Military (& related) obituaries

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Hubert Germain, who has died aged 101, was the last living Compagnon de la Libération, one of the 1,032 men and six women honoured by Charles de Gaulle as the symbolic heroes of the Second World War.
He was born on August 6 1920 in the fashionable 16th arrondissement of Paris, but spent much of his childhood trailing around outposts of the French empire, from Damascus to Hanoi, following the fortunes of his soldier father.

This gypsy life led to a teenage rebellion and by 1934, when Maxime Germain returned to Paris to join the staff of the minister of war, Marshal Philippe Pétain, h
is impetuous son had managed to get himself expelled from some of the most prestigious lycées in France.
The young man’s life was eventually formed by the French defeat of 1940. On the day the Germans entered the undefended capital city, Hubert – a 19-year-old cadet at the naval college in Bordeaux – was sitting his final exams. He decided to hand in a blank sheet of paper to avoid having to join a service under German control.

Four days later the concierge of his lodgings told him that she had heard a French general in London broadcasting an appeal on the radio for the French to fight on. He managed to get aboard a British cargo ship, the Arandora Star, leaving Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and disembarked in Liverpool with hundreds of Polish soldiers who had also managed to escape.

Germain was at first posted to a French naval force sheltering in Portsmouth, but on July 3 1940, following the Royal Navy’s destruction of the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir, his ship was commandeered by the British government and the French crew was repatriated.

None the less, on July 7 Germain was among 500 French soldiers and sailors who paraded at the exhibition hall at Olympia, west London, to be inspected by General de Gaulle.

Germain retrained as a soldier under the command of General Paul Gentilhomme, who happened to be his godfather and who had been military governor of the French colony of Somalia. When Gentilhomme decided to abandon Vichy and join the Free French he was replaced by another general, Maxime Germain, Hubert’s father, who, loyal to Pétain, had obeyed the order to surrender.

The family rift became even deeper in 1941 when Hubert Germain was sent to Syria to join the bitter struggle between French Vichy forces and Gaullists determined to gain control of the French protectorate. Casualties from both sides were taken to the same military hospital in Damascus and placed in separate wards. But British sentries had to be posted at night to prevent the French wounded from continuing the battle inside the hospital and attempting to kill each other.

Following the Gaullist victory in Syria, Germain was sent to Cairo, where he volunteered in February 1942 to join the Foreign Legion, part of the 1st Free French Brigade commanded by General Pierre Koenig, which was fighting in Libya beside the 8th Army.

In May and June, Germain’s battalion (the 13e demi-brigade) formed part of the garrison at Bir Hakeim which held off Rommel’s forces for two weeks, inflicting heavy casualties despite being outnumbered by as many as 10 to one.

When the garrison ran out of ammunition and water Koenig led the legionnaires in a successful break-out; more than 2,000 men were saved, and when the battle was over Lieutenant Germain was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

In 1943 Germain’s unit took part in the second battle of El Alamein and the liberation of Tunis, and in May 1944 he was seriously wounded at the Battle of Monte Cassino, after which he was nominated for the Ordre de la Libération.

In July the 1st Free French Division took part in the allied landings in Provence, and liberated Toulon. The exhilaration of returning to France, however, was wrecked for Germain by the state of the country that had been under enemy occupation for four years and was now terrorised by kangaroo courts and lynch mobs.
Marching his company towards the battlefields through the villages of the Midi, he was appalled when able-bodied civilians drinking in the shade raised their glasses to applaud the foreign legionnaires, while his men asked: “But aren’t they going to join us?” The mayor of one commune in Alsace, liberated after hard fighting, offered to sell water to Germain’s colonial troops. It was these memories that caused him to say after the war: “I fought for France, not for the French.”

In 1940 Germain’s father, General Maxime Germain, had been awarded the Légion d’honneur for persuading the Somali administration to side with Vichy. But in 1943 he had been dismissed from the army by an ungrateful Pétain. He was subsequently arrested by the Gestapo and – suspected of lacking commitment to Vichy – deported to Czechoslovakia, where he was held as a potential hostage.

On his return in 1945 his son welcomed him at Cannes railway station with a military guard of honour, but the general was a broken man. He had started adult life as a graduate of the elite Polytechnique, and he felt that in obeying Pétain’s orders in 1940 he had made an irretrievable error. All his son’s efforts to comfort him failed to overcome the general’s sense of dishonour, and he remained silent and inconsolable until his death in 1953.

By then Hubert had married Simone Millon (they eventually had three children) and abandoned a career with the Cinzano vermouth company. Instead, he embarked on a modest political adventure as mayor of the little commune of Saint-Chéron, to the south of Paris.

In 1958 he was elected to the National Assembly as one of the Right-wing deputies swept in when France voted to accept the constitution of the Fifth Republic with de Gaulle as an executive head of state.

Germain eventually became a minister in all three of the governments led by Pierre Messmer, between 1972 and 1974. Messmer had been with him in the Foreign Legion at Bir Hakeim and El Alamein, and the two men had been among the earliest supporters of de Gaulle’s political resurrection.

As minister for posts and telecommunications Germain initiated the replacement of France’s ancient telephone system with one of the most modern in Europe. In 1975, as his political career came to an end, he emerged as a freemason and was initiated into the Grande Loge de France, quickly rising to the rank of grand master. Prior to his death he was living as a pensioner in the military hospital of Les Invalides. In June 2020 Germain, aged 100, was appointed honorary MBE.

As the last of the Compagnons de la Libération, Germain will be buried at the fortress of Mont-Valérien, outside Paris, the national shrine to the French who fought on in 1940. The fort’s moat was the principal site used by the German army during the war to execute hostages and resisters.

Hubert Germain, born August 6 1920, died October 12 2021
 
Well worth a read.
Possibly one of the finest Obits I have seen for a while. He was even Returned to his Unit by Lt Col Blair “Paddy” Mayne, CO of 1st SAS Regiment!

Stanley Perry, troop commander who survived a sniper’s bullet and a mortar bomb in ferocious fighting after the Normandy landings – obituary​

He had a narrow escape when shrapnel was slowed up by a wallet in the breast pocket of his battledress, a present from his wife

Stan Perry

Stan Perry
Stanley Perry, who has died aged 97, served with the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry (SRY) and saw some of the fiercest fighting in the Second World War.
The SRY, part of 8th Armoured Brigade, landed on Gold Beach, Normandy, on D-Day, June 6 1944. They were equipped with swimming Sherman tanks fitted with canvas flotation screens and propellers driven by the tank’s engine.
Perry commanded No 4 Troop, C Squadron. Two months later, in mid-August, he was involved in his Regiment’s attempt to navigate the River Noireau and climb through steep, wooded hills and capture the Berjou Ridge.
Lieutenant-Colonel Stanley Christopherson, his commanding officer, had to find out whether the river could be crossed and Perry was ordered to make a night reconnaissance.
Crawling through thick bocage, accompanied by an infantryman and a sapper, he came across a German machine-gun post. The infantryman was armed with a Sten gun and wanted to attack it. “Not bloody likely,” Perry told him, “that would tell the Germans we’re here.” They crept around the post and discovered that the bridge had been destroyed.

The river, however, was not more than a few feet deep and easily fordable. On their return journey, they knocked out the enemy post with Mills bombs. Perry reported to his CO and got into his sleeping bag at two o’clock in the morning.
An hour later, he was shaken awake and told that the SRY had to be over the river at first light and that his troop was to lead the way. Shortly after he set off, he came across a dead sapper who had been blown up on a mine.
A sapper officer told him that they were still clearing a minefield and he should halt until they had finished. But Perry had his orders. His troop followed in his tank tracks and they crossed the river without loss.
As his tank climbed up the opposite bank, a rocket from a Panzerfaust carried away his aerial and he lost all wireless contact. Shortly afterwards, his corporal’s tank was hit by a mortar bomb and he was blown out of the turret. His sergeant dismounted from his tank and was running across to help the wounded man when he was mown down by a machine gun.
Both were killed.
Stan Perry's troop of tanks, early 1945, during the advance to the Rhine's troop of tanks, early 1945, during the advance to the Rhine

Stan Perry's troop of tanks, early 1945, during the advance to the Rhine
A few moments later, Perry was hit by a sniper’s bullet and lost the use of an arm. Then steering was lost because a Panzerfaust rocket jammed one of the tank tracks.
Somehow, they managed to return to the river. The bridge had been repaired and they got back to the squadron HQ. A medic took one look at Perry and called for a full medical team. He had to be evacuated at once.
Back in England, he was on a hospital train which had halted for an hour when he spotted a nearby pub. He was heavily bandaged, but could walk a little and managed to make his way there.
He ordered a pint of beer and put his hand in his pocket to pay for it. The landlord said: “Are you insulting me, sir?”
“No,” replied Perry, “I’m paying for my pint.”
“You’re not paying for beer in here,” said the landlord, and a few moments later there were five pints lined up on the counter.
Stanley Arthur Perry was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, on November 8 1923. His father worked in a factory processing sugar beet. Young Stan won a scholarship to Culford School. Aged 12, he started playing rugby. He played until he was 42 and represented RMA Sandhurst and the Army.
His parents were devout Christians and on Sundays he attended church four times. One night a week he manned the warden’s First Aid post and once the bombing started he was called out to help with the casualties.
He gained a scholarship to read Mathematics at Cambridge but enlisted in the Army instead. He had wanted to serve with the RAF as an air gunner but was persuaded to join the Young Soldiers Training Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, at Bovington, Dorset.
An American medical unit was experimenting with a new drug. Perry and fellow “volunteers” were injected with a mumps serum. They developed jaundice, but being looked after by attractive nurses provided some consolation.
He applied for a commission, passed the War Office Selection Board and went to RMA Sandhurst in autumn 1941.
Matt Busby, who subsequently managed Manchester United and was knighted, was a PT instructor there. Busby took his charges on a six-mile cross-country run every morning. He used to lead and, at regular intervals, would turn around and say: “I’ll sweat the beer out of you idle beggars.”
Perry was trained on Valentine, Matilda and Churchill tanks. The course included instruction in gunnery, wireless telegraphy and the principles of commanding a tank crew. In summer 1942 he was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment, but to his considerable disappointment he was posted to a north country training depot, nominally as motor transport officer but actually sports officer.
Perry applied to transfer to the SAS and was accepted. He completed a parachute course at Ringway, Manchester, and was posted to Egypt. He was interviewed by Johnny Cooper but the two men did not take to each other. During a heated argument, Perry struck Cooper. He was posted back to his unit at Darvel, Ayrshire, where Lt Col Blair “Paddy” Mayne, CO of 1st SAS Regiment, gave him the choice of facing a court martial for striking a superior officer or finding another regiment.
Mayne covered up the affair, and when Perry applied to join the SRY he was accepted. In the training for D-Day he went to Portsmouth, where he practised escaping from a submerged tank, a task made more difficult by the fact that he had never learnt to swim.
His tank crew talked about him, sometimes disparagingly, using slang to disguise the meaning. But he was a linguist and quickly learnt the language and used it to tell them off. They were abashed, but it was the beginning of a close relationship.
During the Battle of Normandy, the SRY were in action for 55 days and lost 200 men killed or wounded. Perry was wounded several times. On the second occasion, his life was saved by a wallet that his wife had given him. Shrapnel from a mortar bomb which would have killed him pierced the wallet in the breast pocket of his battledress and lodged in the wall of his heart.
There were other narrow escapes. As he was leading his troop through a village, a length of wire strung across the street caught him in the throat. He shouted to his driver to stop and just managed to free himself in time.
He often dismounted when going along narrow roads in villages. There was always the danger of someone lobbing a grenade from an upper window into the turret.
Other hazards were less easily avoided. Perry met a Frenchman on the outskirts of a village. The man said he believed that almost all the Germans had left, but he pointed to a house and said that there might still be enemy soldiers there.
Perry had his pistol and took his gunner, who was armed with a Sten. They went to the house. Perry kicked in the door. He saw a movement inside and shot. He hit the grandfather clock.
On the table was a full bottle of wine with the cork drawn and a glass beside it. The gunner was reaching for it when Perry shouted: “Stop!” He had spotted some wiring under the table. The bottle was connected to a deadly anti-personnel device.
After he was repatriated following the battle for Berjou, he was treated at Baguley Hospital at Wythenshawe in Manchester, where he met Lisa Berg. After he had recovered, he had a week’s embarkation leave and the two got married.
Perry then rejoined the SRY near Maastricht and, in mid-January 1945, as his Regiment prepared to attack Heinsberg to the north-east, he was returning to his tank after an O Group when he heard the screeching of incoming rockets from a Nebelwerfer. He dived for cover but was hit by shrapnel in the face, arm, chest and leg.
He was sent to an American hospital in Brussels and when he regained consciousness he found a replica Purple Heart on the locker beside his bed. An American clergyman came to his bedside to present him with the award but when he found out that Perry was serving with a British regiment, he took it back again.
Perry was on the danger list for several weeks. He became addicted to morphine and drifted in and out of consciousness. A GI came and asked him if he had any last wishes. Perry said he would like some pineapple juice and the next day two dozen cans of tinned pineapple arrived.
Back in England, he was operated on by a chest surgeon. It was found that he had shrapnel in his lung and pieces of his ribs were removed. He was medically downgraded and after returning to duty in December 1945, he was made adjutant of a PoW camp holding 3,000 German prisoners. He finished his service in the rank of captain.
Perry subsequently moved to Denmark, and for the next three years he worked for a company making coated paper. There was high unemployment in the country, and when his work permit expired he returned to England and worked for Unilever.
He finally retired in 1994, but he was the church treasurer of the village of Holton le Moor, Lincolnshire, until he died. In 2015 he was presented with the Légion d’honneur.
Stan Perry married, in 1944, Anne-Lise (Lisa) Berg. She predeceased him and he is survived by their son and two daughters.
Stanley Perry, born November 8 1923, died October 6 2021

