Remembering: Aubrey Denton-Thompson.

Aubrey Denton-Thompson, who has died aged 92, was awarded an MC in the North Africa campaign and subsequently served with SOE, the Colonial Service and the United Nations.

In July 1942, at the Battle of Ruweisat Ridge in Egypt, Denton-Thompson was commanding a troop of 73rd Anti-Tank Regiment RA (73 ATR). He was ordered to cover the withdrawal of a company of 7th Battalion, the Rifle Brigade, which had become pinned down by heavy fire.
After finding a route through a minefield, he ordered three of his guns to withdraw with the company and kept one back to engage the enemy. In a fierce rearguard action, he knocked out three German Mk III panzers, setting two of them ablaze.
He then came under intensive fire, was struck in the back by shrapnel and left for dead. Hours later, when the identity tags were being collected, it was discovered that he had survived. He was put in a field ambulance which was then hit by a bullet. This passed through his torso without damaging a vital organ and was removed by surgeons. A cavity, near his spine, caused by the shrapnel, remained with him for the rest of his life.
Denton-Thompson was awarded an immediate MC. The citation stated that he had shown the greatest dash, courage and initiative under heavy fire from all arms and bombing from the air.
The son of a diplomat, Aubrey Gordon Denton-Thompson was born at Lubumbashi (formerly Elisabethville), then in the Belgian Congo, on June 6 1920. He was educated at Malvern, where he captained the first XI at cricket and played football for the school.
At the outbreak of war he enlisted in the Royal Artillery and was posted to 73 ATR. He was commissioned in 1941. When his unit was based at Hitchin, having been asked to give a one-gun salute in the town square, they took rough aim at the clock on the town hall and fired. Unfortunately, a live round was used instead of a blank, but the shell missed the building and exploded without causing damage. After being wounded at Ruweisat Ridge, Denton-Thompson went to South Africa to recover. On his return he was sent to Cairo and to what purported to be the “Middle East Wheat Purchasing Commission”. He arrived to find a heavily fortified building, bristling with communications, that turned out to be the headquarters of SOE in the city. He had been posted to the MO4 Sabotage Group for operations behind enemy lines. After rigorous training he was posted to Istanbul, entering the country with four diplomatic bags full of explosives which were added to the large quantity of armaments housed in the cellar of the British embassy. His first task was to set explosives across the oil installations along the Bosporus in case they fell into enemy hands. His final posting involved being dropped by parachute into enemy-occupied Greece. He was the most junior officer in a team of three which included a brigadier and a colonel. Their mission was to link up with a newly-formed group of partisans, supply them and train them. On the way to the airport in a bus without glass in the windows (because of the heat), he was sitting with his left elbow out of the window when an RAF lorry passed too close and severed his arm. He was replaced by another officer for the mission and the drop duly took place. The Germans were waiting for them, and all three were executed. After being invalided out of the Army, Denton-Thompson was seconded to the Colonial Service. He served in Basutoland (Lesotho), Tanganyika (Tanzania), and in the Falkland Islands, where he was Colonial Secretary from 1955 to 1960 and was appointed OBE. In the early 1960s he bought a powerful motor boat and he and his wife went for a picnic on a sand island off the coast of Tanzania. The island was exposed for only a few hours a day and, having finished their picnic, they found that the boat was drifting away on the rising tide. Denton-Thompson decided to swim to it, but after covering several hundred yards he found that the ladder had fallen off the boat; and because he had only one arm, he was unable to board. He then spotted a shark which started to circle him. When the island became submerged, Denton-Thompson’s wife clung on to a marker post. The family dog swam away from her and was taken by the shark. After eight hours clinging to the drifting boat, Denton-Thompson was rescued five miles down the coast by a search party. His wife was also rescued but had suffered severe sunburn. In 1969 he joined the UN Development Programme as a country representative for the Food and Agricultural Organisation. This role took him to South Korea, Indonesia and Turkey. His last appointment was at the FAO headquarters in Rome. Having retired in 1979, he lived near Lymington, Hampshire. He was captain of Brockenhurst Manor Golf Club and held a number of company directorships. Aubrey Denton-Thompson married first, in 1944, Ruth Cecily Isaac. He married secondly, in 1961, Barbara Mary Wells. Both his wives predeceased him, and he is survived by a daughter and two sons of his first marriage. Aubrey Denton-Thompson, born June 6 1920, died November 8 2012 Source: Telegraph.
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