Historical Uber-Walt


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!
Wow Cpunk - This'd make a great film script! Not unlike the Percy Toplis saga of the Great War!
what a fuc*ing Walt legend!! Definate grounds for a film there!


War Hero
Just the sort of bloke you want in the corner of your local boozer! Definate uber-walt
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.
LARD said:
Just the sort of bloke you want in the corner of your local boozer! Definate uber-walt
Im sorry to ask this but what is a "uber-walt" ? :?:
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,
What a marvelous and entertaining story. It's one of those you just can't make up, innit?

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.
Plant-Pilot said:
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.
P-P - Is this the site?


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


Plant-Pilot said:
wearing meddles they haven't earned
We can get decorated for interfering in other peoples' business?????
JOB_LOT said:
LARD said:
Just the sort of bloke you want in the corner of your local boozer! Definate uber-walt
Im sorry to ask this but what is a "uber-walt" ? :?:
Sort of magnet fur die untermenschen.......
rickshaw said:
JOB_LOT said:
LARD said:
Just the sort of bloke you want in the corner of your local boozer! Definate uber-walt
Im sorry to ask this but what is a "uber-walt" ? :?:
Sort of magnet fur die untermenschen.......
Sorry, feeling a little more fatuous than usual today. Even at the risk of wah/wah2, replace uber with ultra and you have it. I suppose to be really pompous you could drag in the German philosopher Nietsche (Sp?) who developed the concept of man and super man ..... and then those nice German National socialists who took certain elements of that concept to add to their own rather bizarre construct of the master race...... Gawd, its been a boring, boring and more than usually depressing sort of day today. I think I'll go and stand on my head in the corner for a while.......toodle ooh.
seems there are 2 types of walts,
the the really weak and pathetic types who only gets caught time and time again through holes found in his story, deserved to be ridiculed and laughed out of the pub

and the Uber walt, who seemed to get away with and thats only cos they have the gift of the gab and charm. people wuld whisper that guy got "balls and front" if he gets away with it , if caught however same treatment as pathetic walt gets.
Though this man's waltishness isn't anywhere near as breathtaking as Claye's career, here's a naval one, and yes, he has had a movie made about him. Here's two articles, sorry for the cut and paste.

He was the Great Imposter, and his exploits became a bestselling biography, followed by a 1961 movie. Bold, downright audacious, Ferdinand Waldo Demara pretended his way into challenges that would leave others drenched in sweat.

He didn't choose small deceptions. He was often drawn to situations in which discovery was quite dangerous to him. The danger itself seemed to whet his appetite for life on the edge. Consider these:

# He faked his way into becoming a surgeon in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Korean War.
# He doctored credentials and bamboozled interviewers so that he became a guidance counselor in an American maximum security prison.
# With a phony PhD he taught applied psychology at a Pennsylvania college.
# The list doesn't end there. He was also civil engineer, sheriff's deputy, assistant prison warden, hospital orderly, lawyer, child-care expert, and Trappist monk, editor, cancer researcher. These are only some of his roles.

In the Royal Canadian Navy, his role as physician Joseph Cyr was perhaps his most challenging. He performed risky operations at sea during the Korean war. Under severe battle conditions, he worked on patients needing tooth extraction, amputation, and a bullet removed from a lung. He was blessed with keen intelligence and a photographic memory, and before the operations he retreated to his quarters, intensely studying medical books. He also administered heavy doses of penicillin to guard against patients' infections. Eventually the Canadian Navy learned of his false identity but didn't doubt his credentials as a physician. The ship's captain, whose tooth Demara extracted, was among those attesting to his character. He was discharged honorably.

Did he lie and defraud because of an amoral personality? No, strangely, his quest was partly spiritual. A faithful Roman Catholic, as a boy he had fallen in love with the Catholic church and its trappings. He mouthed the names of priestly vestments, Amice, Alb, Cincture, Maniple, Chasuble, and dreamed some day of becoming a bishop. When feeling troubled or in need, he prayed with different words, those describing a bishop's clothing: miter, gloves, ring, surplice, cassock, tunic.

