Blair "Paddy" Mayne:
Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Blair "Paddy" Mayne DSO & 3 Bars (11 January 1915 - 14 December 1955) was a Northern Irish soldier, solicitor, rugby union international, amateur boxer and polar explorer.
In March 1939, prior to the outbreak of World War II, Mayne had joined the Territorial Army in Newtownards. After training with the Queen's University Officer Training Corps, he received a commission in the 5th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery. In April 1940 he transferred to the Royal Ulster Rifles. Following Churchill's call to form a "butcher and bolt" raiding force following Dunkirk, Mayne volunteered for the newly formed 11 (Scottish) Commando. He first saw action in June 1941 as a lieutenant with 11 Commando, successfully leading his men during the Litani River operation in Lebanon against the Vichy French Forces.
It was after this particularly brutal and confused action, in which 130 officers and men, around a third of the strike force, were wounded or killed, that Mayne reacted violently against what he believed was the ineptitude of his Commanding Officer, whom he considered inexperienced, arrogant and insincere. Some sources state that Mayne struck him, and was awaiting court-martial and almost certain dismissal.
However, his leadership on the raid had attracted the attention of Captain David Stirling who recruited him as one of the founder members of the Special Air Service (SAS). From November 1941 through to the end of 1942, Mayne participated in many night raids deep behind enemy lines in the deserts of Egypt and Libya, where the SAS wrought havoc by destroying hundreds of German and Italian aircraft on the ground.
Following Stirling's capture in January 1943, 1st SAS Regiment was reorganised into two separate parts, the Special Raiding Squadron and the Special Boat Section (the forerunner of the Special Boat Service). As a major, Mayne was appointed to command the Special Raiding Squadron and he led the unit with distinction in Italy until the end of 1943. In January 1944 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and appointed commanding officer of 1st SAS Regiment. He subsequently led the SAS with great distinction through the final campaigns of the war in France, Holland, Belgium, Germany and Norway, often campaigning alongside local resistance fighters including the French Maquis.
During the course of the war he became one of the British Army's most highly decorated soldiers and received the Distinguished Service Order with three bars, one of only seven British servicemen to receive that award four times during World War II. Mayne pioneered the use of military Jeeps to conduct surprise hit-and-run raids, particularly on enemy airfields. By the end of the war it was claimed that he had personally destroyed 130 aircraft.
In recognition of his leadership and personal disregard for danger while in France, in which he trained and worked closely with the French Resistance, Mayne received the second bar to his DSO. Additionally, the post-war French Government awarded him the Legion d'honneur and the Croix de Guerre, the first foreigner to receive such a dual honour.
It has often been questioned why Mayne was not awarded a Victoria Cross, and even King George VI was to express surprise at the omission. The answer almost certainly lies in Mayne's abrasive attitude to some of his superiors, combined with the Army hierarchy's askance view of the unconventional attitudes and tactics of the special forces.
In 1945 Mayne was recommended for a VC after single-handedly rescuing a squadron of his troops, trapped by heavy gunfire near the town of Oldenberg in north-west Germany. After the squadron became pinned down and sustained casualties, Mayne rescued the wounded, lifting them one by one into his Jeep before destroying the enemy gunners in a nearby farmhouse. However, although the VC recommendation was signed by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, commander of the Allied 21st Army Group, Mayne instead received a fourth DSO.