He is well remembered in Al Pub owner and Phil holland - We have Ways of making you talk

I am going to bed now
 

What an epitaph - Quiet and modest and greatly loved in the community, Robinson delivered some 2,000 babies in the Cotswolds – which, he hoped, “balanced the books” against those he had killed in wartime.

Derek ‘Robbie’ Robinson, naval Seafire pilot who flew dive-bombing missions in the Mediterranean, Aegean and the south of France – obituary​

After one forced landing he became known as ‘Wreck ’em Robinson’, but he was hailed for his zeal, efficiency and his ‘excellent talents’
Robinson during advanced flying training in Canada: ‘I was a young chap loving it,’ he recalled of that time. ‘I revelled in it. Everybody had these wonderful, wonderful, expensive machines to fly’

Robinson during advanced flying training in Canada: ‘I was a young chap loving it,’ he recalled of that time. ‘I revelled in it. Everybody had these wonderful, wonderful, expensive machines to fly’
Derek “Robbie” Robinson, who has died aged 99, was a wartime naval pilot who flew the Seafire and thought it “simply the best”.
For most of 1944, Robinson flew Seafires of 807 Naval Air Squadron from the escort carrier Hunter, including during Allied amphibious landings in the Mediterranean. In June and July, he was loaned, along with his personal aircraft – side number 313 – to 92 Squadron RAF (attached to the carrier Formidable) which, with a mixed aircrew of Canadians, New Zealanders, Poles and South Africans, was operating from newly captured airstrips in Italy and advancing with the 8th Army.
Most of Robinson’s sorties were dive-bombing missions: “I started the dive from 8,000 feet, and dived, I suppose, about 60 degrees, although it felt steeper – you couldn’t rely on instruments at all, so it was entirely looking and watching. When you estimated about 3,000 feet, pull the nose up, and as you pull the nose through the target, let the bomb go.”


On June 29 he flew three sorties in a fighter role, escorting Baltimore bombers to attack the marshalling yards at Cesena, outside Ravenna, when the Luftwaffe counter-attacked using 12 Messerschmitt Bf 109s and eight Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters. A running dogfight ensued, lasting more than half an hour and continuing from the target area to the sea south of Ancona.
The fight opened with Robinson and his leader being jumped by several aircraft, but they managed to extricate themselves, and later Robinson shared with Sub-Lieutenant J V Morris (also of 807 NAS) in the damage of one Me 109 and one FW 190.
On July 7 1944, Robinson’s Seafire was destroyed on the ground by shrapnel after another aircraft landed while still armed with a 500lb bomb.
The aircraft carrier Formidable, to which Robinson was seconded in 1944

The aircraft carrier Formidable, to which Robinson was seconded in 1944
“A great friend of mine landed with a bomb still underneath him, and it came off and bounced alongside him and then blew up,” he recalled. “And do you know, there wasn’t a scrap, there wasn’t a centimetre of material anywhere. Just totally molecularised the plane completely. He wouldn’t have known anything, of course. Sorry.”
Returning to Hunter in August during Operation Dragoon, the Allied landings in the south of France, Robinson flew two or three armed reconnaissance sorties a day in support of the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, bombing and strafing trains, road junctions and German transport columns.
Later, in October, Robinson flew during Operations Outing and Picnic, designed to pin down German troops in the Greek islands, operations which saw some of the largest strikes by escort carrier groups and some of the most accurate Seafire dive-bombings. There, on October 7, 8 and 9, he bombed and strafed troop-carrying ships – and lived with the memory of survivors in the water waving their fists at him.
He was Mentioned in Despatches for distinguished service, efficiency and zeal during the clearance of the Aegean.
Derek Shillito Robinson was born on March 11 1922 at Epsom, Surrey, the son of a GP, and educated at Ellesmere College in Shropshire, where he became captain of the school.
The young 'Robbie'

The young 'Robbie'
Early in the war he was entombed in a shelter during the bombing of Firth Brown’s steelworks in Sheffield, and, inspired by reading W E Johns’s Biggles books, Robinson volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm. He started as a Naval Airman 2nd class at HMS St Vincent, Gosport, and learnt to fly in Tiger Moths at RAF Elmdon (now Birmingham International Airport), where he was inspired by the Spitfire test pilot Alex Henshaw.
He progressed well, flying solo after only 3 ½ hours: once, after his engine failed, he force-landed in a field of cattle, proud to have made a perfect landing. But when he returned after borrowing the farmer’s telephone to report his position, he found that the cows had taken a liking to the doped fabric covering the frame of his aircraft, and eaten it, obliging the Admiralty to issue an order that if in future pilots landed near cattle, they were to place a guard.
Robinson’s advanced flying training was under the Empire Air Training Scheme at Kingston, Ontario. He recalled: “I was a young chap loving it. I revelled in it. Everybody had these wonderful, wonderful, expensive machines to fly.” However, six of his class of 30 died in training.
He returned to Britain in RMS Queen Elizabeth (carrying 23,000 Canadian troops) to become a naval fighter pilot, learning on an ex-Battle of Britain Spitfire. On an early sortie after the throttle jammed, he turned the engine off and glided from 8,000ft, earning the endorsement: “This pilot has excellent talents. Recommend frontline service immediately.”
His first deck landing, on June 1 1943, was on Argus in the Clyde, achieved after watching two other novice pilots crash into the sea and be lost.
Robinson with 885 Squadron, with whom he served before joining 807 Squadron

Robinson with 885 Squadron, with whom he served before joining 807 Squadron
He flew a range of fighters – the Fulmar, the Firefly, the Sea Hurricane, and the American Hellcat and Corsair – but he reckoned that the Seafire was the best: “It was incredible. Honestly, it was so sensitive. I flew it with the tip of my middle finger on the control column. Just one finger, and if I wanted to roll I just said, ‘Shhhh,’ and there you were…”
After VE-Day, Robinson dreaded being sent to the Far East to fight the Japanese, but instead he became an instructor based at St Merryn, Cornwall. His fiancée was a Wren serving in Northern Ireland and Robinson used the pretence of a navigation exercise to visit her and bring back a cargo of 1,000 eggs which she had sourced, individually wrapped and packed in straw in the wing panels of his Seafire to ease the egg famine in Cornwall.
His return landing was especially light but on eight other occasions Robinson suffered various accidents, the last on February 23 1945, when the engine of a worn-out Firefly failed on take-off and he crash-landed in a field, gaining the additional nickname of “Wreck ’em Robbie”.
Robinson married his Wren, Helen Barnard, in 1946. He trained at Guy’s and for 40 years was a GP at Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire. There he chaired the Royal British Legion, never missed the Remembrance Day service at St Edward’s, and always led the march past afterwards. Quiet and modest and greatly loved in the community, Robinson delivered some 2,000 babies in the Cotswolds – which, he hoped, “balanced the books” against those he had killed in wartime.
Helen died in 2009 and he married Morwenna Bashall in 2011; she survives him with two children of the first marriage and three stepchildren.
Derek Robinson, born March 11 1922, died September 19 2021
 

Ted Oates, soldier who escaped from Dunkirk after helping to evacuate the wounded and went on to serve in the North Africa campaign – obituary​

In chaotic conditions during Operation Dynamo he travelled to Dunkirk guided by the glow in the sky from burning oil tanks
11 November 2021 • 6:08am

Ted Oates in 2018

Ted Oates in 2018
Ted Oates, who has died aged 101, served with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and took part in the evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940.
German forces had bypassed the Maginot Line to the west, encircled the Dutch and Belgian Armies and pinned the BEF and the First French Army Group against the Channel.
Oates was serving with 9th Army Field Workshop, Royal Army Ordnance Corps (9 AFW RAOC). The unit’s HQ was at the Château de Bryas (now Brias) near Saint Pol-sur-Ternoise, north-west of Arras. They subsequently moved to Armentières.
There were air raids throughout the day; two Hurricanes were shot down and burst into flames. Most of the civilian population had left, and abandoned dogs, made ferocious by hunger, roamed the streets. On the way by convoy to Oostvleteren, Belgium, the roads were teeming with refugees. The fifth column was busy among them, giving credence to the latest rumours about the speed of the German advance and spreading alarm and defeatism.


On arrival at Oostvleteren, 9 AFW’s CO wrote in the war diary: “We timed our dinner to finish at 21.00, in time for the King’s speech on the radio. We heard this perfectly, and by the time the National Anthem was played, we had our port ready for the loyal toast, stood and drank, ‘The King.’ ”
On May 23, Field Marshal Lord Gort, commander of the BEF, ordered his forces to pull back to Dunkirk. Three days later, the British Government authorised him to withdraw the BEF to Britain. The evacuation, codenamed Operation Dynamo, began the day after that, May 27.
Oates a few weeks before Operation Dynamo

Oates a few weeks before Operation Dynamo
Oates’s unit was near Bergues, south of Dunkirk, on May 27 when orders were received to destroy all stores, equipment and vehicles that could not be moved. Engines and radiators were smashed with sledgehammers and tyres were burst with a shot through the walls. Villages nearby were being bombed by successive flights of enemy aircraft. The CO decided that the town was a death-trap and moved his men to farm buildings a few miles away.
He gave the order to split up into eight groups of 60 men, each led by an officer. The first party left at 21.00. They had 14 miles to cover on foot in darkness and on roads where the conditions were chaotic. Oates’s group was the last to leave. At midnight, they set off, guided by the glow in the sky from burning oil tanks at Dunkirk. At Bergues, the only bridge over the canal was destroyed and they had to clamber over submerged lorries to get across. After taking a wrong road, they eventually arrived at Bray-Dunes, east of the town.
On May 29, most of the men of 9 AFW were taken off the beach by dinghy and loaded on to the minesweepers Sutton and Salamander. But Oates’s party arrived at the wrong beach; they were not logged for evacuation from there, they had no food and were under constant artillery shelling and strafing from the air.
After two days, he and a few comrades decided to try to reach Dunkirk. As they approached the moles which protected the outer harbour, there was an open area of beach which was being relentlessly shelled, but it had to be crossed. A traffic officer shouted to them to wait until the shells started coming towards them and then make a dash for it, taking cover behind charred and derelict vehicles until the shells were landing behind them.
The beaches were teeming with men. Some were lining the piers waiting for the rescue ships. Others had waded out from the shore with the water up to their necks.
Close to one of the moles, casualties were laid out in rows and there were calls for volunteers to help to evacuate the wounded. Oates and a comrade took a stretcher and carried wounded soldiers to a hospital ship. It was a precarious journey; they were under constant fire as they negotiated shell holes in the mole’s planking.
Oates being interviewed in 2016