His life of course took a different direction, though he did pretend to be a Trappist monk who had sworn to vows of silence. This, because he desperately wanted to live the pious life of a monastic. How did a man who would turn from the tranquil world instead assume some highly tense roles?

He also sought respectability, however temporary. He seems to have been conflicted, wanting peace on the one hand while seeking power and authority on the other. He entered monasteries, desperate for a pious life, only to be kicked out because of his troublesome behavior. The rejection sent him seeking elsewhere, this time for the respect and attention he craved, which came from positions of authority.

This craving seems the key to understanding him, and is illustrated by one situation which combined both aspects of his personality, the spiritual and the cynical, the would-be contemplative and the arrogant anti-authoritarian.

The situation. Although he finished only the ninth grade, he faked his way into graduate theology courses, and earned straight A's in them. Of that experience he

# "I knew I could do it but I had to have it proven to me. That experience really changed me. No matter how I might feel I still can't work up any respect for acquired learning. I can for character but not learning. A man with a good mind who trusts it can learn anything he needs to know in a few months."
# Certainly his achievement is remarkable, but he took theology, not graduate physics courses, and he assumed that "acquired learning" is falsely based on the authority of institutions, which he sees fit to unmask as so much pretentiousness.

He strikes an interesting contrast between character and learning, as if they are distinct attributes. He disdained scholarship almost as if it called into question the character of the professor, which is strange, twisted logic. His conception of character is curiously unfortunate: the man behind a mask has less suspect character than the fellow without a mask. It seems he would undermine authority while seeking it himself.

Given the pretension he saw in the world, he became a pretender, somebody who put the lie to authority by showing how easily it can be assumed as prison warden, surgeon, or whatever. Demara observed that

# "In any organization, there's a lot of unused power laying around which can be picked up without alienating anyone."
# "If you want power and want to expand, never encroach on anyone else's domain; open up new ones."

Demara operated under two cardinal rules:

# The burden of proof is on the accuser.
# When in danger, attack. For example, after being accused of a forgery, he explained "The ordinary faker would at least try to explain his way out at best. But I managed to plant a doubt, and once there was that doubt, for the time being, at least, the moral advantage was on my side. So I was outraged, of course." By the time anyone's suspicions became serious, Demara was off to his next role.

He offers simple advice for the aspiring imposter:

# [Use an] innocent bumpkin opening [and] ask such simple and naïve questions that the person would have to have an especially dismal view of humanity in order to figure this was the first step of chicanery.
# Always use the biggest names [because] people are reluctant to bother important people on routine matters. And they don't suspect a fraud to use obvious names.

The irony is that Demara could exploit basic human decency while regarding this as a test of his character.

At least two books were written about Demara: The Great Imposter, by Robert Crichton and The Rascal and The Road, a sequel also by Crichton. A film, The Great Imposter (1962) appeared with Tony Curtis as the fraud. Demara believed himself slighted by Crichton's rendering of his life and planned an autobiography, but he died, lonely and deeply depressed, of a heart attack on 8 June 1982 at age 59. Dr John Zane, a friend and physician, said of Demara that he died a "broken man who felt his talents were wasted."

At the time of his death he was employed as a hospital priest in California.


In the fall of 1951, a lady glancing through her daily newspaper inadvertently unmasked one the most unusual deceptions in Canadian naval history.

She was the mother of a doctor, Joseph Cyr, who was practicing medicine in Grand Falls, New Brunswick. To her astonishment, she read an account of an emergency operation performed on the deck of a Canadian destroyer off the coast of Korea—apparently by her son. She contacted Doctor Cyr, who, after reassuring his mother he was indeed still in civilian practice, called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. A bizarre story unfolded.Ferdinand Waldo ("Fred") Demara

It began in early 1951, when an American named Ferdinand Waldo ("Fred") Demara entered Canada and became a Novitiate monk in Grand Falls. For more than a decade Demara had held positions in a number of religious orders, and as a psychologist, university lecturer, college department head, school teacher, and prison warden. Despite this impressive employment record, Demara—later to become famous as "The Great Imposter"—had obtained and held these posts on the basis of forged, stolen or nonexistent qualifications.

