Alexander Muirhead

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Postby Kevin Lynott » Thu Oct 16, 2008 8:49 pm

AW,

Through a beer induced haze I think it was something about giving a grid for a fire mission and the rounds impacted on his own position, fortunately it wasn't "6 rounds each tube, fire for effect"

Kevin
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Postby scully » Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:52 am

Hi Alex,

Thanks for the photo. Interestingly his photo shows the Worcestershire Regiment Star on his jacket lappels and the SAS badge on his Cap. A most interesting photo which I will add to the website.

I already have some other information about him which includes his actual Military Cross citation, which was recommended by Lieut.-Colonel Paddy Mayne DSO and signed by Lieut.-General Sir Richard Gale (who at the time was commanding 1st British Airborne Corps) - as you may know from this website Gale later became Colonel of the Worcestershire Regiment from 1950 to 1961. Also it seems he was with 'A' Squadron of the 1st SAS Regiment that was commanded by Major Fraser. Captain Alexander Muirhead was the 3" Motar Troop Officer. I have managed to get a photo of a memorial plaque which was laid at a small cemetery (Maquis Bernard - Panneau Cimetiére) in the Morvan area of France. On the plaque it gives his dates as 11.11.1919 to 8.12.1999.

I will put together a page about him with photos and maps on the website as soon as I have finished it.

By the way I think the photo of the 11th Battalion is wrong with regards him been on the photo (the names were given me by other officers but this is probalbly a mistake !).

Regards,

Louis (webmaster)
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Postby aw.muirhead » Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:09 pm

H

A portrait photo in Worcestershire Officers' uniform has been sent tothe webmaster who has referred to it above and confirms that it willsoon be on the website. For others looking at this page, I attached thefollowing comment with the photo:- Am I right in saying that his lapels have the Worcestershire Regimentinsignia on them? I seem to remember him saying that when asked,confirmation that he regarded himself as (and was) still in theWorcestershire Regiment and just on secondment. (Yes, the beret has theSAS badge on it.)

You might like to note that the beret should have been darker (in thisblack and white photo) being the red parachute regiment colour / ArmyAir Corp colour that they were meant to wear at that time. In fact itis light tan because he had been seconded to the SAS back in Egypt andsaw action (as the renamed Special Raiding Squadron for the Italiancampaign)in the invasion of Sicily and the leapfrog landing intomainland Italy and up the Italian coast ending in a pitched battle atTermoli in which they were badly mauled. This early action with the 1stSAS entitled him (when not on duty) to wear the original beret colour oflight tan with pride.
The parachute wings are worn on his chest (an SAS peculiarity) showingthat he had been in more than 3 active operations against the enemy.

He made a night jump deep into occupied France shortly after this photowas taken as part of the D-day invasion and remained there in fulluniform on active service for 3 months before eventually driving backout across the front line.

This was followed by active service with the SAS being used (wrongly) aspoint troops for the Canadians in the advance into Germany and heeventually ended up in Kiel.

They were then flown into to Norway to take the surrender of the Germanoccupying forces and Alex even took the surrender of a U-boat squadronon his way up the coast. He kept the commanders' sea binoculars andboots to prove it.
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Postby aw.muirhead » Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:13 pm

Hi kevin,

Yes, as you suggested earlier, he and the rest of the new SAS mortar team, had never fired a mortar before and they had a steep do it yourself learning curve. This had a big advantage in that they ended up being able to erect and fire their mortars with great speed and an accuracy that was admired and appreciated by their fellows. The disadvantage of course was that their was nobody to tell them when they were getting it wrong. Alex recalled one of his most anxious moments during the war being caused by his own miscalculation. He had placed himself in a forward observation post and then called down fire ahead of himself to realise in horror that the bombs were instead falling on his own post. Luckily he survived to tell the tail but he said it did mean that he double checked his calculations from then on and was very aware of the impact of his team on the enemy and their state of mind!

The incident is referred to in a number of books and I will see if I can find the quotes and copy them for you.



He headed up the very effective mortar unit through the Italian campaign. After that, while his mortar skills were used in France on one or two occasions, his main task was heading up a raiding party for most of the 3 months behind enemy lines and he then headed one of the platoons into Germany and in Norway. Yes - he was part of A Squadron, 1st SAS under Captain Bill Fraser.



But that is enough of the SAS for now. (His Nickname in the SAS was Burty (spelling?) Worcester which I have always thought was as much a play on words for his Regiment as a comment on his personality).



We would very much like to know more about Alex’s time in the Worcesters. Where he would have been and what he would have been up to. Why did he not go out with the Regiment to Egypt earlier and get taken at Tobruk for example.



He started off as a Private when he volunteered at the beginning of the war. I think he was promoted to Corporal as he had another story to tell about that which I am not sure you would want repeated. Did he have a different army number before he became an officer?



Any more feedback would be much appreciated.
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Postby aw.muirhead » Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:15 pm

Hi Scully,

Glad you liked the photo. As you say, a most interesting combination of dress. I am please you could confirm the Worcestershire Regiment jacket lapel badges. We still have them as he kept them as one of his little memories and treasures. I look forward to seeing the page and maps when you have finished them.



It is a great pity that you now think he may not appear in the photo at all. I might have been convinced by the third from the left on the top row. Have you got the original of this photo in your collection at Worcester? It might be clearer than the scanned photo. He might have lost those extra pounds by being super fit in the pre D-day photo.



Regards
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Postby scully » Sat Oct 18, 2008 10:08 am

Hi Alex,

Thanks for all the other comments and information.

I have emailed you a higher resolution copy of the 11th Battalion photo taken in November 1941. After taking a closer look I am now fairly sure he is on the photo. If you look on the back row to next to J. W. Bannister you will see that the officer next to him (right as you look at the photo) may be wrongly indicated as E. H. Tilley. If you compare this person to the photo of Alex Muirhead you sent me they look similar also the 3rd one from the left on the back row looks similar to. J. W. Bannister "Jock" (who later became Lieut.-Colonel commanding the 7th Battalion) is a family friend of mine so I will contact him and confirm which one.

I am working on the webpage about Alex Muirhead and hope to upload it to the website in the new few days with all the photos etc. If you have more details about his life you can email me then I will add it to the webpage.

Regards,

Louis (webmaster)
Last edited by scully on Sat Oct 18, 2008 12:31 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Postby scully » Sat Oct 18, 2008 10:22 am

Hi Alex,

I have just spoken with Lieut.-Colonel Jock Bannister on the phone and he remembers Alex Muirhead very well and confirms that he is on the 11th Battalion photo at Haselbech Hall, Northanmpton (November 1941).

He is either 3rd or 5th from the left on the back row. We need to compare with your photo to confirm which one. But he is definately on the photo.

Regards

Louis (webmaster)
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