Oates being interviewed in 2016
He and six others then made their way along the mole to a destroyer. They went aboard, crossed the deck and scrambled down to a small ship which had arrived with a cargo of rations. Huddled together in the hold, they crossed the Channel. When they were attacked by a German fighter, the ship’s gunner called out that he was almost out of ammunition for his Lewis gun. Oates remembered that he had two clips in the pockets of his greatcoat and handed these over. They disembarked at Folkestone.
The Royal Navy evacuated most of the troops. Despite cover from the RAF, which flew more than 2,700 sorties, it came under sustained attack from fighter-bombers and shore batteries. With the help of an extraordinary flotilla of motor boats, fishing boats, sloops, barges, ferries and every type of craft that set off from creeks and inlets, river moorings and coastal havens all over the south of England, almost 340,000 stranded troops (including 110,000 Frenchmen) were rescued to fight another day.
Edward John Oates, always known as Ted, was born at Hampstead, London, on April 15 1920. His father had served in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War. Young Ted was educated at Royds Hall Grammar School, Huddersfield.
In 1939 he was a clerk at Joseph Hopkinson & Co, a Huddersfield engineering company, when he joined the TA. He trained at the drill hall every Sunday morning and, when he was called up, he was promoted to lance-corporal and posted to 9 AFW. He was issued with a tin basin for soup and tea and a tin plate. At meals, the top of the plate was used for the main course and it was turned over for the dessert.
In January 1940, Oates and his comrades embarked at Southampton, bound for Le Havre. His unit was attached to the 51st Highland Division, part of the BEF. In mid-May, as German forces advanced through Belgium and the Netherlands, the Division moved up to the Maginot Line and 9 AFW became a workshop for 2 Corps.
After his evacuation from Dunkirk, Oates rejoined 9 AFW at Nottingham. He subsequently served in the North Africa campaign and was involved in repairing and maintaining tanks. He moved to Cairo after the defeat of the Axis forces and was demobilised in 1946.
He joined the Inland Revenue at Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, and retired as the collector of taxes for Hitchin. In retirement he enjoyed woodworking and repairing clocks and watches. He was a keen astronomer, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and built several fair-sized telescopes.
As a member of the Henley-on-Thames Dunkirk Veterans he supported the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships and regularly took part in Dunkirk commemorations. He also gave many interviews for television documentaries on the BEF and Dunkirk. He and his wife Nora were guests at the Queen and Prince Philip’s golden wedding anniversary celebrations in 1997.
Ted Oates married, in 1947, Nora Brown. She predeceased him, and he is survived by their son and daughter.
Ted Oates, born April 15 1920, died September 5 2021
 

Flight Lieutenant Dennis Bryden, pilot shot down in 1944 while dropping supplies to the Polish underground and sent to Stalag Luft III – obituary​

In captivity Bryden read and played ice hockey during the harsh winter of 1944/45 before setting off on the infamous ‘Long March’ west
Dennis Bryden

Dennis Bryden
Flight Lieutenant Dennis Bryden, who has died aged 97, was the pilot of a Halifax heavy bomber shot down over Hungary; he spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III.
Bryden was just 20 years old when he and his crew took off from Brindisi, Italy on the night of September 10 1944 to drop supplies to the Polish underground movement in Warsaw. Over Hungary, a major fire broke out in the starboard wing, possibly following an attack by an enemy night fighter. The Halifax became uncontrollable and Bryden ordered the crew to bail out.
They soon joined up on the ground and started heading south, but near the village of Debrecen they were captured. Taken to Budapest, they were put in solitary confinement. Eventually they were herded into cattle trucks, and after a few days Bryden, who had been separated from his NCO colleagues, arrived at Stalag Luft III at Sagan, Poland, the scene of the “Great Escape” earlier in the year.


As the harsh winter set in, Bryden occupied his time reading and playing ice hockey. On the night of January 27 1945, with the Russian Army advancing from the east, the prisoners were given a few hours to pack their belongings. The winter of 1945 was the most severe for 50 years and the prisoners suffered badly during the infamous “Long March” west.
Bryden and a colleague managed to make a rough sledge, which carried their belongings for 45 miles before being abandoned as a thaw set in. Sleeping in barns and churches, they finally reached Spremberg on February 3 and spent the night in a barracks before boarding cattle trucks; 1,916 men were crammed on to the train, which reached the PoW camp of Milag Marlag Nord near Bremen after two days. They remained there until early April.
On April 9 the prisoners left the camp and headed east – away from the advancing Allies, but on April 25, approaching Lubeck, the German guards abandoned the column. On May 2 a British scout car appeared and a week later, Bryden arrived at an airfield near Aylesbury.
Postwar, Bryden kept up his flying, travelling to business meetings on his Private Pilot Licence

Postwar, Bryden kept up his flying, travelling to business meetings on his Private Pilot Licence
Dennis David George Bryden was born in Marylebone, London on December 2 1923 and was brought up in Northamptonshire and Oxford. He was educated at Oxford School of Technology, Art and Commerce and was an active member of the Scouts, the St John’s Ambulance Cadets and later the Air Training Corps, becoming a sergeant. He began working at the Morris factory in Cowley.
Aged 17, he volunteered for aircrew duties and was called up in March 1942. He sailed for Canada in the Queen Mary before travelling to Texas where he trained as a pilot at No 1 British Flying Training School.
On his return to Britain, he converted to heavy bombers and in May 1944 he and his crew took a new Halifax to Morocco on a delivery flight before joining 624 Squadron at Blida in Algeria.
He carried out supply drops to the French Resistance before a bad crash hospitalised him for a few weeks. After recovering, he transferred in early August to 148 Squadron at Brindisi where he made drops to the Italian Resistance in the Alps.
On his return from captivity, and after a refresher course, he joined 511 Squadron at Lynehamand flew the York transport aircraft on trooping flights to the Far East.
In August 1946 he re-joined Morris Motors, becoming a buyer. In the late 1960s, he was approached by Lord Strathcarron to join his business, Strathcarron & Co, as a partner connecting suppliers to the motor industry. He also became the Chairman of the Institute of British Carriage and Automobile Manufacturers.
Bryden kept his hand in as a pilot by obtaining a Private Pilot Licence, sharing the flying with Lord Strathcarron as they headed off in a small Cessna to European business meetings.
He was a keen golfer, becoming Captain at Southfield Golf Course in Oxford, and the Seniors Captain Tadmarton Heath, near Banbury.
Bryden’s wife, Phyllis, died in 2020. He is survived by their son and two daughters.
Dennis Bryden, born December 2 1923, died September 18 2021
 

Rossana Banti, Italian partisan who risked her life serving with the SOE and preparing agents for missions behind enemy lines – obituary​

She once had the hair-raising experience of travelling on a bus over a bumpy road with a suitcase packed with nitroglycerine explosives
Rossana Banti

Rossana Banti: smuggled weapons to partisans while still a teenager
Rossana Banti, who has died aged 96, served with the Italian Resistance and then with the British Army as a member of the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War.
Born in Rome on January 8 1925, she was still a young teenager when she joined the Italian Resistance, acting as a courier, distributing anti-fascist pamphlets as well as smuggling explosives and weapons to partisans in Rome.
After Rossana’s lessons were over for the day, she would bring copies of the underground newspaper L’Unità across Rome and hand them to a butcher. One day, the butcher was arrested, and she was told that the Gestapo were looking for a young girl with a distinctive red coat: it was the only coat she possessed, and she had to burn it.
On another occasion, travelling on a bus, she was carrying a suitcase packed with nitroglycerine explosives. With her was a young companion, and they were pretending to be an engaged couple.


She struggled to keep the suitcase balanced, but the vehicle’s jolts on the bumpy road terrified her. “Rossana, be careful!,” her companion said. “We mustn’t break the eggs!”
Afterwards they “had a crazy laugh” about it, she recalled.
Rossana Banti: loyal, brave and indomitably cheerful

Rossana Banti: loyal, brave and indomitably cheerful CREDIT: John Pepper
She joined GAP, the Patriotic Action Group, a Communist-led resistance organisation which infiltrated all the protest movements and demonstrations. Sometimes her friends were caught, tortured and shot.
In September 1943 an Armistice was signed between Italy and the Allies, but the Germans occupied the north of the country and fought a bitter rearguard action in rugged mountainous terrain which greatly favoured them.
In September 1944, Rossana Banti enlisted in the British Army with the FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) at Monopoli near Bari on the Adriatic coast. She had had an English nanny and already spoke the language well, but she was under-age and had to obtain permission from her father, Antonio.
She told him, frankly, that he would never know where she was, but he was strongly anti-fascist and gave his consent. She joined the SOE and was based at HQ Special Operations near Bari, where she was trained in parachuting and weaponry and became a wireless operator.
She manned radios, coding and decoding messages and transmitting them to SOE agents behind enemy lines: “They were parachuted into the north to help organise, equip and train the partisans,” she recalled. “We kept them supplied with weapons, food and clothing.”
She also helped to brief and prepare agents, some of them anti-fascist Italians and Yugoslavs, before they were dropped by parachute behind the German lines. “It was an incredible experience,” she said. “I was only 19, but I just followed my heart.
“They saw me as a sister, a mother, a girlfriend. Sometimes they cried. They had no idea where they were going or what they would find when they got there. I helped them strap on their parachutes and off they went.”
With her husband, circa 1945

With her husband, circa 1945
As the Germans stepped up their policy of savage reprisals for acts of sabotage, the agents depended for their existence on the dedication of the signals operators. As a member of an irregular force, she faced summary execution if she was caught.
In early 1945 Rossana married Giuliano Mattioli, an SOE agent known as Julian Matthew. A few days after their marriage he was sent on a mission to be dropped by parachute near Bergamo, behind enemy lines.
After the war, she became a successful producer with RAI, the Italian state broadcaster, and with the BBC. She lived in Knightsbridge in the 1960s and later moved to Pitigliano in Tuscany.
Loyal, brave and indomitably cheerful, as a younger woman she had enjoyed riding, skiing and swimming. Latterly her mental faculties remained as sharp as ever and within two months of her death she was working on a dramatic adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Politically, her views were on the Left. She celebrated the date of Liberation every year and warned against the return of fascism.
In 2015, in a ceremony at the British Embassy in Rome, she received the War Medal 1939-45 for having served in the British Armed Forces during the war, the 1939-45 Star for operational service overseas, and the Italy Star.
Rossana Banti’s marriage came to an end, but amicably; she is survived by a son and a daughter.
 

Vice-Admiral Rory McLean, naval commander who modernised medical support to the Armed Forces at a time of rising casualties and cost-cutting​

He oversaw the establishment of an expert team of senior NHS and defence medical staff at Birmingham Selly Oak Hospital

Captain McLean in whites

Captain McLean in whites
Vice-Admiral Rory McLean, who has died aged 71, was a seaman and aviator who, as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Health), took on the job of overhauling the MoD’s healthcare facilities.
Many thought McLean had taken up a poisoned chalice when in 2004 he accepted the appointment and faced the task of modernising medical and public health support to the Armed Forces, which at the time featured Victorian hospitals, ramshackle facilities and three separate bureaucracies.
McLean arrived in post just as, under an earlier round of defence cuts, military hospitals had closed or were closing, while ever-increasing numbers of casualties were returning from Afghanistan.
He was determined to develop a first-class service, including recruiting medical staff trained to deploy to field hospitals at short notice, introducing aeromedical evacuation procedures, and rehabilitation and mental healthcare services at home which could cope with the services’ long-term requirements.

