Cpl Tom Hunter RM VC

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
ADMIRALTY.
Whitehall 12 June 1945.
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS for valour to: —
The late Corporal (Temporary) Thomas Peck HUNTER, CH/X. 110296, Royal Marines (attached Special Service Troops) (43rd Royal Marine Commando) (Edinburgh).

In Italy during the advance by the Commando to its final objective, Corporal Hunter of "C" Troop was in charge of a Bren group of the leading sub-section of the Commando. Having advanced to within 400 yards of the canal, he observed the enemy were holding a group of houses South of the canal. Realising that his Troop behind him were in the open, as the country there was completely devoid of cover, and that the enemy would cause heavy casualties as soon as they opened fire, Corporal Hunter seized the Bren gun and charged alone across two hundred yards of open ground. Three Spandaus from the houses, and at least six from the North bank of the canal opened fire and at the same time the enemy mortars started to fire at the Troop.

Corporal Hunter attracted most of the fire, and so determined was his charge and his firing from the hip that the enemy in the houses became demoralised. Showing complete disregard for the intense enemy fire, he ran through the houses, changing magazines as he ran, and alone cleared the houses. Six Germans surrendered to him and the remainder fled across a footbridge onto the North bank of the canal.

The Troop dashing up behind Corporal Hunter now became the target for all the Spandaus on the North of the canal. Again, offering himself as a target, he lay in full view of the enemy on a heap of rubble and fired at the concrete pillboxes on the other side. He again drew most of the fire, but by now the greater part of the Troop had made for the safety of the houses. During this period he shouted encouragement to the remainder, and called only for more Bren magazines with which he could engage the Spandaus. Firing with great accuracy up to the last, Corporal Hunter was finally hit in the head by a burst of Spandau fire and killed instantly.

There can be no doubt that Corporal Hunter offered himself as a target in order to save his Troop, and only the speed of his movement prevented him being hit earlier. The skill and accuracy with which he used his Bren gun is proved by the way he demoralised the enemy, and later did definitely silence many of the Spandaus firing on his Troop as they crossed open ground, so much so that under his covering fire elements of the Troop made their final objective before he was killed.

Throughout the operation his magnificent courage, leadership and cheerfulness had been an inspiration to his comrades.
 

Chef

LE
I seem to remember there is a 'Hunter' Tp in the RM for back squadded through health issues recruits. Is this named after him?
 

Robme

LE
The only BRITISH Special Forces operator so awarded. There is a Norwegian also so awarded, but alas not a Brit. Cpl Labala in the minds of many won a VC during operation storm, but didn’t get one. Reason given, the war in Oman was something the UK Government were not so keen to publicise.
 

QRK2

LE
The only BRITISH Special Forces operator so awarded. There is a Norwegian also so awarded, but alas not a Brit. Cpl Labala in the minds of many won a VC during operation storm, but didn’t get one. Reason given, the war in Oman was something the UK Government were not so keen to publicise.
Bollocks, not only was Lassen a Dane as stated above, but if you were to class Cpl Hunter as Special Forces then there were seven other Commandos who were awarded the VC, two on Op Chariot alone. However, he was notably the only RM VC of the Second World War.

(Special Service Troops was of course the designation of Commando Forces, not what we today would call SF)
 
The only BRITISH Special Forces operator so awarded. There is a Norwegian also so awarded, but alas not a Brit. Cpl Labala in the minds of many won a VC during operation storm, but didn’t get one. Reason given, the war in Oman was something the UK Government were not so keen to publicise.
"Brit. Cpl Labala" "operation storm" Not familiar with either of those, related to Oman. Could you elaborate please?
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
If I recall correct Comacchio Group was named after the action in which Cpl Hunter earned his VC.

The operation started on the evening of 1 April with engagement to start shortly after midnight. The lagoon crossing (marked in advance though not too successfully by Combined Operations Pilotage Party 2 and M Squadron, Special Boat Service), took far longer than planned due to the exceptionally low water level and exceptionally muddy lagoon bottom, which was as deep as chest high. The Commandos struggled through the muddy waste all night, manhandling their boats, and eventually reached the Spit at first light, over 4 hours behind schedule. Exhausted and covered in glutinous slime they pressed home their attacks. Nos. 2, 40 and 43 Commandos all made their objectives relatively as expected although the Germans succeeded in blowing-up one bridge before it was captured by No.2 Commando. No. 9 Commando initially made good progress until No. 5 and No. 6 Troops (especially 5 Troop), became seriously pinned down across a killing ground while attempting to capture the enemy position 'Leviticus', (all physical references were given biblical names in this operation). 1 and 2 Troops made good progress down the centre of the Spit and when advised of the situation of 5 and 6 Troops, bypassed Leviticus in order to turn about. They laid smoke, and conducted a bayonet charge, from the southeast. The German position was overrun despite the smoke clearing too quickly exposing the Commandos during the last 150 metres. Routed German defenders who had fled north, fell into the waiting Bren guns of 6 Troop. The bayonet charge was accompanied by 1 Troop’s piper playing ’The Road to the Isles’.

