Followers of TLBP know our success relies on a global network of facilitators who collect one or sometimes (many) more signatures. The growing list of volunteers includes several accomplished authors. Most recently Mr. Damien Lewis lavished his time and energy on the Project such that we are unable to properly quantify his generosity. Needless to say this post is long overdue.
Lewis is a number one bestselling author whose books have been translated into over forty languages worldwide. For decades he worked as a war and conflict reporter for the world’s major broadcasters, reporting from across Africa, South America, the Middle and Far East, winning numerous awards.
A dozen of his books are already or will be movies or TV drama series and have been adapted as plays for the stage. He raises considerable support and funds for charitable concerns connected with his writing. His books include Agent Josephine (Baker), Hunting The Nazi Bomb, SAS Ghost Patrol, SAS Italian Job and SAS Band of Brothers.
The accomplished author readily agreed to drive 300 miles to acquire the signature of Mr. Alec Borrie, 1st SAS Regiment, part of a formidable diversionary force serving some 125 miles behind enemy lines leading up to D-Day.
Lt Col Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne
Lewis then connected us with Fiona Ferguson, niece of the late Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne. It is not possible to do justice to Mayne’s remarkable legacy here; no doubt volumes will rightly continue to be written about him. In addition to being a lawyer, amateur boxer, and a founding member of the Special Air Service, he excelled at rugby union, capping for Ireland and the British Lions. Lt. Col. Mayne participated in numerous night raids deep behind enemy lines in the deserts of Egypt and Libya, where the SAS wrought havoc by destroying many enemy aircraft on the ground. He became one of the British Army’s most highly decorated soldiers during WWII though controversially was denied the Victoria Cross.
Lt Col. Oswald Cary-Elwes
Lewis again volunteered to journey another 200 miles to connect us with Catherine Cary-Elwes, the daughter of another distinguished SAS officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Oswald Cary-Elwes. One of his exploits included command of Operation Lost, (23 June to 18 July 1944); a 7-man team inserted into Brittany to reconnoiter the French Resistance Dingson base after it had been attacked and dispersed by the Germans. Lewis’ research has revealed that Cary-Elwes was active in North Africa in 1941 recruiting soldiers to join 2 SAS, including the tank commander, Charlie Hackney. Cary-Elwes transported Hackney and others a thousand miles by jeep across the desert to the Kabrit training camp in Egypt.
In 1943 Cary-Elwes devised a rescue mission of escaped Allied POWs in Italy wherein a train was commandeered to go deep into German occupied territory and bring back 180 prisoners and additionally, the fascist commander of the Pisticci Camp! Amazingly, Cary-Elwes also served as C/O for the SAS 20th Liaison HQ where Adam Stewart, TLBP administrator Ross Stewart’s grandfather, served from Wethersfield, Mushroom House and Barracks in October 1944.
Here is where the story takes a delightful French twist. In 2021, the logbook spent a few weeks in France on our quest to acquire French signatories conspicuously absent up to that point. Over several weeks, we added an impressive list of veterans and resistance agents including Madame Colette Marin-Catherine, Archille Muller, Leon Gautier, Madame Anne-Marie Trégouët and the niece of Col Remy – Ines de Castilho. I managed to communicate with Hubert Germain who sadly was too old but did send a lovely message endorsing the project. I must acknowledge here my own family connection in the person of Anne Favrau who signed on behalf of her father Pierre Melizan and his brother Raymond, both of whom were forced into working for the Germans during the war. Pierre and Raymond were cousins of my mother’s father, Ralph Melizan. (Favrau and TLBP French administrator, Pierre LeTourneur, worked tirelessly to acquire the above signatures)
But back to our twist. Considerable effort was made to contact one Madame Marie Claire Chammings in France. Unfortunately, despite several tries, our requests went unanswered. We were of course very saddened to learn later of her passing in February 2022. I was therefore thrilled to read of the extensive connection between Lieutenant-Colonel Oswald Cary-Elwes and Madame Chammings in the background information provided by Catherine Cary-Elwes. In later life Madame Chammings entrusted the English translation of her memoire to Clare Cary-Elwes, Catherine’s sister. Catherine’s signature represents for the Project therefore, the wonderful dual legacy of both Lt. Col. Cary-Elwes and Madame Chammimgs.
Our deepest thanks to all who signed and of course Mr. Damien Lewis for travelling over 500 miles to graciously connect us with these distinguished signatories and the amazing legacies they represent