He saw this being provided by the establishment of an expert team of senior NHS and defence medical staff at Birmingham Selly Oak Hospital, with the best available equipment and the finest medically qualified staff.
In what he called “the battle of Selly Oak”, McLean received little or no support from the Army, which wanted its own hospitals for Army casualties, and whose generals, McLean felt, missed the point that military medical staff on two- to three-year appointments could never gain the levels of proficiency required.
An ad hominem campaign led to a “black spider” letter from the Prince of Wales, which McLean countered with an invitation to make a private visit to Selly Oak, after which a second “black spider” letter pronounced its author impressed with the new levels of care being provided there.
Rory Alistair Ian McLean was born in Edinburgh on April 4 1950, and studied at George Watson’s College, where he represented East Scotland at tennis and showed himself a useful rugby player. He joined the naval branch of the Combined Cadet Force and as a teenager he and some schoolfriends were awarded a grant with which they purchased and modified an old Land Rover and made an expedition to Iceland.
McLean’s father was a wartime Fleet Air Arm pilot who hoped his son would go to university, until young McLean took his father to the pub to explain that in secret he had passed the Admiralty Interview Board and was set to join Dartmouth.
McLean in a two-seat Harrier

McLean in a two-seat Harrier
After Dartmouth, McLean specialised as a helicopter pilot. One night he had to make a forced landing over Northern Ireland when a sniper’s bullet hit the gearbox: he knocked on a farmer’s door, while his crewman covered him from the darkness, to ask to use the phone.
In 1979, during the ill-fated Fastnet Race, McLean flew one of the helicopters which rescued some 125 competitors from the stormy seas. Later he was the aviation assault commander of the UK’s anti-terrorist response team protecting North Sea oil and gas installations.
McLean held six peacetime seagoing commands, including the minesweepers Upton, and Lewiston (1980-81), and he commanded the frigates Jupiter and Charybdis (1986-88).
When a convoy he was protecting through the Straits of Hormuz was threatened by an Iranian gunboat, McLean discovered over the radio that he and his opponent had been at Dartmouth together: the Iranian was persuaded to withdraw and a potentially serious incident ended peacefully.
McLean led by example, learnt the names of his people and demonstrated a genuine interest in their backgrounds and aspirations. His leadership style involved joining working parties that might, for example, be changing an aircraft engine in the hangar, while delegating responsibility to his chief and petty officers.
He applied similar principles when in command of the landing ship Fearless in 1994-96, where he contributed to absorbing a large contingent of women into the ship’s company and led his elderly ship, prone to breakdowns, on successful operations in the Mediterranean and Caribbean.
He commanded the aircraft carrier Invincible in 1999-2000, beginning with a circumnavigation of Britain to celebrate the Millennium and a passage through the Thames barrier to Greenwich Reach, where he hosted the Queen to lunch, seating a petty officer, who was also a skilled amateur magician, across the table to surprise her with some close-up magic.
Conning Invincible through the Thames barrier

Conning Invincible through the Thames barrier
His career as a staff officer began in 1988 on the central MoD staff, in the directorate of defence programmes, dealing with the defence budget and resource planning; following promotion to captain in 1992 he served on Flag Officer Naval Aviation’s staff, during which time he was loaned to the MoD for the Defence Cost Study and latterly was part of the team charged with making the case for the Permanent Joint Headquarters.
In 1997 he became Director of Naval Plans during the Strategic Defence Review. Prominent in the Navy’s battle to fund the next generation of aircraft carriers, he was delighted when Chancellor Gordon Brown began referring to him as “that f-----g bearded admiral”. He saw it as a sign the Navy was winning, and a lasting tribute is his contribution to the present generation of Queen Elizabeth class carriers.
He was promoted to rear-admiral in 2001 and became Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Resources and Programmes) until 2004, and also began a long association with the Royal United Services Institute, reforming its administrative and management structures, enhancing its reach and reputation and consolidating its finances.
His most significant achievement was to help put in place, with Professor Michael Clarke and board member Kathryn Vagneur, the funding arrangements which enabled the institute to buy from the Crown the freehold of its historic headquarters in Whitehall.
McLean was a born communicator and a confident raconteur, courageous – and a little Machiavellian. To those accepted as one of “Rory’s boys”, usually over a lunchtime pint, he was a loyal friend.
He was appointed OBE in 1991 and CB in 2004.
In 1979 he married Gwyneira Roelvink (née Jones); they divorced in 1999. In 2015 he married Kathryn Vagneur (née Otto) who survives him with a daughter, two stepdaughters and a stepson from his first marriage, and a stepdaughter from his second.
Vice-Admiral Rory McLean, born April 4 1950, died September 5 2021
 

Colonel Charles Taylor, Dragoon Guard who was awarded a Military Cross in Korea after his tank was set ablaze​

His medal citation praised his courage and leadership, while later, in Libya, his jaw was broken by a rock thrown from an angry crowd


Colonel Charles Taylor

Colonel Charles Taylor
Colonel Charles Taylor, who has died aged 92, was awarded a Military Cross in 1952 during the Korean War.
In December 1951, 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards (5 RIDG) arrived in Korea. In June 1952, after a static period overlooking the Chinese positions, in an operation codenamed “Jehu”, the regiment carried out a raid with Centurion main battle tanks behind the enemy lines.
1st Troop C Squadron, commanded by Taylor, led the way, but when his leading tank was knocked out he took the lead himself. He came under heavy fire, and just before he reached his final objective his tank was hit on the turret and set ablaze.
Having dismounted, he extinguished the fire and continued to engage targets until his mission was completed and the order was given to withdraw. The citation for the award of an MC stated that his troop was the best in the regiment and that his organising ability, courage and leadership deserved the highest praise.

Charles Eyre Taylor was born in Leeds on November 18 1928 and educated at Stowe. He went on to Sandhurst, and in 1949 he was commissioned into 5 RIDG.
After two years in West Germany as a troop leader, he became assistant adjutant and intelligence officer. When the regiment returned from Korea it moved to Egypt and the Canal Zone and he became the technical adjutant.
Taylor, right, in Korea with his Dragoon Guards comrades Colin Cupper and Bill Barnett

Taylor, right, in Korea with his Dragoon Guards comrades Colin Cupper and Bill Barnett
After a stint as ADC to General Sir John Anderson, during the following 12 years he served with the regiment at Catterick, Sennelager in West Germany, and Aden. Further postings took him to RMA Sandhurst, Northern Ireland with 39 Infantry Brigade, and HQ 3rd Division at Tidworth, Wiltshire.
He was in command of C Squadron in Benghazi, Libya, in 1967, when there was unrest in the town as a result of the Six Day War. Demonstrations outside the British Consulate were threatening to become violent and his squadron was helping to evacuate the staff.
Taylor, who was controlling the operation from a Saracen armoured car, was hit on the jaw by a rock thrown by a demonstrator and the crowd set the vehicle on fire. Taylor, with a cracked jaw, and his crew were all badly burnt but managed to reach the local hospital.
He spent four months in hospital undergoing extensive treatment to his hands and face. Despite all the doctors did to help, he never fully recovered nor was free from pain. He subsequently taught at the Staff College before assuming command of 5 RIDG in 1970, when it moved to Munster in West Germany and converted from armoured cars to Chieftain tanks.
In 1972, when he left to take up a staff appointment at HQ Wales, Brecon, the Regiment was as well-trained and effective as the best of the armoured regiments in BAOR. After a final appointment as Colonel Collective Training at HQ UK Land Forces, in 1979 he retired from the Army.
Settled in Herefordshire, he enjoyed horse racing, stamp collecting and letter writing.
Charles Taylor married, in 1964, Elizabeth Gott, the elder daughter of Lieutenant-General William “Strafer” Gott. They divorced in 1973 and he is survived by their two daughters.
Charles Taylor, born November 18 1928, died October 4 2021
 

Missed this very impressive one earlier in the month, one of the gallant crews of the Swordfish the 'string bags'!

Peter Jinks, Swordfish air gunner who survived five crashes in the Mediterranean and Atlantic – obituary​

Despite joining the ‘Goldfish Club’, he flew many successful missions, including convoy escorts and Allied landings in Africa and Italy
Peter Jinks

Peter Jinks
Peter Jinks, who has died aged 99, was a schoolmaster whose wartime flying career was jinxed.
Jinks’s most serious accident occurred on September 22 1943 on board the escort carrier Battler off Gibraltar. The sea was calm and sparkled in the sunshine as his Swordfish, flown by New Zealand sub-lieutenant Percy Craig, made a long, steady run-in for a perfect landing with the hook down ready. The plane caught the first arrestor wire but, in a misunderstanding, was waved off.
Craig applied full throttle, but the aircraft stalled and crashed over the side, where it hung half in and half out of the water. It was battered against the ship’s side before falling into the sea, just missing Battler’s thrashing propeller. Jinks recalled: “After the noise and turmoil of the last couple of minutes it seemed peaceful as we drifted clear, gently sinking in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.”
Jinks and Craig scrambled on to the upper wing, where a dinghy was stowed, but found it too mangled. Fortunately, one of the ship’s Carley floats was entangled in the wreckage – but climbing into it, they realised that they were about to be pulled underwater until Jinks used his knife to cut the raft free.
Within 15 minutes they were picked up by a boat from the cruiser Carlisle and returned to Battler, where, Jinks recalled, the only counselling was double brandy. However, he was enrolled in the Goldfish Club: members wear a special badge showing a white-winged goldfish flying above two symbolic blue waves.
Jinks in his Swordfish

Jinks in his Swordfish
Peter Charles Jinks was born on September 21 1921 and educated at Leicester Grammar School. He had always yearned to fly, and though he was in a reserved occupation as a fitter at a local machine tool manufacturer, in November 1939 he volunteered to be a Telegraphist Air Gunner and trained at HMS Kestrel, the Royal Naval Air Station at Worthy Down, near Winchester.
He recalled his first flight: “I had a large grin on my face and enjoyed every minute, noisy, windy and looking down on the world from a low altitude. This was real flying!”
He was appointed to 771 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) based at Hatston in the Orkneys, where one of his first pilots was a youthful midshipman, Peter Twiss, “who likes to throw the aircraft about a bit”; postwar Twiss became Fairey Aviation’s chief test pilot and the first man to fly at more than 1,000 mph.
Jinx’s first accident came in March 1942 when landing on the escort carrier Archer at the end of a dusk patrol. His Swordfish biplane, piloted by a sub-lieutenant Pratt, bounced over all the restraining wires and ran into the crash barrier.
On May 14 he crashed again, heavily damaging the undercarriage, and six days later his Swordfish came in too low and wiped off the undercarriage on the round-down (the rear end of the flight deck). It ploughed along the wooden deck and stopped with the nose hanging over the ship’s side. After the crew had climbed out safely, the wreckage was pushed over the side.
Jinks took part in the Allied landings in North Africa

Jinks took part in the Allied landings in North Africa
Still in Archer, in the Atlantic, Jinks’s fourth accident came when his Swordfish landed safely but the arrestor wire hydraulics failed and his aircraft again ran into the crash barrier: there it stuck nose down, tail up.
There were also successful operations, and in 834 NAS, Jinks took part in Atlantic convoy escorts, the Allied landings in North Africa and Italy, and in January 1943, after the aircraft had been painted matt black, anti-E-boat operations in the English Channel. Later, the squadron developed Combined Attack Team tactics, whereby cannon-armed Seafire and two Swordfish – one armed with depth charges and another with rockets – would hunt for U-boats.
Battler was redeployed to the Indian Ocean, where Jinks experienced a final accident, on December 15 1943, after several hours on anti-U-boat patrol; they became lost, and glided to a crash-landing in the dunes on the island of Socotra. After walking for two days they found a Dutch naval airbase, whence they were returned by sea via Aden and Bombay to Ceylon, and eventually to Britain.
Postwar, Jinks trained on a one-year emergency training scheme to become a teacher, and for many years taught at primary schools, finishing as headmaster of Eldene in Swindon. On his 80th birthday he enjoyed a 15-minute flight in a Swordfish of the Navy’s Historic Flight.
Peter Jinks married Audrey Jordan in 1949. She and a daughter predeceased him and he is survived by two daughters and son.
Peter Jinks, born September 21 1921, died July 21 2021

I’m always struck by the fact that gents like this went on to blend in so seamlessly with normal civilian life after having seen such remarkable war service. I had a couple of teachers during my childhood who had done war or national service. It showed too, although only with the benefit of hindsight and my own life experiences.
There were a couple of old boys at Remembrance Sunday last week, still sporting WW2 campaign stars, and watching the highlights of the London service in the evening, a Korean War veteran in his nineties was being interviewed. It’s rather bitter sweet to think that in the not too distant, these exceptional people will have gone the way of the likes of Harry Patch and the Great War generation, not to mention those who served in the other great campaigns throughout our history.
 
