(Ed: 12th May 2009): Co-incidental with our Caribbean Re-Union in Penzance next month, a Military Historian has forwarded interesting Memorabilia for our former “A” Company 1DCLI, Commanding Officer Major J.A. Marsh DSO OBE (SAS). This material opens up the opportunity for the publication of a dedicated blog page which is offered to the permanent memory of the soldier and gentleman who guided us young soldiers through our National Service period during 1954-1957. We hope that additional photographic and anecdotal contributions will flow in due course. The Editor on behalf of all “A” Company 1DCLI, wishes to thank in particular Johan Wiegman of The Netherlands who has kindly forwarded the following Obituaries, Citations, many photographs including the Lt. Col. in full Mess Dress, extracted from the SAS Regimental magazines Mars and Minerva; and for the extracts from the Journal of the Light Infantry.
We acknowledge with thanks also the contributions from other authors for their work, which is reproduced here. We acknowledge with thanks too, the photographs taken from the collections of Barry Cornish, Neil Swanson, Terry Simons, Fraser Pakes, Mike Woolley and the editor himself. We shall gradually add more personal photographic memorabilia to this site, some of which is already published on the many 1DCLI websites and blog sites that can be viewed on the linked addresses featured in the Blogroll (rhs).
Obituary from the Journal of the Light Infantry
MARSH. Lt. Colonel John Anthony Marsh DSO, OBE died suddenly at his home in Devonshire Bermuda on the 14th November 1984, aged 64. Keenly interested in the Army from boyhood, he was an Under-Officer in the OTC and achieved the King’s Hundred at Bisley. On leaving school he joined the Artist’s Rifles as a private and at the outbreak of war was commissioned into the DCLI (he nearly burnt down the Officer’s Mess). In 1942 he was posted to 1DCLI but, arriving in Egypt just after the disastrous Battle of Bir-el-Harmat, found no battalion to join. He therefore applied for transfer to the SAS and was accepted. He served with 1SAS in North Africa and was probably the first British Officer to enter Tripoli when it was captured, leading a patrol in from the west as the main forces approached from the east. 1SAS went on to fight in Italy and was at Termoli on 5th October 1943 that, still as a junior officer, he won an outstanding DSO.Soon after the Normandy Landings he was parachuted in behind enemy lines to help organise the Maquis and he continued behind the lines in Belgium, Holland, Germany and finally Norway. He was twice Mentioned in Dispatches. After the war he went back to a somewhat tamer life of a Staff Captain at South West District at Taunton, before joining 1DCLI in Cyprus, serving with them in Cyprus and Somaliland. After a further staff appointment in Tripoli he returned to England as Training Major of 21SAS, now affiliated to the Artist’s Rifles. Life had come to a full circle and he was presented with a pewter tankard which, as Private JA Marsh OC ‘C’ Company, Artist’s Rifles, he had won at Bisley in 1939, but which he had not received, as war intervened! In 1954 he rejoined 1DCLI in the West Indies. He took over ‘A’ Company in Bermuda and was responsible, not only for a number of very high powered guards of honour to world statesmen, but for the organisation of Tattoos which are still remembered on the island. He was so impressed by the kindness and hospitality of all he met there that after a tour as Adjutant and Training Major of 4/5 DCLI in 1957, he retired in 1958 and returned to Bermuda to work for the Trade Development Board.
Six months later he was commissioned into the Bermuda Militia Artillery which he commanded until the amalgamation of the island forces when he commanded the Bermuda Regiment. On retirement he was awarded the OBE.
Always a keen sailor, he co-ordinated the first Tall Ships Race in 1964 and ran the press office for the biennial Newport-Bermuda Ocean Yacht race. Col Marsh was not only a gallant Officer, but a man with wide and varied accomplishments who lead a full life and made many friends. We extend our sincere sympathy to his widow Priscilla and to Simon his son.
THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER CITATION.
LIEUTENANT (TEM. CAPT) JOHN ANTHONY MARSH DCLI Special Raiding Squadron, 1st SAS Regiment.
Captain Marsh, with fifty six men, was holding a front of one mile on the right flank of the Sector west of Termoli.
At mid-day on the 5th October 1943, his positions were subjected to very heavy and accurate shelling and mortar fire, at the height of which, his position was further weakened by the transfer of one of his sections to another sector.At this time the enemy was developing a determined counter-attack on his left flank. Despite the intensity of enemy fire he held fast and with his own fire pinned down groups of the enemy infantry which attempted to infiltrate into his position. Later in the afternoon several of his men were badly wounded, whilst some distance away on his right flank his remaining other section was being gradually forced back.
