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Brigadier 'Guy' Fawkes
Artillery commander who was awarded the Military Cross for action in the desert campaign
"Guy" Fawkes won the Military Cross operating in front of the Gazala line, to which the Eighth Army had withdrawn after Rommel’s strategic counterstroke of January 1942, and the DSO at the break-in of the Mareth line under Montgomery less than a year later. Both occasions found him in dire circumstances, with heavy casualties to his own artillery battery, and worse to the infantry he was supporting.

Lindsay Valentine Francis Fawkes — “Guy” from his early days in the Army — was educated at Cheltenham and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, from where he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1933. His early service was in India, with 79 Field Battery at Fyzabad, Lucknow and Mhow. He was an instructor at the Gunner Training Centre at Muttra, but claimed a home posting to get into the Second World War. Service with one of the anti-tank regiments hastily formed after Dunkirk was his reward, although he managed to get abroad to Iraq in 1941, the time of the pro-Axis Government of Rashid Ali.

In early 1942 he was commanding an artillery battery of 74 Field Regiment, forward of the Gazala line. It was then customary for British units to operate in the desert in mixed “columns” of tanks, artillery and infantry. It worked when the column had the advantage of ground and superiority in firepower, but seldom otherwise.

On April 9 the column of which his battery provided the artillery was shelled and attacked by a group of German tanks. Three of the four 25-pounder guns of one of his two troops were put out of action and the column suffered serious casualties. To cover the withdrawal of the remainder, he turned to the fourth gun only to find the crew dead or wounded. He fired the gun single-handed until ammunition was exhausted and was the last man to leave the position, having first ensured that his second troop had withdrawn safely. This action won him the MC.

British fortunes in the Western Desert changed dramatically after the battles of Alam Halfa and El Alamein that autumn. By the following March the Eighth Army, commanded by Montgomery, faced the Mareth line, originally built by the French to oppose any Italian venture from Libya into Tunisia. Rommel would have preferred to withdraw northwards to the Wadi Akarit, but Hitler ordered him to stand and fight on the Mareth line.

Montgomery outflanked the line to the left with his two New Zealand Divisions, but also launched a frontal assault to hold the bulk of the German force in place with the intention of cutting them off. Fawkes’s battery was tasked to give fire support for the 8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in the attack across the Wadi Zigzaou. The defenders reacted tenaciously and the Durhams’ CO was killed and the second-in-command severely wounded.

Fawkes, who as the battery commander had been at the CO’s side, went forward to encourage the leading companies, crossed the Wadi under intense enemy fire and established a forward observation force from where he could direct decisively effective fire from his battery. His conduct, which undoubtedly saved the day, was recognised by the award of the DSO.

He continued in command of his battery for the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 before being sent to the wartime staff college at Haifa. He subsequently served on the staff of the 8th Indian Division in Italy until the end of the war in Europe.

He then spent the next few years in artillery staff appointments until the start of the Korean War in June 1950. At that time he was second-in-command of a light anti-aircraft artillery regiment, but he relinquished the appointment to command the 11th (Sphinx) LAA Battery in 27th Independent Infantry Brigade in Korea.

Early 1951 found the American-led UN Force in Korea at a low ebb, having been driven back from the north of the peninsula by the intervention of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. It was not so much the enemy’s numbers, which were certainly daunting, but his aggressive tactics that had proved so successful. The arrival of General Matthew Ridgeway to take over the UN Command provided the essential tonic, and Fawkes led the 11th (Sphinx) battery in support of the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles in the advance north to the Han River, south of the capital, Seoul, in February and March. Later, when the enemy air threat was greatly diminished, the battery was converted to 4.2in mortars to provide close support to the infantry. Fawkes was mentioned in dispatches in recognition of his service in Korea.

With the fighting experience he had acquired, Fawkes was appointed in 1955 to command 33 (Parachute) Light Regiment RA, equipped with the 105mm light gun in support of the 16th Parachute Brigade. The battery accompanied the Parachute Brigade to Cyprus in 1956 at the time of the Suez crisis and took part in the subsequent operations in Egypt. He was appointed OBE in 1957. His final period of active service was in the Far East during Indonesia’s ill-fated confrontation with the Federation of Malaysia in 1962-65.

He was appointed Commander Royal Artillery of the 17th Gurkha Division in 1964, by which time Commonwealth troops amounting to divisional strength were deployed in North Borneo (East Malaysia) to counter Indonesian cross-border incursions. There was also an air threat from the Indonesian Air Force, which actually dropped a small parachute force over peninsular Malaysia in 1965. The campaign ended in 1966 when President Sukarno was replaced and peace restored. Fawkes held two more brigadier’s appointment in the United Kingdom, before leaving the Army in 1968. He held the honorary appointment of ADC to the Queen, 1966-68.

After leaving the service, he forged a second career as a London stockbroker. He married Susan Kemble in 1945. She predeceased him and he is survived by a son and a daughter.

Brigadier L. V. F. Fawkes, DSO, OBE, MC, artillery commander, was born on May 6, 1913. He died on October 3, 2003, aged 90.

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