation was clearly revealed by the increasing weight of stuff they were throwing back at it whenever it fired. The first day they didn't bother very much. They replied, but only to the extent of a burst or two from one of their own machine-guns. By the fourth day they were beginning to look for it in earnest. Every time it fired they searched the ground very thoroughly with anything up to six guns. Finally, they honoured it with a royal flush from two of their mortar batteries.
Sergeant Mucky kept a careful log of the number of rounds they wasted on it. The figures were quite impres¬sive, and very gratifying, as the Boche, like ourselves, also had to carry all their supplies up a tortuous mountain track to the Monastery, and' as with us, men bad to carry it from there to their forward positions.
It became very famous, our Ghost Gun. Mainly be¬cause there was little else in the daily dreariness on which the atrophying mind could fasten. It assumed a gigantic importance. Everybody got to hear about it. The whole battalion followed its adventures with breathless interest. Its fame spread beyond the unit. People rang up from other units and said: `Tell us about the Ghost Gun. We want to have one, too.' Visiting generals would say: `How's the Ghost Gun? Jolly good idea!' Then they'd roar with laughter.

Just one period in the service life of this fine soldier.

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Tommy was obviously a mate of
John's

John's leaving Certificate from
1st Bn at the end of 1939 to go to the 2nd Bn
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You will see that throughout his service with the Lancashire Fusiliers he remained a shining example to all around him.

We extend to his family our deepest condolences and respect.

Stand Easy Sergeant .

Captain (retd) J Eastwood BEM CQSW.

The Tooth Brush story or how John meet his wife

John went to a dance in Bournemouth with another Lancashire Fusilier, Buddy Rogers, in 1941 before going overseas for the war. He saw my mother and thought she looked lovely but was afraid to ask her to dance as she was 'too good for him'. An excuse me dance came on and his mate said 'come on Onmia Audax!' After the dance was over he asked to walk her home but she told him she didn't walk home with soldiers. During the evening, he had got the information out of her that she worked in a chemist shop so the next day that he had off he took a circular route of about five miles visiting every chemist shop. He had just about given up when he found her in one of the last shops. He then turned out his pockets to show her he had bought a toothbrush in every shop he had visited!