Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria

To be Sold on: 11 December 2019

Estimate: £12,000 - £15,000

Sold for: £14,000

A well-documented and rare 1964 ‘Radfan operations’ M.M. group of four awarded to Colour Sergeant W. G. B. Paterson, 45 Commando, Royal Marines, an expert mountaineer who survived a 100 foot fall during a training accident, breaking nearly every bone in his body, only to go on two years later and distinguish himself leading his men during perilous night time insertions over unknown mountainous terrain. Over the course of May - July 1964, Paterson came to fore during the actions of Wadi Dhubsan and Wadi Aimaan, the latter being an ambush which led to a fierce ‘contact’, and the death of several native dissidents - One of only seven M.M’s awarded for the Radfan Campaign

Military Medal, E.II.R., 2nd issue (RM.18511 Sgt. G. B. [sic] Paterson. R.M.); Naval General Service 1915-62, 2 clasps, Malaya, E.II.R., Canal Zone (RM.18511 W. G. B. Paterson. Mne. R.M.) 2nd clasp loose on riband as issued; General Service 1962-2007, 3 clasps, Radfan, South Arabia, Northern Ireland (RM.18511 W. G. B. Paterson. M.M. Sgt. R.M.) 2nd and 3rd clasps loose on riband as issued; Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., E.II.R., 2nd issue (RM.18511 Sgt. W. G. B. Paterson. M.M. R.M.) mounted as originally worn, minor edge bruising overall, therefore generally nearly very fine or better (4) £12,000-£15,000

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Sold by order of the recipient’s widow.
A well-documented and rare 1964 ‘Radfan operations’ M.M. group of four awarded to Colour Sergeant W. G. B. Paterson, 45 Commando, Royal Marines, an expert mountaineer who survived a 100 foot fall during a training accident, breaking nearly every bone in his body, only to go on two years later and distinguish himself leading his men during perilous night time insertions over unknown mountainous terrain. Over the course of May - July 1964, Paterson came to fore during the actions of Wadi Dhubsan and Wadi Aimaan, the latter being an ambush which led to a fierce ‘contact’, and the death of several native dissidents - One of only seven M.M’s awarded for the Radfan Campaign

Military Medal, E.II.R., 2nd issue (RM.18511 Sgt. G. B. [sic] Paterson. R.M.); Naval General Service 1915-62, 2 clasps, Malaya, E.II.R., Canal Zone (RM.18511 W. G. B. Paterson. Mne. R.M.) 2nd clasp loose on riband as issued; General Service 1962-2007, 3 clasps, Radfan, South Arabia, Northern Ireland (RM.18511 W. G. B. Paterson. M.M. Sgt. R.M.) 2nd and 3rd clasps loose on riband as issued; Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., E.II.R., 2nd issue (RM.18511 Sgt. W. G. B. Paterson. M.M. R.M.) mounted as originally worn, minor edge bruising overall, therefore generally nearly very fine or better (4) £12,000-£15,000
M.M. London Gazette 27 April 1965:

‘For distinguished service in operations in the Radfan Area, Western Aden Protectorate during the period 13th April to 15th October 1964.’

William George Begg Paterson was born in Glasgow, Scotland in November 1931. He enlisted in the Royal Marines at Plymouth in March 1949. Paterson served with 40 Commando, 13 June 1954 - 29 December 1955. He advanced to Lance Corporal in January 1953, and to Corporal in January 1955. Paterson served with 42 Commando 30 December 1955 - 3 August 1956, and transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve in February 1957. He was discharged the following month due to deciding to emigrate, however, Paterson re-enlisted as a Marine in January 1959, advanced to Corporal and rejoined 40 Commando in April 1959.

Paterson survived a 100 foot fall during a training exercise on Dartmoor, 27 June 1962. His rope snapped and he suffered multiple broken bones. After a period of several months recuperation in hospital, Paterson returned to service with a metal plate in his arm.

Paterson was promoted Sergeant and served with 45 Commando, 31 January 1964 - 10 January 1965. During the latter period Paterson was to operate with 45 Commando in the Radfan Area, a particularly mountainous and treacherous terrain perfect for guerilla warfare. He arrived at a period when rebel activity had increased through mining and ambushing vehicles along the Dhala Road. A new operation was to be carried out with British troops in response to this:

‘We are now entering what could possibly be called the ‘break-in’ phase of the Radfan campaign. Our troops were getting ready to penetrate deep into the heart of dissident-held territory and settle the matter from there. This new body was formed rather like an expeditionary force in the colonial wars of old and was assembled in mid-April, 1964, under the Commander, Aden Garrison, Brigadier R. L. Hargroves. The force was roughly of brigade strength and the operation was to be mounted from the base at Thumier. Training during April was aimed at preparing Four Five for the forthcoming operation and, towards the end of the month, the unit at Little Aden was joined by B Company, 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment (Major Peter Walter), who had come from Bahrein. B Company subsequently came under command for the operation.’ (Four Five The story of 45 Commando Royal Marines 1943-1971, by D. Young refers)