Demara became friendly with Doctor Cyr, and often visited the latter's offices. Eventually the visits ceased.

In March of 1951, a Doctor Cyr appeared at the Naval recruiting office in Saint John, N.B., and offered his professional services to the Royal Canadian Navy.

He hinted that if the navy couldn't use him, the Army or RCAF would be glad to accept him. At this stage of the Korean War and with Canada's new NATO commitments, qualified medical officers were desperately needed by all three services, and no time was lost in processing this valuable recruit.

"Cyr's" credentials were accepted without verification, and three days after his visit to the recruiting centre, he was commissioned into the RCN as a Surgeon-Lieutenant. The normal two-month enlistment process took about one day.

Had a thorough background investigation been conducted, the authorities would no doubt have discovered that "Doctor Joseph Cyr" was none other than the ubiquitous Fred Demara, whose medical experience was limited to a few weeks as an unskilled hospital orderly in the United States.

The bogus doctor was assigned to the naval hospital at HMCS Stadacona in the Halifax area. Retired naval Captain "Mack" Lynch, who was a department head in Stadacona at the time, recalls "Cyr" appeared to be a fairly competent medical officer, and a pleasant enough individual, although not a great mixer. Captain Lynch remembers that Cyr showed a great deal of interest in adapting aircrew selection psychophysical test methods (which Lynch had taken in World War II) as a naval screening procedure.

"Cyr's" hospital patients apparently survived his ministrations by a combination of generous use of penicillin, referral or consultation with other medical officers and, no doubt, a combination of physical fitness and sheer luck!

This idyllic existence ended on 15th June, 1951 when "Cyr" joined HMCS Cayuga in Esquimalt, B.C—leaving three days later for the destroyer's second tour of duty in Korean waters.

"Surgeon-Lieutenant Cyr" managed to cope effectively with the few minor injuries and ailments which occurred en route to the war zone. He was fortunate in that he had a capable Sick Berth Attendant, P.O. Bob Hotchin, who handled most of the routine cases. The petty officer was surprised, and indeed gratified, by the way in which he was allowed to work with a minimum of direction and interference from his medical officer.

"Cyr's" biggest challenge came when he was forced to act as a dentist. His patient was none other than the Cayuga's commander, Captain James Plomer. In the rush to prepare his ship for her return to Korea, Captain Plomer had no time to obtain treatment for an infected tooth, which became a problem during the westward voyage.

The bogus doctor, highly perturbed, feverishly studied his manuals and racked his brain to recall any dental surgery that he had witnessed in the past. He eventually gained the courage to collect his dental gear, a large supply of anesthetic and make his way to the captain's cabin.

After administering a hefty dose of local anesthetic, "Cyr" successfully removed the offending tooth, and by all reports, Captain Plomer had no further trouble with it. His confidence no doubt restored, the bogus doctor continued to handle routine shipboard injuries and minor ailments as Cayuga entered the war zone.

On arrival off the west coast of Korea, Cayuga and her crew became involved in operations that smacked more of the "gunboat diplomacy" of the nineteenth century than the traditional picture of naval warfare. Captain Don Saxon, who was a lieutenant-commander at the time, recalls that the Canadian vessels would take part in commando-type operations against enemy-occupied islands. Selected members of the ships' crews would accompany members of U.S. or Korean Marines ashore and with their weapons and demolition charges generally create "alarm and despondency" in enemy circles. While our own casual ties were light, the amount of "hairiness" involved was evidenced by a number of gallantry awards, including a Distinguished Service Cross for Saxon.

One of these "commando" raids led to Demara's unmasking.

Following a highly successful foray off the West coast of Korea, the only three seriously-wounded casualties—all South Korean guerillas—were brought back to Cayuga. One apparently had a bullet embedded in his lung. He was operated upon on the spot by the ship's medical officer, by all accounts successfully, although no one ever saw the bullet which was supposedly extracted. (Other reports indicate that "Cyr" also amputated a foot during those naval operations.) Whatever his qualifications, it would appear that the patients survived the attentions of the bogus doctor.

