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Tommy Haddon

Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Haddon

 

Unit : Headquarters, 1st Battalion The Border Regiment

Army No. : 58141

Awards : Commander of the British Empire

 

Tommy Haddon was born on the 19th February 1913, the son of Major J. T. Haddon of the Cameronians. He was educated at Hamilton Academy and Sandhurst, before being commissioned into the Border Regiment in 1933. With the 2nd Battalion of that Regiment, he served in India and saw active service on the North-West Frontier in 1937. In 1939 he transferred to the 1st Border, who were soon to leave their Aldershot barracks for France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. As a Major, Haddon commanded B Company and spent a cold Christmas on the largely inactive front line, where he found it necessary to keep one eye focused on the enemy, and the other on frostbite - his moustache froze on several occasions and became quite uncomfortable as a result. Now occupying the post of Adjutant, the 1st Border played its part in the desperate rearguard action towards Dunkirk in May 1941, from where they and Haddon were eventually evacuated. In 1941, he left the 1st Border for Staff College, and later became Assistant Secretary of the Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee of the War Cabinet, and he had been the duty officer on the night when Japanese bombers attacked the US fleet at Pearl Harbour on the 7th December. He passed this message on to 10 Downing Street, and Churchill promptly got in touch with President Roosevelt and asked "What's all this about Japan?". Haddon was quite keen to be relieved from his staff duties at Whitehall, and with the help of the Colonel of the Border Regiment, he returned to the now glider-borne 1st Border as Second-in-Command on the 27th January 1943. 

 

At Sicily, he like so many others of the 1st Border ended up in the sea. His tug circled several times before turning its back on the flak coming from the mainland and cast off the glider with it having no hope of reaching land. The glider landed hard and the tail and fuselage immediately went under. By the time the emergency doors had been opened, the water was up to the waists of those inside, however everyone managed to get out with Haddon being the last to depart from his side of the glider. The group recovered on the wings for a short time before swimming ashore. With its job done, the heavily depleted battalion was moved back to North Africa later in July, and Haddon was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and given command, replacing Lt-Colonel Britten who was called to a staff posting. His removal from command, according to Haddon, was due to the fuss he created about leaving the Battalion's equipment behind when they were evacuated from Sicily.

 

He played very little part in Market Garden due to a rather extraordinary run of bad luck. Due to fly to Arnhem on the first day, he had only been airborne for moments before the tow rope broke on his glider and the pilots were forced to cast off. However he was uninjured and returned to Broadwell airfield and flew out with the Second Lift on the following day. But as proof against the theory that lightning does not strike twice, his glider was forced to make an early cast off again, only this time over enemy territory. The pilot of the Dakota that had been towing the glider was killed by a shell burst, and the glider pilots realised that their tug had a problem and cast off without delay. Despite the complete loss of navigational aids the co-pilot, Warrant Officer Bert Smith, managed to fly the Dakota and its crew safely back to England. But Lt-Colonel Haddon, together with his Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant Ronald Hope-Jones, their batmen and other Border men, were on the ground, 75 miles away from Arnhem and behind enemy lines. However they evaded capture and soon met up with friendly troops of XXX Corps, and from here they hitched a lift up the single road to Arnhem, hopeful of being reunited with their comrades.

 

In the final days of Market Garden, when the Dorsets were planning to cross the Rhine to assist the Airborne men at Oosterbeek, it was decided that Lt-Colonel Haddon and his men would journey across with them. The landing was an utter disaster as the Dorsets landed directly amongst German positions and most were captured. Lt-Colonel Haddon made his own way towards the Border positions the second he was across the river, but passing through German positions proved to be impossible as daylight arrived, and he was captured before he could reach them. So ended his miserable battle.

 

Given the number 00594, Haddon spent the remainder of the war interned at Oflag XIIB, near Hadamar. Upon repatriation, he returned to the Chief of Staff Committee and attended the Potsdam Conference in the latter half of July 1945; when Stalin, President Truman, and Churchill (replaced midway by the new Prime Minister, Clement Attlee) met in Berlin to discuss how Germany should be governed. In 1948, he was reunited with the 1st Border, serving once more as Second-in-Command, who were stationed in Palestine but later moved to East Africa. In 1951, he was transferred back to the War Office in the Army Council Secretariat, before once more returning to the 1st Border as its commander for the second time in December 1955; stationed in Gottingen and Berlin as part of the British Army Of The Rhine. Under his leadership, the battalion was hailed as one of the finest in the British Army. Promoted to Brigadier in 1958, he was given the task of raising the Singapore Military Forces, and subsequently became Chief of Staff, Hong Kong Land Forces.

 

Tommy Haddon was awarded an OBE in 1951, a CBE in 1961, before serving as an aide-de-camp to the Queen in 1962, and remained at this post until retiring in 1968. A keen golfer and trout fisherman, much respected and described as a man of integrity, kindness, and firm Christian beliefs, Haddon devoted a lot of his spare time to chairing a number of charitable organisations. He also remained very active with his Regiment and was made President of the Border Regiment Association in 1966, and Vice-President Border Affairs in the King's Own Royal Border Regimental Association in 1975. He married Clodagh in 1939, the youngest daughter of Lt-Colonel Bertrand Russell (youngest son of Lord Chief Justice Russell of Killowen), and had three sons. He died during the Easter weekend of 1993, aged 80.

 

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