Afternoon ARRSERs, been a while since I've posted, but I felt the need to log in and link this gentleman in the obits (@Dwarf ). Was my OC in 6RRF with 2 different coys , and was sad to learn of his passing last weekend> Always came across as an archetypal buffoon at times but was a genuinely nice bloke. Daddy was a Field Marshal and his Brother served with 1 RGJ early 70s. RIP sir
 

Colonel David Mitchell, led high-risk clandestine missions paddling canoes into enemy territory during the Indonesian Confrontation – obituary​

He pioneered a novel technique for exiting with canoes from a submarine while it remained submerged

David Mitchell, RM

David Mitchell, RM
Colonel David Mitchell, who has died aged 92, was a Royal Marines officer who commanded No 2 Special Boat Section (2 SBS) in the Far East and pioneered new techniques of clandestine reconnaissance during the Konfrontasi.
Mitchell commanded 2SBS in 1964-65 when the Konfrontasi, a Communist-backed, Indonesian-led series of armed incursions intended to destabilise the newly formed Federation of Malaysia, was at its peak.
In early 1964, 2 SBS was sent to the border between Sarawak (part of the Federation) and Kalimantan (part of Indonesia-held Borneo), where Mitchell established a covert observation post and a base for patrols on Turtle island.
Between operations, he pioneered a novel technique for exiting with canoes from a submarine while it remained submerged, and in 1965 he applied 2 SBS’s new skills in a series of clandestine reconnaissance tasks on the enemy coast.

Since these operations were extremely sensitive, their planning and rehearsals had to be meticulous and leave nothing to chance. Over a three-month period, despite the difficulties of weather and tide, and the risk of detection, Mitchell led several secret operations, calling for courage and determination by all concerned.
Launching while underwater from the submarine Ambush, commanded by his friend, Lieutenant Commander Charles Baker, Mitchell and his marines successfully carried out their dangerous reconnaissance missions, despite having to close to within 30 yards of the enemy and their barking dogs, and to paddle silently up river into enemy territory.
One slip or false move would have prejudiced the whole series of operations, probably leading to the capture and death of the participants. On the very last operation, Mitchell returned to the rendezvous to find that one of his teams had been unable to achieve its goal, and, despite fatigue and the shortness of the night, he led his men back to finish the job.
David Mitchell as a young Royal Marine

David Mitchell as a young Royal Marine
Mitchell was appointed MBE for his leadership, coolness and courage.
David Mitchell was born on September 23 1929 into a well-known Sussex baking family, and while an apprentice baker at the Borough Polytechnic Institute, London, in 1948, he helped to decorate a cake with 56 lb of icing to celebrate the silver wedding anniversary of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Called up for National Service, Mitchell volunteered for the Royal Marines, and never looked back. He undertook Special Forces training, was identified as officer material, and one month before discharge he opted for permanent service in the Corps.
Mitchell and his family

Mitchell and his family
Canoeing played a big part in his life, and as a young officer he was greatly influenced by his mentor and friend Hugh Bruce, with whom he broke the national record for crossing the English Channel.
He also twice won the highly competitive Devizes to Westminster canoe race with his Marine friend Stuart Syrad. Later he commanded the Royal Marines at Poole, and his uniform career finished as Director, Royal Marines Reserves.
Mitchell: always ready with words of support

Mitchell: always ready with words of support
Mitchell was a gentle, courteous man, always ready with a smile and words of support and appreciation. Never one to claim the spotlight, he worked to ensure that others would succeed. He took little credit for his distinguished record, often saying that he had been lucky to be in the right place at the right time with the right people, and to have had such wonderful role models.
In retirement he was head of personnel at Marconi for many years, then worked tirelessly for Victim Support.
At Rouen, during a rugby tour, he was smitten by Betty Mann, the daughter of the local representative of Kiwi Polish, whose family lived in France, and immediately invited her to a ball at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. They married in 1953. She died in 2011 and he is survived by their five children.
Colonel David Mitchell, born September 23 1929, died September 25 2021
 

Colonel David Mitchell, led high-risk clandestine missions paddling canoes into enemy territory during the Indonesian Confrontation – obituary​

He pioneered a novel technique for exiting with canoes from a submarine while it remained submerged

David Mitchell, RM

David Mitchell, RM
Colonel David Mitchell, who has died aged 92, was a Royal Marines officer who commanded No 2 Special Boat Section (2 SBS) in the Far East and pioneered new techniques of clandestine reconnaissance during the Konfrontasi.
Mitchell commanded 2SBS in 1964-65 when the Konfrontasi, a Communist-backed, Indonesian-led series of armed incursions intended to destabilise the newly formed Federation of Malaysia, was at its peak.
In early 1964, 2 SBS was sent to the border between Sarawak (part of the Federation) and Kalimantan (part of Indonesia-held Borneo), where Mitchell established a covert observation post and a base for patrols on Turtle island.
Between operations, he pioneered a novel technique for exiting with canoes from a submarine while it remained submerged, and in 1965 he applied 2 SBS’s new skills in a series of clandestine reconnaissance tasks on the enemy coast.

Since these operations were extremely sensitive, their planning and rehearsals had to be meticulous and leave nothing to chance. Over a three-month period, despite the difficulties of weather and tide, and the risk of detection, Mitchell led several secret operations, calling for courage and determination by all concerned.
Launching while underwater from the submarine Ambush, commanded by his friend, Lieutenant Commander Charles Baker, Mitchell and his marines successfully carried out their dangerous reconnaissance missions, despite having to close to within 30 yards of the enemy and their barking dogs, and to paddle silently up river into enemy territory.
One slip or false move would have prejudiced the whole series of operations, probably leading to the capture and death of the participants. On the very last operation, Mitchell returned to the rendezvous to find that one of his teams had been unable to achieve its goal, and, despite fatigue and the shortness of the night, he led his men back to finish the job.
David Mitchell as a young Royal Marine

David Mitchell as a young Royal Marine
Mitchell was appointed MBE for his leadership, coolness and courage.
David Mitchell was born on September 23 1929 into a well-known Sussex baking family, and while an apprentice baker at the Borough Polytechnic Institute, London, in 1948, he helped to decorate a cake with 56 lb of icing to celebrate the silver wedding anniversary of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Called up for National Service, Mitchell volunteered for the Royal Marines, and never looked back. He undertook Special Forces training, was identified as officer material, and one month before discharge he opted for permanent service in the Corps.
Mitchell and his family

Mitchell and his family
Canoeing played a big part in his life, and as a young officer he was greatly influenced by his mentor and friend Hugh Bruce, with whom he broke the national record for crossing the English Channel.
He also twice won the highly competitive Devizes to Westminster canoe race with his Marine friend Stuart Syrad. Later he commanded the Royal Marines at Poole, and his uniform career finished as Director, Royal Marines Reserves.
Mitchell: always ready with words of support

Mitchell: always ready with words of support
Mitchell was a gentle, courteous man, always ready with a smile and words of support and appreciation. Never one to claim the spotlight, he worked to ensure that others would succeed. He took little credit for his distinguished record, often saying that he had been lucky to be in the right place at the right time with the right people, and to have had such wonderful role models.
In retirement he was head of personnel at Marconi for many years, then worked tirelessly for Victim Support.
At Rouen, during a rugby tour, he was smitten by Betty Mann, the daughter of the local representative of Kiwi Polish, whose family lived in France, and immediately invited her to a ball at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. They married in 1953. She died in 2011 and he is survived by their five children.
Colonel David Mitchell, born September 23 1929, died September 25 2021
RIP - an impressive record.
 

Victor Gregg, rifleman with a rebellious streak who was captured at Arnhem and searched for survivors in the rubble following the Dresden firestorm – obituary​

He was due to be executed for sabotage when Allied planes struck, while later he joined the Communist Party and drove for the Soviet embassy
Victor Gregg

Victor Gregg
Victor Gregg, who has died aged 101, was a rifleman, paratrooper and spy who survived capture at Arnhem and the bombing of Dresden.
With two failed attempts to escape from PoW camps on their records and accused of sabotage, Gregg and a comrade, “Mad Harry”, were taken to a prison in the centre of Dresden. There they joined about 250 prisoners who had been condemned to death for crimes against the German state and were awaiting execution.
The building was circular in shape with a large glass roof. In the middle there were large oil drums overflowing with excrement; the stench was appalling. The prisoners were crammed so closely together that it was impossible to sit down. Two inmates, who had been incarcerated for a few days and had been sentenced to be shot, told Gregg that every day 30 prisoners were taken out and never seen again.
On the morning of February 13 1945 the air raid sirens in the city began to wail. Then came the rumble of an approaching air armada. Through the panes of the glass roof, marker flares dropped by the pathfinders could be seen drifting down to the ground.
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The whole building began to shake with the reverberation of the bombers passing overhead. Many of the prisoners were screaming and banging on the doors, begging to be let out. Two incendiaries came through the roof; huge shards of glass and globules of burning sulphur fell on the prisoners packed underneath.
Rifleman Gregg

Rifleman Gregg
Gregg and Harry were crouching against the side of the building when, with a tremendous crash, the wall opposite them was blown inwards. Gregg was thrown some 40 feet by the force of the blast and heavily concussed. He recovered consciousness to find himself half-buried in fallen glass and masonry. Harry was dead.
Gregg and a small number of survivors made a dash for the opening – and freedom. Outside, the heat was like a furnace and he was engulfed in smoke, dust and flames. Everywhere buildings were crashing to the ground. People, some clutching children, were emerging from the rubble of what had once been their homes and finding themselves trapped in a ring of fire.
He joined hundreds of PoWs and foreign workers assembled around the perimeter of the devastated city. Equipped with picks and shovels, moving through heaps of smouldering rubble, they searched for survivors as well as retrieving bodies from cellars and shelters and laying them out for the often impossible task of identification.
Road surfaces had melted and water mains had burst, flooding wide areas with boiling water. People caught looting were hanged or shot out of hand.
Gregg worked with his team for several days – at night he slept in a wagon on the railway sidings. He was worried that as things returned to a semblance of normality he would be taken back to prison to face execution, and he slipped away from the group.
After three days moving eastwards against the tide of refugees – unshaven, his clothes in rags, scrounging scraps of food along the way – he met up with leading elements of the Russian forces.
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Victor James Thomas Gregg, the eldest of three children, was born at King’s Cross, London, on October 15 1919; his father vanished when the third child arrived. His mother was a seamstress and the family was so poor that young Victor was sent out to scrounge for food at Covent Garden, Smithfield and Billingsgate.
He had to dodge the gangs in Hackney or Shoreditch, but there were forays into the West End, where he enjoyed teasing the doormen in their uniforms and shiny top hats at the big hotels. On Saturdays, threepence would get him into one of the fleapit cinemas. He played cricket and football in the streets and learned to box, though with little regard for the Queensberry rules.
His mother was so overworked that he and his brother went to live with his grandparents in Bloomsbury. Victor earned sixpence a week warning the street girls and their pimps of the approach of a policeman.
Aged 14, he left Cromer Street School in St Pancras. He had gained a scholarship to the London School of Music, but he had to earn his living. He worked for a firm of opticians and, in his spare time, washed cars for pocket money. Sometimes he was taken to Brooklands to watch the racing cars.
Gregg joined the Rifle Brigade when he was 18 and signed on for 21 years. After basic training at Winchester and Tidworth, in December 1938 he embarked for India with the 2nd Battalion (2 RB). The troopship berthed at Karachi and he and his comrades entrained to Meerut. Big blocks of ice in the carriages served as primitive air conditioning.
Nine months later, they moved to Haifa in Palestine on internal security duties, and then to the motor training base at Sarafand. In early 1940, 2 RB, a fully mechanised battalion, was in a tented camp at Mersa Matruh, Egypt, a forward military base.
Gregg in the desert: he served throughout North Africa, including the Battle of El Alamein