Although by this time, Captain Marsh’s position had become untenable, he refused to move until he was able to communicate his intention to the troops on his left. Meanwhile, with his few remaining men, he succeeded in beating off further attacks on his position by German Infantry.
Striking north to join up with his right hand section he came across two wounded men. From them he learned that he was completely cut off, but pushed on, taking the wounded men with him, until finally pinned down by machine gun fire. He eventually succeeded in evacuating all the wounded men to our own lines under cover of darkness although only 150 yards from an enemy post.
Throughout Captain Marsh showed great coolness and determination. His high standard of courage and complete disregard for personal safety throughout the operation played a decisive part in saving a very dangerous situation.
LT. COL J A MARSH, DSO, OBE (Derrick Harrison writes)
Tony Marsh, who died in Bermuda on 14th November 1984, served in 1SAS for nearly 3 ½ years. He arrived in the Middle East with the 56th Highland Division, destined for the Battle of Alamein. Instead from September 1942 to February of the following year, found him raiding in the Western Desert as part of (then) Major ‘Paddy’ Mayne’s ‘A’ Squadron. As right hand man to Harry Poat, another refugee from 56HD and later to become 2IC of 1SAS, he took part in the Kufra raids, operating against Benghazi and as far as Tripoli West before returning to Kabrit.
1SAS had by this time been reorganized as the Special Raiding Squadron and Tony, now a Captain took over “a’ Section of 2 Troop. With the SRS he took part in the capture of the coastal batteries at Cape Murro di Porco, preparing the way for the Sicily Invasion; in the daylight landing to capture the Port of Augusta; the landing at Bagnara on the Italian mainland in the rear of the German defensive positions; and the landing at Termoli on the Adriatic Coast.
It was during the later battle to hold Termoli, when the German counter attacked in division strength, that Tony Marsh showed most clearly those natural qualities of command that earned him the respect of all who operated with him. At one stage of the battle, while commanding a scratch force of 1 ½ sections, he found himself cut off from the main body of the SRS.Despite heavy mortaring and shelling, he organised his defensive position with the calmness of someone on exercise, finally getting his small force and his wounded back to our lines under cover of darkness. It was these qualities of command which earned him his DSO.
Back in the UK in 1944, with the formation of the Special Air Service Brigade, Tony now a Major, took command of ‘C’ Squadron of the reconstituted 1SAS Regiment. During the Battle for France, some elements of his Squadron operated in their small group role. He himself took the remainder of his Squadron through the German lines to relieve ‘A’ Squadron which had been operating out of the Houndsworth base in the Morvan.
There followed a winter in Holland on Field Security support and liaison duties; then the final drive into Germany over the bridge at Meppen towards Oldenburg and Wilhelmshaven, as part of a 1½ squadron force operating ahead of the Canadian armour. He finished his SAS war in Norway helping disarm some 300,000 German troops.
Tony Marsh was not only a first class Commander, clear thinking and unruffled in action, he was an understanding and compassionate man with a fund of boyish good humour, deservedly respected and regarded with great affection. He will truly be missed by all who knew him and operated with him.
The above doctored photo is a fresh copy of a clipping from The Mid Ocean News or from The Royal Gazette sent in by Will Marsh, and is the classic ‘Royal’ shot of the entire ‘A’ Company posting. We still require an original in good condition to replace the one above. It must be in someone’s kit somewhere. Please search ASAP and email a .jpeg to Editor
We are indebted to Caroline, daughter of Moira, Tony Marsh’s sister for the 3 photographs immediately above. Caroline has supplied other pix and clippings that have either been published to the other “A” Company and Personal Memorabilia websites, or to bermuda-online (in the case of the HRH Princess Margaret photo). We happily await more Marsh memorabilia for publication in due course.
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS BELOW ARE BEING UPLOADED ON 15TH AUGUST 2009. Kindly forwarded by Will Marsh, the grandson of our former C.O. Some of the pix are replications of those on the “A” Company site, others are part of the President Eisenhower Guard of Honour at Allbuoy’s Point, Hamilton in 1957,shown also as part of the Fraser Pakes’ Mermoirs. Note the Bermuda Div flash (post 1955) and also Sgnt Carling with the Major in a group of Bermuda Rifles. We shall refine the pix captions in due course.
MOST RECENT PHOTO UPDATES ARE UNDER CONSTRUCTION (10th September 2009). We are indebted to Keith Mannings for these latest additions to the Marsh Memorabilia. The Picasa Album (hotlinked below) is a collection of Archival material acquired from the Bermuda Government Records by Keith during his visit in August 2009. Read also my latest blog comment advising progress.