Lt-Col Tom Carew DSO CdeG, RA & SOE

Discussion in 'Memorials & Cemeteries' started by Adrian Roberts, Mar 3, 2009.

  1. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Carew - Telegraph

    Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Carew, who has died aged 89, was an SOE "Jedburgh" officer parachuted into enemy-occupied France and Burma, and won the DSO and the Croix de Guerre.

    On the night of December 27 1944, Carew was dropped into the Burmese jungle in the Arakan. His objective was to organise resistance, sabotage, ambush and intelligence-gathering against the Japanese. The "Jed" teams were not spies; they landed in uniform.

    With him were Captain John Cox; his radio operator, Sergeant John Sharp; a guide; and a kilo of opium for currency. Most of them, Sharp recalled, suffered badly from nerves before the jump, but Carew slept throughout the flight.

    A Manual of Burmese, published in 1888, formed part of the equipment. It contained useful translations for words such as "laudanum" and "chambermaid"; quoted a fare of a few pounds for a passage from Rangoon to London; and listed, among the principal exports of the country, edible birds' nests and sea slugs.

    Within two weeks Carew had recruited 400 hillmen to make up a volunteer guerrilla force. Acting in small groups, sleeping by day and moving at night, they struck at Japanese patrols, rivercraft and communications. They also produced high grade intelligence and, in January 1945 at Minzegyang, on the information they provided, the RAF inflicted 200 casualties on an enemy concentration in battalion strength.

    The Japanese tried to hunt them down, but the Jeds crossed streams backwards to give the impression that they were going in the opposite direction, and walked on blankets to avoid leaving tracks. In six weeks of relentless raiding, Carew's force caused the Japanese 110 casualties for the loss of one man. The citation for his DSO paid tribute to his courage, coolness and resourcefulness.

    Thomas Arthur St Clair Carew, the son of a naval officer, was born in Dublin on November 25 1919. He went to the Perse School, Cambridge, before attending the RMA Woolwich and, in 1939, was commissioned into the Royal Artillery.

    He saw active service in the ill-fated Norway campaign before serving as a troop commander in a heavy anti-aircraft unit in Gibraltar. In 1943 he joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and, at Milton Hall, Peterborough, was trained in guerrilla warfare; courses included parachuting, sabotage and silent killing.

    On August 26 1944 he was one of a three-man Jedburgh team, code-named "Basil", which was dropped into France south of Besançon, near the Swiss frontier. His companions were Captain Robert Rivière, of France, and Technical Sergeant John L Stoyka of the US Army.

    The team became separated, and their canisters – which should have contained vital equipment and a wireless set – were full of cocoa and propaganda leaflets. They had only their pistols and the clothes they stood up in, Carew said later.

    He hid in the house of a schoolmaster, where he heard a BBC message on the local radio which told him where he could contact the Resistance. Their leader later recalled the anxious wait at their HQ. They had received a large arms drop, their map was marked up with promising targets – but they were in a foul mood because their special agent was missing.

    Suddenly, there was a knock on the door, and everyone in the room scrambled for a weapon. The door slowly opened to reveal a blond young man in a Harris tweed jacket and corduroy trousers, smoking a pipe. "Excuse me, gentlemen," he said. "My name's Carew. I dropped in this evening, you know. Got lost somehow." When the laughter had died down, he gave them the plan.

    The team was involved in an attack on the German garrison at Mouthe; after two days' heavy fighting they captured the town. Then they split up, and Carew moved to Pontarlier to mount attacks, and on to Salins to organise the partisans into a regular force that became the Régiment de Franche-Comté.

    He supervised the arming of this unit and the selection of drop zones. On one occasion, he was completely surrounded by Germans and escaped along sewers into the forest. For his work in France, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre and mentioned in despatches.

    On his return from France, Carew volunteered for service with SOE Force 136 in the Far East. After his exploits in the Arakan, in March 1945 he was parachuted into Pegu Yomas, a broad tract of land between the Irrawaddy river and the Rangoon-Mandalay railway.

    During this mission he met the Commander of the Burma Defence Army, General Aung San, father of Aung San Suu Kyi, the present leader of the Burmese National League for Democracy. He helped to provide the general with safe conduct to HQ Fourteenth Army for a meeting with General Slim to discuss plans for co-operating to defeat the Japanese.

    After the end of war in the Far East, Carew returned to the Royal Artillery and served with 6th Airborne Division in Palestine. He was, for a spell, an intelligence officer in Trieste, where a regular dining companion was the thriller writer Patricia Highsmith.

    Carew retired from the Army in 1958 and, after building boats for a time, he pioneered employee out-placement; his business eventually became Coutts Career Consultants. After selling the business in the 1980s he finally retired, dividing his time between his home in Sussex, and a house he built in France.

    A natural leader with great charm and a horror of the humdrum and conventional, he had a mischievous side to him and liked to "stir things up".

    Tom Carew died on February 16. His wartime marriage to Edna Margaret Goodchild was dissolved after the war. He married secondly, in 1953 (dissolved), Jane Suckling, who predeceased him. He married thirdly, in 1975, Jill Strahan, who also predeceased him. He is survived by two sons and two daughters of his second marriage.
  2. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Oh, how very true!

    Love the connection to modern-day Burma, sorry, Myanmar. RIP.
  3. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

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