Gregg in the desert: he served throughout North Africa, including the Battle of El Alamein
Gregg saw heavy fighting at Beda Fomm in Libya in February 1941 before being ordered to escort Italian PoWs to Durban in South Africa. He rejoined his unit in October and took part in the battle of Sidi Rezegh, Libya. The tanks, he said afterwards, were ordered to charge the German 88 mm anti-tank guns, a futile and costly operation.
A few days’ leave took him to the night clubs in Cairo: whisky was served in pint glasses and bands playing Western music were protected by wire mesh from the beer bottles that were thrown at them every time they played a wrong note.
Lodgings were easy to find. On arrival in the city, they would be surrounded by natives shouting, “Best bed in Cairo, Johnnie!”
Gregg was fast making a name for himself leading reconnaissance patrols, sometimes several hundred miles behind enemy lines. He was ordered to report to Major (later Lt Col) Vladimir Peniakoff at Fort Maddalena in Libya. A patrol of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) acted as escorts.
He was seconded to a secret unit called the Libyan Arab Force Commando, led by Peniakoff (who was known as “Popski”). The Force toured the outer reaches of the desert visiting small groups of Bedouin and gathering information about enemy formations, ammunition and fuel dumps. In return, they handed over sugar, salt, tea and equipment. Gregg’s task was to deliver these supplies to the Bedouin, pick up information and relay it to the LRDG, who would use it to harass the Axis units.
In the course of a month, he covered some 4,000 miles in his pick-up truck; had he been captured wearing Arab dress he would have been shot as a spy. On one occasion he became stuck in a traffic jam of enemy vehicles on the Benghazi-to-Tripoli coastal road. Fortunately, he was wearing general-issue khaki uniform and was not recognised.
Gregg joined the Rifle Brigade aged 18, signing up for 21 years

Gregg joined the Rifle Brigade aged 18, signing up for 21 years
From May to October 1942, driving an old American Chevrolet, he collected wounded members of the LRDG and took them back to base at the Siwa Oasis in Egypt. Sometimes the men were so badly injured that he had to risk travelling by day, and he had several narrow escapes from confrontations with enemy aircraft.
Gregg rejoined 2 RB in time for the battle of El Alamein. During the advance his carrier hit a mine and one of the tracks was blown off; he and his crew were unharmed but they had to repair the vehicle while under constant shell and mortar fire. During the battle itself he took part in further fierce fighting around Kidney Ridge and Outpost Snipe. Lt Col Vic Turner was awarded a VC in that action.
After 2 RB were pulled out of the line, Gregg volunteered to return to Palestine, where a new Parachute Battalion was being formed. Based at Sarafand, he trained jumping from Hudsons and Dakotas. On one cold night he used his parachute as an extra blanket, but next morning, when he jumped, the shrouds of the parachute had stuck together. He was down to 250 feet when he finally forced it open, and he landed heavily.
Following a move to a camp near Tunis, 10th Bn The Parachute Regiment (10 Para) boarded the British cruiser Penelope and landed at Taranto in southern Italy. In November 1943, after a short campaign, the Bn arrived back in England to train for D-Day.
Gregg met up with Freda Donovan, whom he had only known for a few days before going overseas almost five years earlier. They got married, but he overstayed his leave and was sentenced to 28 days’ detention. He was, however, released early because 10 Para was “warned” for Normandy shortly after D-Day.
In September 1944, he took part in Operation Market Garden, the ill-fated attempt to shorten the war by creating a large salient into Germany with a bridgehead over the Rhine. Gregg and his comrades formed part of the rearguard of 10 Para after many of the survivors had withdrawn across the river, and he was taken prisoner.
Gregg was shortlisted for the Empire Games cycling team until a shoulder injury put paid to his plans

Gregg was shortlisted for the Empire Games cycling team until a shoulder injury put paid to his plans
He was sent to Stalag VI-B, north-west Germany, but after volunteering for work, he and a few others were moved to a camp in a suburb of Dresden, where he shovelled coal or picked potatoes. One day, he and three others left a working party that was clearing snow. It was freezing cold and they followed a disused railway line, heading for the border with Czechoslovakia. Within a few miles of the frontier, they stumbled into an army checkpoint and were recaptured.
After a second escape attempt failed he was put to work in a soap factory. Out of sheer devilment, he and “Mad Harry” mixed cement into the soap powder. It set solid overnight and the next day, when the power was switched on, it jammed the machinery, blew the electric circuits and set the factory ablaze. The culprits were quickly traced and the local Gestapo was called in. Gregg and Harry were thrown into a police van and taken to prison in Dresden for sentencing and execution.
After his escape from the city, for the next six weeks he travelled with forward elements of the Red Army, heading for Leipzig. When they met the Canadian forces, he was handed over to them and taken to the British lines. Germany had surrendered and he was flown back to England and re-united with his family.
Gregg reported to Tidworth, Wiltshire, for de-briefing. He wanted to return to 10 Para but the interrogators at the assessment centre were suspicious of the fact that he had escaped eastwards from Dresden and spent several weeks with the Russians. Why, they asked, had he not gone westwards towards the Allied lines?
His explanation that the Russians provided food, shelter and relative safety amid the chaos did not satisfy them and he was posted to a Royal Artillery unit at Tregantle Fort, Cornwall. Two months afterwards, aged 27, he was discharged from the Army.
In later life, Gregg's Eastern European connections led to approaches from shadowy figures on both sides of the Iron Curtain

In later life, Gregg's Eastern European connections led to approaches from shadowy figures on both sides of the Iron Curtain
When Gregg was serving with Major “Popski” he became a temporary sergeant. After that, he returned to the rank of rifleman, refusing promotion several times because he wanted to stay with his mates. He also had a pronounced “anti-authority” side to him and did not like the idea of giving orders to subordinates.
The bombing at Dresden, he said afterwards, had made him feel like a murderer and had altered his whole concept of war.
The comradeship of serving in the same unit as his friends had, he felt, also been taken from him by unfeeling bureaucrats. On his way home, he threw his Army kitbag containing his medals out of the window of the train. He walked out of Paddington Station, he said, with a chip on his shoulder the size of a house and a grievance against authority that was to shape his life as a civilian.
After a job with the Post Office, he worked in the building trade. In his spare time, he trained obsessively as a racing cyclist. He was short-listed for selection for the Empire Games but a shoulder injury put an end to that ambition.
When the fortune of the German steel magnate, Alfried Krupp, which had been confiscated, was returned to him, Gregg joined the Communist Party and took part in marches and protests against German re-armament.
He was convicted of assault and sent to prison for two weeks after laying out a man who was hitting his son. While driving lorries, he started to make trips on an old motorbike to Yugoslavia, behind the Iron Curtain.
In the Army Gregg refused promotion several times because he wanted to stay with his mates

In the Army Gregg refused promotion several times because he wanted to stay with his mates
When the local area committee of the Communist Party was asked to find a politically reliable chauffeur and bodyguard for the chairman of the Moscow Narodny Bank in London, Gregg got the job. Increasingly he drove for the Soviet Embassy and the Russian Trade Delegation while keeping the British Security Service informed of any people or locations that might be of interest to them.
In 1962 he left the Bank and got a job driving buses in London. His long, unexplained absences from home undermined his marriage to Freda and they divorced. He subsequently married Betty, who had become his bus conductress.
They moved to Taunton in Somerset, where he worked for the local bus service. In his spare time he went on motor cycle trips all over Europe, usually staying at campsites. His connections with East Germany and Hungary resulted in approaches from shadowy figures on both sides of the Iron Curtain and undercover courier trips to both countries enlivened his long years of retirement.
With Rick Stroud he wrote Rifleman (2011 and 2019), King’s Cross Kid (2013), Dresden (2013) and Soldier, Spy (2015).
Victor Gregg lived in Winchester for many years before moving into a care home. He married, on New Year’s Day 1944, Freda Donovan. After their divorce, in 1969 he married Elizabeth (Betty) Barnet. She predeceased him and he is survived by a daughter and two sons of his first marriage.
Victor Gregg, born October 15 1919, died October 12 2021
 
Vic Gregg aged 101 yrs. Last man standing from 10th Bn Para Regt just died.

I did not know him but as 10 Para was my first introduction to a world outside of childhood ( and I was gagging for it ) I salute his spirit .
 

Victor Gregg, rifleman with a rebellious streak who was captured at Arnhem and searched for survivors in the rubble following the Dresden firestorm – obituary​

He was due to be executed for sabotage when Allied planes struck, while later he joined the Communist Party and drove for the Soviet embassy
Victor Gregg

Victor Gregg
Victor Gregg, who has died aged 101, was a rifleman, paratrooper and spy who survived capture at Arnhem and the bombing of Dresden.
With two failed attempts to escape from PoW camps on their records and accused of sabotage, Gregg and a comrade, “Mad Harry”, were taken to a prison in the centre of Dresden. There they joined about 250 prisoners who had been condemned to death for crimes against the German state and were awaiting execution.
The building was circular in shape with a large glass roof. In the middle there were large oil drums overflowing with excrement; the stench was appalling. The prisoners were crammed so closely together that it was impossible to sit down. Two inmates, who had been incarcerated for a few days and had been sentenced to be shot, told Gregg that every day 30 prisoners were taken out and never seen again.
On the morning of February 13 1945 the air raid sirens in the city began to wail. Then came the rumble of an approaching air armada. Through the panes of the glass roof, marker flares dropped by the pathfinders could be seen drifting down to the ground.
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The whole building began to shake with the reverberation of the bombers passing overhead. Many of the prisoners were screaming and banging on the doors, begging to be let out. Two incendiaries came through the roof; huge shards of glass and globules of burning sulphur fell on the prisoners packed underneath.
Rifleman Gregg

Rifleman Gregg
Gregg and Harry were crouching against the side of the building when, with a tremendous crash, the wall opposite them was blown inwards. Gregg was thrown some 40 feet by the force of the blast and heavily concussed. He recovered consciousness to find himself half-buried in fallen glass and masonry. Harry was dead.
Gregg and a small number of survivors made a dash for the opening – and freedom. Outside, the heat was like a furnace and he was engulfed in smoke, dust and flames. Everywhere buildings were crashing to the ground. People, some clutching children, were emerging from the rubble of what had once been their homes and finding themselves trapped in a ring of fire.
He joined hundreds of PoWs and foreign workers assembled around the perimeter of the devastated city. Equipped with picks and shovels, moving through heaps of smouldering rubble, they searched for survivors as well as retrieving bodies from cellars and shelters and laying them out for the often impossible task of identification.
Road surfaces had melted and water mains had burst, flooding wide areas with boiling water. People caught looting were hanged or shot out of hand.
Gregg worked with his team for several days – at night he slept in a wagon on the railway sidings. He was worried that as things returned to a semblance of normality he would be taken back to prison to face execution, and he slipped away from the group.
After three days moving eastwards against the tide of refugees – unshaven, his clothes in rags, scrounging scraps of food along the way – he met up with leading elements of the Russian forces.
Placeholder image for youtube video: 8aUqi9CWTwg

Victor James Thomas Gregg, the eldest of three children, was born at King’s Cross, London, on October 15 1919; his father vanished when the third child arrived. His mother was a seamstress and the family was so poor that young Victor was sent out to scrounge for food at Covent Garden, Smithfield and Billingsgate.
He had to dodge the gangs in Hackney or Shoreditch, but there were forays into the West End, where he enjoyed teasing the doormen in their uniforms and shiny top hats at the big hotels. On Saturdays, threepence would get him into one of the fleapit cinemas. He played cricket and football in the streets and learned to box, though with little regard for the Queensberry rules.
His mother was so overworked that he and his brother went to live with his grandparents in Bloomsbury. Victor earned sixpence a week warning the street girls and their pimps of the approach of a policeman.
Aged 14, he left Cromer Street School in St Pancras. He had gained a scholarship to the London School of Music, but he had to earn his living. He worked for a firm of opticians and, in his spare time, washed cars for pocket money. Sometimes he was taken to Brooklands to watch the racing cars.
Gregg joined the Rifle Brigade when he was 18 and signed on for 21 years. After basic training at Winchester and Tidworth, in December 1938 he embarked for India with the 2nd Battalion (2 RB). The troopship berthed at Karachi and he and his comrades entrained to Meerut. Big blocks of ice in the carriages served as primitive air conditioning.
Nine months later, they moved to Haifa in Palestine on internal security duties, and then to the motor training base at Sarafand. In early 1940, 2 RB, a fully mechanised battalion, was in a tented camp at Mersa Matruh, Egypt, a forward military base.
Gregg in the desert: he served throughout North Africa, including the Battle of El Alamein