No.2 Commando captured 115 German prisoners and No. 9 Commando captured 232. No. 9 Commando lost 9 men killed and a further 39 wounded, of which 8 dead and 27 wounded came from No. 5 Troop, over half their number. The operation carried the frontline forward seven miles.

That evening No. 9 and No. 43 Commandos moved up to the bridges on the Bellocchio Canal, held by No.2 Commando. The following day, 3 April, Royal Engineers made serviceable the blown bridge and the Commandos moved over the canal, supported by tanks of the North Irish Horse. No. 2 Commando advanced north on the lagoon side, the western flank, while No.43 Commando moved along the eastern flank, the Adriatic side. No. 9 Commando was placed in reserve, with the intention the commando would execute an attack on Port Garibaldi after the next canal, the Valetta Canal, had been captured.

The north bank of the Valetta was found to be very heavily defended, requiring a full-scale attack, which was later conducted by the 24th Guards Brigade. The respective Commandos cleared all positions up to the Valetta Canal. During this, on the eastern flank, Corporal Thomas Hunter, of No. 43 Commando (RM), earned a posthumous Victoria Cross for conspicuous Gallantry. Hunter single-handedly cleared a farmstead housing three German MG 42s, after charging across 200 metres of open ground firing his Bren gun from the hip. Hunter then moved to an exposed position to draw fire away from his comrades, by engaging more MG 42 positions that were entrenched on the far side of the canal. Anders Lassen a Danish soldier of the SBS was also awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions during Operation Roast on 8 April 1945 at Lake Comacchio.
 
If I recall correct Comacchio Group was named after the action in which Cpl Hunter earned his VC.

The operation started on the evening of 1 April with engagement to start shortly after midnight. The lagoon crossing (marked in advance though not too successfully by Combined Operations Pilotage Party 2 and M Squadron, Special Boat Service), took far longer than planned due to the exceptionally low water level and exceptionally muddy lagoon bottom, which was as deep as chest high. The Commandos struggled through the muddy waste all night, manhandling their boats, and eventually reached the Spit at first light, over 4 hours behind schedule. Exhausted and covered in glutinous slime they pressed home their attacks. Nos. 2, 40 and 43 Commandos all made their objectives relatively as expected although the Germans succeeded in blowing-up one bridge before it was captured by No.2 Commando. No. 9 Commando initially made good progress until No. 5 and No. 6 Troops (especially 5 Troop), became seriously pinned down across a killing ground while attempting to capture the enemy position 'Leviticus', (all physical references were given biblical names in this operation). 1 and 2 Troops made good progress down the centre of the Spit and when advised of the situation of 5 and 6 Troops, bypassed Leviticus in order to turn about. They laid smoke, and conducted a bayonet charge, from the southeast. The German position was overrun despite the smoke clearing too quickly exposing the Commandos during the last 150 metres. Routed German defenders who had fled north, fell into the waiting Bren guns of 6 Troop. The bayonet charge was accompanied by 1 Troop’s piper playing ’The Road to the Isles’.

No.2 Commando captured 115 German prisoners and No. 9 Commando captured 232. No. 9 Commando lost 9 men killed and a further 39 wounded, of which 8 dead and 27 wounded came from No. 5 Troop, over half their number. The operation carried the frontline forward seven miles.

That evening No. 9 and No. 43 Commandos moved up to the bridges on the Bellocchio Canal, held by No.2 Commando. The following day, 3 April, Royal Engineers made serviceable the blown bridge and the Commandos moved over the canal, supported by tanks of the North Irish Horse. No. 2 Commando advanced north on the lagoon side, the western flank, while No.43 Commando moved along the eastern flank, the Adriatic side. No. 9 Commando was placed in reserve, with the intention the commando would execute an attack on Port Garibaldi after the next canal, the Valetta Canal, had been captured.

