Saturday, 20 August 2016

Mad Dogs and Servicemen: Sir Thomas Macpherson

In which G.M. Norton looks back at a swashbuckling Scotsman.


Please allow me to introduce to you another war hero, Sir Thomas Macpherson.

Known as the “Kilted killer”, Sir Thomas, or Tommy as he was known to his comrades, is the most decorated British soldier in history.
Some gallant war heroes are honoured to have the Military Cross proudly pinned to their chests. Macperson had three of them! That’s in addition to three Croix de guerre, a L├ęgion d’honneur, and a papal knighthood for his heroics during the Second World War.

Macpherson was born in Edinburgh on 4th October, 1920. In his mid-teens, he was confined to his bed for months after he was struck down with osteomyelitis. To help get through this enforced convalescence, the young Scot read adventure book after adventure book, featuring tales of derring-do from the likes of Buchan, A.E.W. Mason and Robert Louis Stevenson.

By the time he had recovered, Hitler’s troops were marching into Rhineland, an action that was against the Treaty of Versailles, which Germany had accepted following the end of the Great War.

Macpershon, no doubt inspired by his favourite books, promptly signed up and was drafted into the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. He wasn’t to stay there for long though as he volunteered himself to join one of Churchill’s Commando units which had been set with the challenge to “set Europe ablaze”.

Soon after, he was rewarded for his reckless courage with his first Military Cross. After this quick triumph, Macpherson was promptly dropped off in North Africa on a daring mission to capture Field-Marshall Erwin Rommel. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned when the submarine that was due to pick him up failed to turn up. Hundreds of miles from safety, Macpherson set off on foot but despite making good time, the Italian’s captured him. Over the next two years, he managed to escape seven times before finally making it back to Blighty.

Macpherson was too important to twiddle his thumbs at home though. Two days after the Allies had stormed the Normandy beaches, he was parachuted behind enemy lines in France wearing his Highlander’s battledress (yes, including his kilt).

His message to the wavering French resistance was clear – we can win this war, but we must take the battle to the Nazis.
In case you’re wondering how successful this kilt-wearing soldier was, the Germans soon had wanted posters plastered all across France with a 300,000 franc bounty placed on his head.

Macpherson’s finest hour came that summer in 1944, just after D-Day. 23,000 hardened German troops were travelling to Normandy so it was imperative that they were stopped, or at least, delayed. A small band of the French resistance held a vital bridge in the Loire valley, preventing them from passing. But with 23,000 soldiers, there was only going to be one victor if it came to a battle. Armed with this information, Macpherson stole a German jeep and drove through ten miles of enemy soldiers, until he reached their field headquarters.

Stepping out of the vehicle, the star of so many wanted posters demanded an audience with the commanding officer, Major General Elster. Elster was stunned. The king of bluff, Macpherson cooly informed Elster that he had 20,000 of his own men just around the corner, along with tanks and RAF bombers waiting in the wings. Surrender, laddie, or die. Of course, this was all complete and utter guff but Elster fell for it, hook, line and sinker. 23,000 enemy soliders, spearheaded by the feared SS Panzer Division, had waved the white flag to a kilt-wearing Scot. Macpherson 1 Nazis 0.

With France freed from Nazi rule, Macpherson was quickly dispatched to Italy to do it all again. It was here that he faced a new enemy, Yugoslavian leader Tito, who was intent on taking parts of Italy. Given Macpherson’s tried and tested methods of killing sprees, blowing bridges and destroying supplies and communications, a second bounty was placed on his head. What a man! What a legend!

Sir Thomas Macpherson led an extraordinary life, before bowing out for good on 6 November 2014 at the age of 94. With his bravery, chutzpah and gung-ho spirit, Tommy was the epitome of a hero. 


G.M. Norton
Protagonist of 'Norton of Morton'

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1 comment:

  1. Wow! A real Adventure Hero. What stories he must have had to tell.

    ReplyDelete