Gregg in the desert: he served throughout North Africa, including the Battle of El Alamein
Gregg saw heavy fighting at Beda Fomm in Libya in February 1941 before being ordered to escort Italian PoWs to Durban in South Africa. He rejoined his unit in October and took part in the battle of Sidi Rezegh, Libya. The tanks, he said afterwards, were ordered to charge the German 88 mm anti-tank guns, a futile and costly operation.
A few days’ leave took him to the night clubs in Cairo: whisky was served in pint glasses and bands playing Western music were protected by wire mesh from the beer bottles that were thrown at them every time they played a wrong note.
Lodgings were easy to find. On arrival in the city, they would be surrounded by natives shouting, “Best bed in Cairo, Johnnie!”
Gregg was fast making a name for himself leading reconnaissance patrols, sometimes several hundred miles behind enemy lines. He was ordered to report to Major (later Lt Col) Vladimir Peniakoff at Fort Maddalena in Libya. A patrol of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) acted as escorts.
He was seconded to a secret unit called the Libyan Arab Force Commando, led by Peniakoff (who was known as “Popski”). The Force toured the outer reaches of the desert visiting small groups of Bedouin and gathering information about enemy formations, ammunition and fuel dumps. In return, they handed over sugar, salt, tea and equipment. Gregg’s task was to deliver these supplies to the Bedouin, pick up information and relay it to the LRDG, who would use it to harass the Axis units.
In the course of a month, he covered some 4,000 miles in his pick-up truck; had he been captured wearing Arab dress he would have been shot as a spy. On one occasion he became stuck in a traffic jam of enemy vehicles on the Benghazi-to-Tripoli coastal road. Fortunately, he was wearing general-issue khaki uniform and was not recognised.
Gregg joined the Rifle Brigade aged 18, signing up for 21 years

Gregg joined the Rifle Brigade aged 18, signing up for 21 years
From May to October 1942, driving an old American Chevrolet, he collected wounded members of the LRDG and took them back to base at the Siwa Oasis in Egypt. Sometimes the men were so badly injured that he had to risk travelling by day, and he had several narrow escapes from confrontations with enemy aircraft.
Gregg rejoined 2 RB in time for the battle of El Alamein. During the advance his carrier hit a mine and one of the tracks was blown off; he and his crew were unharmed but they had to repair the vehicle while under constant shell and mortar fire. During the battle itself he took part in further fierce fighting around Kidney Ridge and Outpost Snipe. Lt Col Vic Turner was awarded a VC in that action.
After 2 RB were pulled out of the line, Gregg volunteered to return to Palestine, where a new Parachute Battalion was being formed. Based at Sarafand, he trained jumping from Hudsons and Dakotas. On one cold night he used his parachute as an extra blanket, but next morning, when he jumped, the shrouds of the parachute had stuck together. He was down to 250 feet when he finally forced it open, and he landed heavily.
Following a move to a camp near Tunis, 10th Bn The Parachute Regiment (10 Para) boarded the British cruiser Penelope and landed at Taranto in southern Italy. In November 1943, after a short campaign, the Bn arrived back in England to train for D-Day.
Gregg met up with Freda Donovan, whom he had only known for a few days before going overseas almost five years earlier. They got married, but he overstayed his leave and was sentenced to 28 days’ detention. He was, however, released early because 10 Para was “warned” for Normandy shortly after D-Day.
In September 1944, he took part in Operation Market Garden, the ill-fated attempt to shorten the war by creating a large salient into Germany with a bridgehead over the Rhine. Gregg and his comrades formed part of the rearguard of 10 Para after many of the survivors had withdrawn across the river, and he was taken prisoner.
Gregg was shortlisted for the Empire Games cycling team until a shoulder injury put paid to his plans

Gregg was shortlisted for the Empire Games cycling team until a shoulder injury put paid to his plans
He was sent to Stalag VI-B, north-west Germany, but after volunteering for work, he and a few others were moved to a camp in a suburb of Dresden, where he shovelled coal or picked potatoes. One day, he and three others left a working party that was clearing snow. It was freezing cold and they followed a disused railway line, heading for the border with Czechoslovakia. Within a few miles of the frontier, they stumbled into an army checkpoint and were recaptured.
After a second escape attempt failed he was put to work in a soap factory. Out of sheer devilment, he and “Mad Harry” mixed cement into the soap powder. It set solid overnight and the next day, when the power was switched on, it jammed the machinery, blew the electric circuits and set the factory ablaze. The culprits were quickly traced and the local Gestapo was called in. Gregg and Harry were thrown into a police van and taken to prison in Dresden for sentencing and execution.
After his escape from the city, for the next six weeks he travelled with forward elements of the Red Army, heading for Leipzig. When they met the Canadian forces, he was handed over to them and taken to the British lines. Germany had surrendered and he was flown back to England and re-united with his family.
Gregg reported to Tidworth, Wiltshire, for de-briefing. He wanted to return to 10 Para but the interrogators at the assessment centre were suspicious of the fact that he had escaped eastwards from Dresden and spent several weeks with the Russians. Why, they asked, had he not gone westwards towards the Allied lines?
His explanation that the Russians provided food, shelter and relative safety amid the chaos did not satisfy them and he was posted to a Royal Artillery unit at Tregantle Fort, Cornwall. Two months afterwards, aged 27, he was discharged from the Army.
In later life, Gregg's Eastern European connections led to approaches from shadowy figures on both sides of the Iron Curtain's Eastern European connections led to approaches from shadowy figures on both sides of the Iron Curtain

In later life, Gregg's Eastern European connections led to approaches from shadowy figures on both sides of the Iron Curtain
When Gregg was serving with Major “Popski” he became a temporary sergeant. After that, he returned to the rank of rifleman, refusing promotion several times because he wanted to stay with his mates. He also had a pronounced “anti-authority” side to him and did not like the idea of giving orders to subordinates.
The bombing at Dresden, he said afterwards, had made him feel like a murderer and had altered his whole concept of war.
The comradeship of serving in the same unit as his friends had, he felt, also been taken from him by unfeeling bureaucrats. On his way home, he threw his Army kitbag containing his medals out of the window of the train. He walked out of Paddington Station, he said, with a chip on his shoulder the size of a house and a grievance against authority that was to shape his life as a civilian.
After a job with the Post Office, he worked in the building trade. In his spare time, he trained obsessively as a racing cyclist. He was short-listed for selection for the Empire Games but a shoulder injury put an end to that ambition.
When the fortune of the German steel magnate, Alfried Krupp, which had been confiscated, was returned to him, Gregg joined the Communist Party and took part in marches and protests against German re-armament.
He was convicted of assault and sent to prison for two weeks after laying out a man who was hitting his son. While driving lorries, he started to make trips on an old motorbike to Yugoslavia, behind the Iron Curtain.
In the Army Gregg refused promotion several times because he wanted to stay with his mates

In the Army Gregg refused promotion several times because he wanted to stay with his mates
When the local area committee of the Communist Party was asked to find a politically reliable chauffeur and bodyguard for the chairman of the Moscow Narodny Bank in London, Gregg got the job. Increasingly he drove for the Soviet Embassy and the Russian Trade Delegation while keeping the British Security Service informed of any people or locations that might be of interest to them.
In 1962 he left the Bank and got a job driving buses in London. His long, unexplained absences from home undermined his marriage to Freda and they divorced. He subsequently married Betty, who had become his bus conductress.
They moved to Taunton in Somerset, where he worked for the local bus service. In his spare time he went on motor cycle trips all over Europe, usually staying at campsites. His connections with East Germany and Hungary resulted in approaches from shadowy figures on both sides of the Iron Curtain and undercover courier trips to both countries enlivened his long years of retirement.
With Rick Stroud he wrote Rifleman (2011 and 2019), King’s Cross Kid (2013), Dresden (2013) and Soldier, Spy (2015).
Victor Gregg lived in Winchester for many years before moving into a care home. He married, on New Year’s Day 1944, Freda Donovan. After their divorce, in 1969 he married Elizabeth (Betty) Barnet. She predeceased him and he is survived by a daughter and two sons of his first marriage.
Victor Gregg, born October 15 1919, died October 12 2021
Bloody hell, he certainly had an interesting war! Quite a character, RIP Victor. FN
 
This is 'Old school' soldiering!
As a lieutenant, aged 23, he chased bandits on foot with 13 of his Somali soldiers across 50 miles of the desolate Ogaden. When they were exhausted, they turned their weapons on him. Armed only with his .303 rifle, Stephenson told them calmly, “You have seen me shoot. I’m very good and you know it. I will kill five of you before you get to me. And I’ve chosen the five. So put down your rifles or open fire.” He faced them down.
Steve Stephenson with his pet cheetah  in Somalia in 1941

Steve Stephenson with his pet cheetah in Somalia in 1941
Steve Stephenson, who has died aged 101, served in the East Africa Campaign in the Second World War before becoming a pioneering conservationist who made a lasting contribution to that region’s magnificent wildlife.
At the outbreak of war, Stephenson enlisted in the Kenya Regiment. He was posted to Somalia and served variously with the King’s African Rifles, the Somali Camel Corps and the British Military Administration.
He trekked thousands of miles with camels, keeping the peace among warring tribes and looking out for Japanese submarines that never came. Several fellow officers went mad or killed themselves in the extreme conditions and loneliness of that campaign.
Stephenson, with pipe, with rangers at Simien National Park in 1975

Stephenson, with pipe, with rangers at Simien National Park in 1975
As a lieutenant, aged 23, he chased bandits on foot with 13 of his Somali soldiers across 50 miles of the desolate Ogaden. When they were exhausted, they turned their weapons on him.
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Armed only with his .303 rifle, Stephenson told them calmly, “You have seen me shoot. I’m very good and you know it. I will kill five of you before you get to me. And I’ve chosen the five. So put down your rifles or open fire.” He faced them down.
In June 1946, he took a company of Askaris to the Victory Parade in London. He was presented to Princess Elizabeth, who would much later send congratulations from the Queen on his 100th birthday.
John Griffith Stephenson, the son of missionaries, was born on February 26 1920 in a mud hut at Kinoi, Kenya. His parents had trekked inland from the East African coast to set up missionary stations in the remote Ukambani region.
Stephenson, chief park warden at Gombe Stream National Park, with wild chimpanzees being studied by Dr Jane Goodall

Stephenson, Chief Park Warden at Gombe Stream National Park, with wild chimpanzees being studied by Dr Jane Goodall
Always known as Steve, he was educated at the Prince of Wales School, Nairobi. By nature a loner and something of an outsider among his British, settler-type fellow officers, he was a sensitive young man but he had a will of iron. The Somalis admired and respected him for that.
Fluent in Swahili and with a preference for remote postings, after the war he joined the Tanganyika Administrative Service. In 1961, at Independence, he was the last District Commissioner of Masailand.
He joined Tanzania’s fledgling National Parks Department, learnt to fly a small plane and set off for the south where, over 10 years as Chief Park Warden Southern Tanzania, he set up Ruaha, Mikumi, Gombe and Katavi National Parks, all of which flourish some 50 years on.
With the Camel Corps on operations in the Ogaden region in 1943

With the Camel Corps on operations in the Ogaden region in 1943
He developed diverse skills, bush flying, leading anti-poaching patrols, road building, legislating, nurturing community relations, entertaining a string of VIPs, planning for hotels and introducing tourism. He also built a home in the bush for his family.
His final role was to manage the Serengeti National Park, but he said his greatest satisfaction came from the nurturing and mentoring of Tanzanian wardens who later took over the national parks.
Stephenson subsequently moved to Ethiopia as wildlife adviser to the government. He arrived a few weeks after Emperor Haile Selassie’s death. When the Marxist military dictatorship insisted that he carry a security agent in his small plane, he threw the aircraft around so violently and made his passenger so ill that no agent would ever fly with him again.
Stephenson as chief park warden in southern Tanzania in 1965

Stephenson as Chief Park Warden in southern Tanzania in 1965
In his 60s he joined scientist friends as administrator on a large UN project studying desertification in Northern Kenya, using his plane and knowledge of how to motivate and care for people working in remote, harsh conditions.
He enjoyed a long retirement in Dorset, but Africa called him back and he chose to end his days in Nairobi. He travelled extensively with his second wife, Yvonne, and he was still consulting on conservation projects in his late 70s.
Steve Stephenson married first, in 1946, Phyllis Blaikie, and they had three sons, who survive him. He married secondly, in 1964, Yvonne Caseley, who survives him with their son. Their daughter predeceased him.
Steve Stephenson, born February 26 1920, died October 26 2021
 

Colonel Tony Uloth, soldier and pilot who served in Korea and tested an early microlight prototype – obituary​

Tony Uloth married, in 1954, Margaret Colquhoun, whom he had met at a vicarage tea party. The vicar’s party trick was to pass around Oliver Cromwell’s skull. The skull, it was said, had been passed to the vicar’s family after it was blown down in a gale while it was hung on a pike on London Bridge.