The north bank of the Valetta was found to be very heavily defended, requiring a full-scale attack, which was later conducted by the 24th Guards Brigade. The respective Commandos cleared all positions up to the Valetta Canal. During this, on the eastern flank, Corporal Thomas Hunter, of No. 43 Commando (RM), earned a posthumous Victoria Cross for conspicuous Gallantry. Hunter single-handedly cleared a farmstead housing three German MG 42s, after charging across 200 metres of open ground firing his Bren gun from the hip. Hunter then moved to an exposed position to draw fire away from his comrades, by engaging more MG 42 positions that were entrenched on the far side of the canal. Anders Lassen a Danish soldier of the SBS was also awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions during Operation Roast on 8 April 1945 at Lake Comacchio.
That’s right. It started off in 1980 as Commachio Company.
 

Robme

LE
Bollocks, not only was Lassen a Dane as stated above, but if you were to class Cpl Hunter as Special Forces then there were seven other Commandos who were awarded the VC, two on Op Chariot alone. However, he was notably the only RM VC of the Second World War.

(Special Service Troops was of course the designation of Commando Forces, not what we today would call SF)
No I didn't class him as anything, that was what the book I have, which classified him as. Yep got the nationality of Lassen wrong. I know nothing of Op. Chariot, so that flew the coup.
However perhaps you could clarify for me, you said that Hunter was the only RM VC of WW2? but then state there were 7 other commandoes also awarded the VC. It has long been established as I recall that Commandoes is the collective noun for Royal marines?
 
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Robme

LE
"Brit. Cpl Labala" "operation storm" Not familiar with either of those, related to Oman. Could you elaborate please?
Tony Jeaps who was CO of 22 SAS Regt at the time has written some excellent books on Op. Storm and Oman. For detailed information try one of them.
S/Sgt Talaiasi Labalaba (not Cpl as I am informed by Wiki), was a member of the BATT located at Mirbat in 1972. 9 members of BATT were attacked by an unknown but significantly larger force of Adoo (estimated to be anything between 500-1,000). Some of the BATT have written their own accounts of the battle, Op. Storm being one of the better ones. Labb as he was known as sprinted around 80mtrs, to take control of the 25-pounder which was maned by local Oman troops who had been routed and engaged the enemy, I am not ex-RA so don't know how many men it normally takes to man a 25-pounder (I am informed 6) but he was on his own (he was later supported by other members of the BATT), he was mortally wounded but continued to engage the Adoo and eventually died. Captain Mike Kealy, a Tpr Tobin and Tpr Sekonaia Takavescame (Tak and Labb were both Fijian) came to his aid Tobin died and Tak was seriously injured. Kealy was awarded the DSO, as a Captain a very rare award, and Labb a Mentioned in Despatches. As previously noted, a bit of a travesty and members of the regiment have for years campaigned to have Labb's award upgraded. The field piece used to be found at Woolwich barracks in London, but I have no idea where it is to be found today.
When I was serving in 1975 in Oman, I managed to make a visit to Mirbat, and saw where the BATT house as well as the fort were located. It was often said that the Adoo with their ancient rifles could shoot the knackers of a fly from any distance, which is what makes what these very brave men so remarkable. S/Sgt Talaiasi Labalaba is buried near the Regimental Plot at the Church in Hereford, i'm not sure about Tobin, as I can't remember. Which in itself is well worth a visit.
 
No I didn't class him as anything, that was what the book I have, which classified him as. Yep got the nationality of Lassen wrong. I know nothing of Op. Chariot, so that flew the coup.
However perhaps you could clarify for me, you said that Hunter was the only RM VC of WW2? but then state there were 7 other commandoes also awarded the VC. It has long been established as I recall that Commandoes is the collective noun for Royal marines?
Assuming this isn’t a ‘wah’, in WW2 the Commandos were drawn from the Army initially, then later the Royal Marines too. The other seven were Army ranks.
 
No I didn't class him as anything, that was what the book I have, which classified him as. Yep got the nationality of Lassen wrong. I know nothing of Op. Chariot, so that flew the coup.
However perhaps you could clarify for me, you said that Hunter was the only RM VC of WW2? but then state there were 7 other commandoes also awarded the VC. It has long been established as I recall that Commandoes is the collective noun for Royal marines?
All Royals are Commandos, but in WWII, the Commandos were not all Royals. The Commandos were raised across all services IIRC. After the war most Commando units were disbanded, leaving only the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade. The modern Royal Marine Commandos, Parachute Regiment, Special Air Service and Special Boat Service trace their origins to the Commandos. There may have been seven other Commandos awarded the VC, but it does not necessarily follow that they were Royals.
 

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