Historical Uber-Walt

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by cpunk, Sep 30, 2005.

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  1. cpunk

    cpunk LE Moderator

    Reading the fascinating thread in the officers forum about the recently serving Idi Amin lookalike mega-Walt it reminded me of a WW2 British Army officer who must be one of the all time greatest Walts.

    Douglas Berneville Webster Claye was born in Plumstead in 1917, the son of a SSgt RASC (who later commissioned as a QM). He went to local schools and, in 1932, to the Army Apprentices College at Chepstow where he served for three years. He left in 1935 and went to live with his father who had retired from the Army, with an MBE, and gone to Harrogate to run a pub. He helped out at the pub for a while - during which time he got the teenaged cleaner/dogsbody up the duff - and then left to head back south to work as an instructor at a riding school near Thames Ditton. Soon after this he married.

    In 1936, Claye dumped his - now pregnant - wife and headed back north to work as a freelance journalist for the local press in Leeds and stayed there until the war broke out when he volunteered for the RAF and was accepted as an aircrew trainee. In April 1940 he discovered that his current girlfriend was married, went AWOL, entered into a bigamous marriage with her, turned himself in and was discharged for disciplinary reasons (although the bigamy wasn't discovered). After this, he got himself a job in an aircraft factory and joined the Home Guard.

    At this stage, the first genuinely Walt-ish manifestations appeared. Claye borrowed his father's old service dress uniform and took to wearing it around town, with the addition of a set of RAF pilot's wings. In this get up, he was involved in an RTA and, after treatment in hospital, he was sent to an officers' convalescent home to recover. Here he stole another officer's cheque book and, after a police investigation, he was discovered to have obtained the princely sum of £5 10s by deception. He appeared before magistrates and was fined £7 for impersonating an officer but, although he was remanded for trial, the charges were eventually dropped because he had repaid the money he had stolen and agreed to be bound over for two years.

    At this point, he changed his name: Douglas Berneville Webster Claye became the Honourable Douglas St Aubyn Webster Berneville-Claye; and he enlisted as a private soldier in the West Yorkshire Regiment. He didn't stay in the ranks for long. At enlistment, he claimed to have been educated at Charterhouse and to have gained degrees from Magdelen College, Oxford and Emanuel College, Cambridge, and this got him selected for officer training, initially at Pwllheli and later at Sandhurst, where he was commissioned in September 1941. He spent about 6 months with the 11th Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment, and in June 1942 he went out to Egypt.

    There is a slight confusion about his activities in the next few months. He was charged and court-martialled for cheque fraud (again!) but he claimed to be a qualified barrister, represented himself and managed to get acquitted; he supposedly 'inherited' his father's title and became 'the Lord Charlesworth'; and he volunteered for, and was accepted by L detachment of the Special Air Service Brigade, allegedly in some kind of QM role.

    In December 1942, he took part as a member of A Sqn of 1 SAS in a penetration operation in the direction of Tunisia and was captured by a unit of the Afrika Korps. He was quickly removed from North Africa to Italy where he was interrogated, and then sent to a POW camp in northern Italy. After the Italian Armistice, Claye and his fellow inmates were evacuated to Germany and he eventually ended up in Oflag 79 at Braunschweig.

    During 1944, suspicions began to grow amongst the inmates of O79 that they had an informer amongst them. The two likely candidates were Claye and Ronald Seth, an SOE officer who had been parachuted into Latvia and captured there. Both were placed under surveillance by the prisoners, who eventually decided that Claye was the man. Around December 1944, after Oflag 79 had been moved to Fallingbostel, the Senior British Officer informed the Commandant that the prisoners were planning to court-martial and execute an informer and, miraculously, Claye disappeared from the camp.

    Claye's movements over the next few months are hard to follow. He was spotted by other POWs in civilian clothes in Fallingbostel and Hanover but he then dropped out of sight completely. His next appearance was in early March 1945 when, wearing the uniform of an SS-Hauptsturmführer, he was appointed to the staff of the III. (Germanisches) SS-Panzer-Korps at Templin, north east of Berlin. Not surprisingly, this caused something of a sensation amongst the Germans there, and he was immediately invited to dine with SS-Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner, the Corps Commander. During this meal, he explained that, although he was a captain in the Coldstream Guards and a member of the peerage, he was a staunch anti-communist who had volunteered to fight to keep Europe free from communism: he was so convincing that Steiner took him at face value.

    At this time, the final remnant of the so-called British Free Corps was also in the area, having been attached to one of the SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Divisions under the corps, and Steiner decided to send Claye to take charge of them. Claye spent some time with them, but obviously decided that enough was enough, and taking one of the Brits as a batman and driver, and 'borrowing' a Kübelwagen from the corps Headquarters, made off west. After dumping his German uniform, Claye changed back into battledress and gave himself up to a British Airborne unit some where west of Schwerin.

