Maj Gen Tony Deane-Drummond: Soldier decorated after Operation Market Garden

Tony Deane-Drummond was one of the architects of the modern SAS, which received the acclaim he desired for it in January 1959 after it won the battle of the Green Mountain in Oman. The A and D squadrons of his command, 22 SAS Regiment seized the 7,000ft Jebel Akhdar, stronghold of the rebels Suleiman bin Hamyar and his brother Talib, who with their wives, slaves, carpets, and other possessions operated from caves and tunnels in the craggy heights to oppose Britain's ally, the Sultan. Around 120 men surprised rebel forces of about 500 by climbing a pathless, sheer face, unnoticed. The SAS lost three men, the rebels more than 50. The mountain's capture prompted politicians to see the SAS's value as a tool of post-imperial policy, and military chiefs to appreciate its adaptability.

Deane-Drummond received the DSO and the personal congratulations of Minister of Defence Duncan Sandys. The regiment was told by Air Vice-Marshal Maurice Heath: "You have taken part in what is really an epic battle... your action has done a great deal to restore British prestige in the Persian Gulf, which has been slipping rapidly since the last war and was accelerated by Suez... Now all the sheikhs around the Gulf can breathe more freely."

Deane-Drummond's preoccupation was "to show that the regular Army needed a Regular SAS Regiment... we had to make a case for what was a genuine corps d'élite – without ever mentioning this phrase".

The Oman assignment was a stroke of luck, coming immediately after 22 Regiment had drawn plaudits as "the most successful unit in the army" in Malaya. There its men had parachuted into a jungle-covered swamp in February 1958 and hunted down "Baby-Killer" Ah-Hoi, a particularly ruthless Communist insurgent.

Had his men been left idle, Deane-Drummond would have been obliged to drastically reduce their numbers. The idea of small parties operating behind enemy lines had originated in operations in the Western Desert in 1941-42. In Malaya, by 1950 and later, Deane-Drummond explained, "A regiment of soldiers was gradually built up in which the old Second World War techniques in the resistance movement were used in reverse... it was a desperate job in which a page was taken out of the communists' own tactics and adopted for use by the SAS."

Deane-Drummond, who had first enlisted with the Royal Signals in 1937, had had three astonishing escapes during a Second World War career in which he won the Military Cross twice. He was with the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1939, and after Dunkirk was chosen as one of six officers leading 28 men to be dropped by parachute to carry out Operation Colossus in February 1941. This was the breach of a 993-mile Italian aqueduct diverting river water to supply the ports of Bari, Brindisi and Taranto, after which the saboteurs would be picked up by submarine at the coast 70 miles away. The salute from Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes to the men as they left RAF Mildenhall gave the clue that they were not seriously expected to return. "Damned pity," he was heard to mutter.

Although the mission succeeded, all the men were captured. Deane-Drummond was awarded the MC and became one of only two Allied POWs known to have escaped from Italy before the 1943 Armistice with the Allies. On his first break-out he got to Milan and Como before being caught because of his dirty boots. On his second, having feigned illness to get out of high-security detention, he crept along a 70ft-high crumbling ledge in pitch darkness to reach neutral Switzerland.

The Bar to Deane-Drummond's MC came for the part he played in September 1944 after Operation Market Garden, the battle over the bridge at Arnhem, which the Allies failed to hold against unexpectedly fierce German opposition. Deane-Drummond took command of 20 survivors, and after keeping up sniper action until ammunition ran out and night fell, spread the men to separate houses.

The house he found himself in was, alas, being turned into a German strong-point. Before escaping this time he endured 13 days and nights standing in a 12-inch deep cupboard, with his mouth eventually so parched as his water-bottle ran out that he could no longer eat the bread and lard he had with him. He had to urinate down a hole in the floor. At last the room, all that time full of Germans, was left empty, and he fled.

Dutch families assisted him, including a Baroness Heemstra, who brought him Krug champagne and whose teenage daughter's beauty he noticed: this was the future film star Audrey Hepburn.

Deane-Drummond was appointed to Staff College in 1945, but the following year went to Palestine as Brigade Major, 3rd Parachute Brigade. He was in temporary command on the night of 22 July 1946 when the King David Hotel was bombed. His troops searched Jerusalem, and arrested two men after a toe was noticed to twitch in a mortuary. A staff job at the War Office followed, then spells in the US, and as an instructor at Sandhurst.

He received a two-inch fracture to the skull from a stone thrown through a windscreen during disturbances in Cyprus in 1956. While recuperating he won the Royal Aero Club's Silver Medal for glider-flying, and was the 1957 British Gliding Champion, before taking command of 22 SAS in November.

After the SAS, he took command of 44 Parachute Brigade Group (TA), and learned to fly a helicopter.

He was Major-General, GOC 3rd Division from 1966-68, and Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Operations) from 1968-70, before being made CB and retiring from the Army in 1971, when he became director of the Paper and Paper Products Industry Training Board. His books include an autobiography, Arrows of Fortune (1993).

Deane-Drummond was brought up by his mother, who divorced his philandering father when the boy was nine, with two sisters, one older and one younger, at Little Barrington Oxfordshire. He attended Marlborough College, and then the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.

Anthony John Deane-Drummond, soldier: born Oxfordshire, 23 June 1917, married 1944, Mary Evangeline Boyd (died 2002; four daughters); CB 1970; DSO 1960; MC 1942, and Bar, 1945; died Warwickshire 4 December 2012.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS)

£20000 - £30000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?