Tony Uloth

Tony Uloth
Colonel Tony Uloth, who has died aged 92, had a wide-ranging and varied career which included becoming a test pilot in bizarre circumstances.
In 1957 Uloth trained as an Army pilot, flying Austers. He qualified and was posted to 6 Flight Army Air Corps (AAC) at Middle Wallop, Hampshire. After transferring to the 10th Royal Hussars (10 RH), he took part in exercises to test the viability of integrating an innovative aircraft into a front-line combat unit to carry out clandestine operations.
The ML prototype was an early form of microlight aircraft. It consisted of a delta-shaped rubber, inflatable wing with a square laundry basket on wheels suspended underneath. A pedal-car crank, powered by the engine, worked a set of bellows which kept the contraption inflated. When not in use, the whole ensemble could be packed away in the laundry basket.

On its first test flight, at Middle Wallop in Hampshire, all Uloth’s verve and élan could not persuade it into the air until it reached the very end of the airfield. Its ceiling, he reported, was about 20 feet, it was slow, and it was described as having all the manoeuvrability of a flying dishcloth. After evaluation by the AAC, further production of the ‘Durex Delta’, as it was irreverently known, was not taken up.
The ML prototype that was tested by Uloth

The ML prototype that was tested by Uloth
Anthony Conrad Uloth was born at Redhill, Surrey, on May 30 1929 and brought up in Kent. His two Uloth uncles were awarded MCs in the First World War.
As a boy, he witnessed the Battle of Britain and the V-1 and V-2 attacks on the south of England. He was educated at Malvern College; the Radar Research Establishment having taken over their buildings, they moved to Harrow School and shared the accommodation. He was captain of boxing and in the school gymnastics team.
In 1947, he was called up for National Service. During training, he knocked out Bruce Kent (later a leading campaigner for nuclear disarmament) in a boxing match. He entered the RMA Sandhurst the following year. He was a Junior Under Officer, captain of the modern pentathlon team and in the Academy fencing team.
Commissioned into the 1st Royal Tank Regiment in 1949, he served in Germany before accompanying 1 RTR to Korea. In May 1953, in the 3rd Battle of the Hook, he was Mentioned in Despatches. After a posting to the Canal Zone he went to the School of Oriental and African Studies, spent a year in Turkey and passed the Army’s exam as an interpreter in Turkish. He subsequently acted as the president of Turkey’s interpreter on his state visit to Britain.
Uloth meeting President Nimeiry of Sudan

Uloth meeting President Nimeiry of Sudan
He served with 10 RH as adjutant in Germany and Aden and was a member of the Regiment’s squash, water polo and fencing teams. A return to Middle Wallop in a series of staff appointments followed. In his final appointment with 10 RH he commanded a squadron in Germany.
In 1970 he was posted to Khartoum as Defence Attaché. Sudan had fallen very much under the influence of the Soviet Union; after a coup and counter-coup that deposed and then reinstated President Nimeiry, the Russians were expelled and Uloth became involved in setting up the British Army Training Team.
Two staff appointments followed, first at Middle Wallop on the Directorate of Army Aviation and then to HQ Nato in Brussels. In 1983 he retired from the Army after five years as Director of Overseas Defence Relations at the MoD, in the course of which he made official visits to Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and back to Sudan.
He then became chief executive of the Royal Bath and West of England Society. Specialist agricultural shows were added to complement the annual show and revenue was increased by using the showground for a wide variety of events, from pop concerts to antiques fairs.
Escorting the Prince of Wales at the Royal Bath & West Show in the 1980s

Escorting the Prince of Wales at the Royal Bath & West Show in the 1980s
He retired from the post in 1992 but took up a part-time appointment as secretary-general of the European Association of Show Organisers. In the course of the next three years he set up meetings at London, Caen, Rennes, Frankfurt, Aalborg, Oslo and Braga.
Throughout his time in the Army and in retirement he was able to pursue his love of sailing, and crossed the Atlantic twice with the commodore of the Royal Cruising Club. In the winter he enjoyed skiing with his family and, in his late 40s, he completed the arduous Haute Route, a week-long ski and mountaineering trek from Chamonix to Zermatt.
His wife Margaret ran a horse-breeding enterprise and the family hunted from their home in Nether Wallop with various packs in the south of England.
In 1994, as result of another visit to Sudan, Uloth and two friends formed the Melik Society to try to restore and preserve the Melik, the last surviving vessel of Kitchener’s fleet of gunboats that played a prominent part in the reconquest of Sudan in 1898.
He had been vice-commodore of the Blue Nile Sailing Club when the Melik was used as a floating clubhouse. The vessel lies beached on the banks of the Blue Nile but the Society has not yet succeeded in securing its future.
In retirement, Uloth took up sculpture and had some success with animal and portrait sculpture in terracotta, bronze and bronze resin. He published privately his own memoirs, and Riding to War, an account written by his father of his adventures in Persia and Russia during the First World War.
Tony Uloth married, in 1954, Margaret Colquhoun, whom he had met at a vicarage tea party. The vicar’s party trick was to pass around Oliver Cromwell’s skull. The skull, it was said, had been passed to the vicar’s family after it was blown down in a gale while it was hung on a pike on London Bridge.
She survives him with their daughter and three sons. Their eldest son served with the Royal Hussars.
Tony Uloth, born May 30 1929, died September 23 2021
 

Air Commodore Sir John Clements, RAF apprentice who rose to become an expert in airborne radar systems – obituary​

Surviving a crash into the sea, escaping from the submerged aircraft, he went on to carry out much vital work on radar research and testing
John Clements

John Clements
Air Commodore Sir John Clements, who has died aged 99, was an aircraft apprentice who played a key role in the development of airborne radars and who went on to hold a senior post in RAF Signals.
After training as a wireless operator mechanic at the Electrical and Wireless School at RAF Cranwell in January 1940, Clements joined a small team at RAF St Athan who were completing the development of the first airborne radar equipment, Air to Surface (ASV) and Air Interception (AI). Their role was to undertake the ground and flight testing of these new systems before they were delivered to the RAF for operational use.
Initially, Clements was involved in testing ASV Mark 1 in Coastal Command aircraft. He took every opportunity to fly, which included acting as the radar operator in Sunderland aircraft flying on anti-submarine operations. After working on Catalinas and the long-range Liberator he started testing airborne radars in the Beaufort and Beaufighter.

On April 8 1942 he was detailed to fly in a Botha aircraft, equipped as a flying classroom to train ASV Mark 2 operators. Minutes after take-off, the aircraft plunged into the sea, killing the pilot. Clements managed to escape from the submerged aircraft before being picked up and transferred to hospital. His experience qualified him for membership of the exclusive “Goldfish Club”.
After a series of accidents that killed some of his ex-apprentice colleagues, those acting as flight test observers were granted flying pay of 1/6d (7.5p) per day. They were not, however, awarded the recently introduced RO (Radar Operator) flying brevet.
By 1943, Clements had started flight-testing the new bombing radar aid H2S being fitted to the Halifax and Lancaster bombers. By the second half of 1944 he was assessing the new American radar being installed in the Fleet Air Arm’s Firefly fighter.
Bombs being loaded on to a Lancaster during the Second World War: Clements flight-tested the bombing radar aid H2S which was fitted to the Halifax and Lancaster bombers

Bombs being loaded on to a Lancaster during the Second World War: Clements flight-tested the bombing radar aid H2S which was fitted to the Halifax and Lancaster bombers CREDIT: Fox Photos
When he left St Athan at the end of the war to be commissioned, he had carried out some 300 flight tests of 10 different radars installed in 19 different aircraft types.
Arthur John Baskett Clements was born in Swansea on December 2 1921 and was educated at Bristol’s Cotham Grammar School. In 1937 he passed out third out of almost 2,000 candidates in the competitive examination for aircraft apprentices. In September 1937 he began his training at Cranwell.
Following commissioning in 1945, he served in India, including the post of adjutant at RAF Dum Dum, now the international airport at Kolkata (Calcutta). On his return to England he was posted to Lyneham, a major air transport base operating the York aircraft.
He was detached to Wünsdorf in Germany and flew on several flights delivering supplies during the Berlin Airlift. In May 1950, while a staff officer at HQ 38 Group, he flew on the last York flight to Singapore and shared the signaller’s duties.
In 1952-53 he did a one-year postgraduate electronics course at Southampton University, where he was able to join the University Air Squadron and fly.
He then went to the Radar Research Establishment at Malvern as project officer on three airborne radar projects currently under development. These included a new bombing radar, and Clements flew 100 hours testing the equipment in a Canberra bomber.
After a series of staff appointments at Nato, the Air Ministry and at HQ Fighter Command, he left for Singapore to be the Command Electrical Engineer at the RAF’s HQ Far East Air Force. He initiated the installation of an airborne radio relay system to improve communications with low-flying helicopters over the Malaysian jungle.
Clements was proud of having been an apprentice, and was later president of the RAF Cranwell Apprentices Association

Clements was proud of having been an apprentice, and was later president of the RAF Cranwell Apprentices Association
Returning to England, he took command of the Radio Engineering Unit at Henlow, which was responsible for the worldwide installation of communication systems and navigational aids. In 1972-73 he was Assistant Controller of the Defence Communications Network (DCN).
In late 1973 Clements was appointed Air Officer Signals at HQ Air Support Command. His time was coloured by a series of take-over battles and attempts to break up the electronic warfare organisation by transferring his organisation to other MoD departments. Clements won all the battles to retain his establishment as the centre of RAF signals expertise.
After retiring in December 1976, he joined Marconi Defence Systems. In January 1983 he was the company’s member of a UK industrial team which sold the Sea King helicopter equipped with the Sea Eagle missile to the Indian Navy.
Three years later he initiated the proposal to fit the American Rockwell Hellfire missile with a Marconi millimetric active radar seeker. This became known as the Brimstone air-launched anti-armour missile, used to great effect by RAF Tornados and Harrier aircraft.
He left Marconi in 1987 and worked as an independent defence consultant, retiring on his 72nd birthday after 56 years’ involvement with electronics.
Clements was proud of being an RAF apprentice and later became the president of the RAF Cranwell Apprentices Association (1993-03). His autobiography Electronic Airborne Goldfish was published in 2001. He was a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and of the Chartered Institute of Management.
In his younger days, his 15-stone heft was useful in the second row of the rugby scrum. In later life he discovered golf, but while enjoying the inquests at the 19th hole, he never succeeded in getting his handicap below 20. He was involved with a number of local organisations in Northwood.
John Clements married, in 1957, Monica Jenkins; they had a son and a daughter.
John Clements, born December 2 1921, died October 23 2021
 

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