Unfortunately for the masquerade, news from Korea was scarce at that time. A pair of war correspondents snapped up the story of the "open deck" surgery—the account found its way into Canadian papers, and the real Doctor Cyr began asking questions.

He remembers that his medical credentials were missing, but attributed the fact to a recent move. He also recalled that "Brother John"—Demara—disappeared at the same time.

Eventually, in October 1951, Captain Plomer received a signal to the effect that his medical officer was an unqualified imposter. He found this hard to believe, as in the opinion of the ship's officers, "Cyr" was a capable and popular doctor. Another message received the following day removed all doubts, and "Dr. Cyr" was transferred to a British cruiser RMS Ceylon, for transfer to Japan and subsequently to Canada.

Lieutenant Commander Saxon, with another officer, was detailed to search the doctor's cabin, and found letters and other documents which confirmed the imposter, Demera—there was no question of his identity by this time— had apparently taken an overdose of drugs that day. Whether or not this was a suicidal attempt is questionable, although Captain Plomer felt that it was.

On arrival in Canada, Demara appeared before a naval board of enquiry. There appears to be no record of disciplinary proceedings, and service records indicate that "Cyr" was given an honourable release and several hundred dollars in back pay. He left Canada (some reports indicate that he was deported) and returned to the religious field, eventually becoming a bona-fide clergyman under his own name.

John Melady, author of Korea, Canada's Forgotten War, recalls a telephone interview in which Demara "Had good things to say about Canada, the Canadian Navy and the officers and men he knew on the Cayuga." Demara supposedly participated in a Cayuga reunion in Victoria in 1979. The Reverend Ferdinand Waldo Demara died in 1982.

One minor deception remained as a result of Demara's escapade. In 1961 Hollywood made a movie, The Great Imposter, starring Tony Curtis in the title role. "He was nothing like the real thing", chuckled Don Saxon. "Cyr", as we knew him, was a pretty chunky 200-pounder—nothing at all like Curtis. And Edmond O'Brien was just as much out of place in the role of Captain Plomer."

Captain Plomer was listed in the film credits as "technical adviser" but Saxon feels that his "technical advice" was not always heeded. "I noted the incongruity of a Canadian naval board of enquiry consisting of a group of officers properly clad in RCN uniforms with every member sporting a black pencil moustache.

In one case, apparently, Commodore Plomer had his way. He was able to ensure that the correct hull number was used for his ship. This generated a deception which Demara would surely have enjoyed.

Cayuga (Hull number 218) was on the east coast—the film crew was working out of Esquimalt British Columbia. As George Guertin, a naval veteran of the Korean War, recalls, "In 1961 1 was out west on HMCS Athabaskan. We got an unusual order to 'paint ship'. A bunch of us had to close up the '9' on our side number to make out '219' read '218'. We were told that it was something to do with a movie. When we saw The Great Imposter we realized that there were really two imposters, Demara and Athabaskan..
There was a chap called Scott peake who is probably best described as a McWalt -though he did invent a military background.

This chap was a Londoner from Catford who pretended to be a battlefield archeologist aned ex QueensOwn Highlander Officer from the Wesstern Isles of Scotalnd. He blagged his way to teaching classics at the Dollar Academy, a scottish private schoiol as well as becoming the Secretary of the Saltire society and the Battlefields Trusts regional organiser for Scotland.

He was a very good lecturer. I heard him talk about Scottish military history and put a very plausible and amusing explanaation for Scotland and its military heros. He taught classics to the childern of friends who attended to the Dollar academy -and he was a good classics teacher.

Revealed as a McWalt by the tabloids he disappeared from view. The puzzling thing is why did he bother? He was clearly a talented individual who ought to have been able to be a good teacher. I can understand why someone might invent a glamourous past -but a scots one?????
I see that cpmh in Australia has got another mention. They now have blokes attending Anzac Day services with cameras to catch out the walts, and are contemplating starting a seperate SAS section of their website due to the demand. As the Brit army has been engaged in more active service, do you have more walts, and do you have a comparable organisation to deal with them?
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