    Clearly Claye should now have been deep in the sh1te but somehow he managed to talk his way out of it. The ex-prisoners at O79 didn't have any hard evidence that Claye had been an informer - just a strong circumstantial case - and MI5 couldn't find any proof that Claye had volunteered for the Waffen-SS. His story was that he had escaped from his camp on his own, and had been lent a uniform by a woman with whom he had hidden, before bluffing his way around northern Germany. Evidence from the British Free Corps soldiers, who had by now all been captured, was deemed too tainted to stand up in court. He was sent back to the UK as a free man (albeit one with a two volume MI5 personal file!) and appointed acting Captain, and adjutant of a POW camp in Yorkshire.

    His subsequent career was no less bizarre, if less dramatic. He was court-martialled again for wearing the ribbon of the DSO, which he claimed to have been told he had been awarded, for which he was demoted to 2Lt and lost seniority; he was court-martialled for having an improper relationship with an ATS driver and finally was court-martialled for theft of army property which got him cashiered and imprisoned. At around this time he decided to get married again and his bigamy was also discovered.

    After his release from prison he largely dropped out of sight. He appeared as a witness for the defence at the trial of Brian Hume for the murder of Stanley Setty in 1950 (Hume was acquitted of murder but covicted as an accessory) and then surfaced again in a village near Hemel Hempstead in the late 1950s, where he got a management job with Rank-Xerox and played the role of an ex-Guards officer 'squire', riding to hounds, chairing village committees and so on; he also used to wear a somewhat expanded row of medals at Remembrance parades, including an MC. This came to an end when he dumped his family and took off with the wife of one of his colleagues. This didn't last and his own wife took him back, after which the family emigrated to Australia.

    Down under, Claye worked for a while as a radio announcer but eventually got a job as a teacher at a school in New South Wales. By now, the DSO had reappeared and the SAS loomed large, even so he seems to have been a success. He got cancer and died in the mid-70s and the school still has a 'Douglas Berneville-Claye' prize for outstanding achievement.

    Which is not bad for a Walt!
  2. Wow Cpunk - This'd make a great film script! Not unlike the Percy Toplis saga of the Great War!
  3. You've got to admire his balls.
  4. He probably had three.
  5. what a fuc*ing Walt legend!! Definate grounds for a film there!
  6. Just the sort of bloke you want in the corner of your local boozer! Definate uber-walt
  7. You see, some Walts are just pathetic wanna-be's who don't even deserve pity. But this does proove that there are one or two that are so impressive in what they have the face to even try and get away with, that they are truly spectacular and really deserve a lot of respect.
  8. Im sorry to ask this but what is a "uber-walt" ? :?:
  9. For those who would like the book (before the septics make it into a film with an American hero singlehandedly saving Europe etc)

    ALL MY FATHERS CHILDREN by Margaret Metcalfe is subtitled ‘A Personal Journey’ and tells the story of her search for the truth about her father Dougas Webster Berneville-Claye. He is listed in our record books as Lt D W St.A Berneville-Claye of the West Yorkshire Regiment, prisoner of war number 35300 and resident at Oflag 79 at Braunschweig. We believe he was serving with the Special Air Service when he was taken prisoner in December 1942. What our records did not tell us was that he later donned the black uniform of Himmlers SS and was actually seen dressed as such on a railway platform by one of our members. Margaret has gone to a great deal of trouble to discover the true story. In her book she describes hardship and endurance, triumph over adversity, love and betrayal, loyalty and friendship, courage and defiance as well as treachery in wartime. She has had to confront and relive painful memories from her childhood and was to discover fascinating and shocking details about the handsome, but flawed character who was her natural father. Self-published in softcover, 276 pages plus photo section. ISBN No 0-9542848-0-1. Copies can be ordered direct from Mrs Margaret Stoll at ‘Foxhaven’ 19 Rochefort Drive, Rochford, Essex SS4 1HT price £12 plus postage.

    From the National Ex-POW Assoc,
  10. What a marvelous and entertaining story. It's one of those you just can't make up, innit?

  11. We need a Walt league. With Idi and this nutter, we should be able to grow the list.
  12. There's an Australian website (lost the URL) that 'outs' walts that say they were in a particular unit but weren't or are seen wearing meddles they haven't earned. Why don't we have the same kind of thing? Wipe out the pathetic type of Walt as they fold at the first bit of evidence that they are faced with. The Uber-Walts however will be given the oppertunity to really show that they can squirm out of tight corners.
  13. P-P - Is this the site?


    Cpunk - Terrific story - very well told if I may say so?


  14. We can get decorated for interfering in other peoples' business?????
  15. Sort of magnet fur die untermenschen.......