The training for the insertion was originally based around the use of helicopters, however, after consideration it was decided this was impractical due to the lack of helicopters available, the terrain and the insecure landing zones. It had been thought that the severe climate and the harsh terrain would negate the ability of British troops to operate in the area in daylight or night without the use of such transport. The necessity for action replaced common-held thought and it was decided for a deep penetration to be carried out by night:

‘The plan was... to hold the big rocky hill feature nicknamed ‘Cap Badge’ which dominated the village of Danaba, believed to be the main dissident stronghold. ‘Cap Badge’ divided the Wadi Taym and Danaba basin, a fertile area some three miles wide and nine miles long, flanked by forbidding mountain ranges. The ridge to the north of this basin was nicknamed ‘Rice Bowl’. There were two lines of approach into this area from Thumier. The first, and most direct, was the Wadi Rabwa which was already blocked and held by the rebels and led into the plain from the south-west. The second was the Wadi Boran, which was much rougher and longer and led into the plain from the west between two features nicknamed ‘Coca Cola’ and ‘Sand Fly’. (Ibid)

The operation, involving 400 men, began on the night of 30 April 1964. Paterson served with X Company, 1 Troop under the command of Major M. Banks. X and Y Companies were to proceed along the Wadi Boran, and branch off to ‘Rice Bowl’, whilst Z Company was to make for the summit of ‘Sand Fly’. At midnight they received a radio transmission that the parachute drop for B Company of the Paras had been cancelled, and despite 45 Commando’s progress their objective was to change. Z Company were still to head for ‘Sand Fly’, whilst X Company now had the formidable prospect of trekking to ‘Coca Cola’:

‘‘Coca Cola’ was some 1,500 feet higher than their present position and the climb had not been studied in detail. Z Company was already well on the way to its target and so the details for X and Y had to be hastily revised. Under the light of carefully shaded torches the steep route up ‘Coca Cola’ was scrutinised on the air photographs. Major Mike Banks of X Company was himself an expert mountaineer, but even he, at this impromptu council of war, viewed the prospect with some trepidation, especially as some of the men were so heavily loaded with mortars and machine guns.

Two wide wadis and then a steep ravine had to be crossed before the final and long ascent could be made. Major Banks and his pathfinder party picked their way stealthily up the rocky face. This side of the mountain was in shadow from the moon and the climb was made in the darkness, punctuated only by the occasional muttered curse and falling rocks. Then, before the summit was reached, a steep section had to be negotiated with the aid of ropes. The tired men hauled themselves up, and at last the ground levelled out. Four Five was on ‘Coca Cola’ ridge at four o’clock, two hours before dawn. X Company moved a mile down the ridge and Y Company remained at the near end.’ (Ibid)

The insertion of the Commandos in dissident territory was completed, without a shot being fired and in complete secret, an hour before dawn on 1 May 1964. However, due to the cancelled parachute drop, both Danaba and ‘Cap Badge’ remained in enemy hands. The Commandos stayed in their positions, subjected to extreme heat, for the next three days. It was then decided to carry out another night time insertion - this time Paterson’s company were to attempt to scale and capture ‘Cap Badge’ with B Company, 3 PARA:

‘’Cap Badge’ rose some 1,200 feet above the plain... There were two possible routes up to the objective from the south-west and the south-east and these were allotted X Company and B Company 3 Para respectively. Both routes could easily be defended by a small number of dissident and although the south-eastern route was an easier climb it involved a march of an extra two miles round the south flank of ‘Cap Badge’... Four Five was relieved on ‘Coca Cola’ on the afternoon of 4 May by the 1st Battalion the Anglian Regiment and began to make its way down to the Wadi Boran in preparation for the march of five or so miles to ‘Cap Badge.’ (Ibid)

Once again the Commandos carried out a perilous night time ascent, and once again they managed to gain their objective undetected. 3 PARA were not so fortunate, and came under attack from dissident forces as the morning broke - suffering 2 killed and 10 wounded just short of ‘Cap Badge’. Z Company were flown in by helicopter to aid the stricken Paras, whilst X and Y Companies were to remain at their posts for the next three days:

‘In just over a week the enemy had been forced to withdraw from the Rabwa Pass, the Wadi Boran and Wadi Taym, and his supply routes from the Dhala Road had been seriously jeopardized. Four Five had achieved complete surprise by the two brilliant infiltrations. The official summing up continues:

‘No less surprising to the rebels and to many others, was the ability of British troops to operate in the mountains and in the hottest months of the year. Most of our movement was done at night; but after a few days we had become more or less accustomed to the heat and learnt to live with it... We moved off as lightly equipped as we could on 30 April, and until 9 May we lived in the same clothes (our packs never caught up with us), bearded and only occasionally washed.’ (Ibid)

Wadi Dhubsan and Wadi Aimaan - a hard earned reward

Further detail on the above operations, and the subsequent action at Wadi Aimaan, are provided below by a comrade of Paterson’s who was present for these actions:

‘Sergeant Willie Paterson was awarded the Military Medal in recognition of his gallantry and cool leadership under fire on two particular occasions in the Radfan Mountains during 1964. The Radfan was a region of high, broken and confusing mountains some 60 miles north of Aden. Here the Quataibi tribe, self-styled ‘Wolves of the Radfan’, whose lands bordered the key supply route the Dhala road, carried out raids and illegal levies on passing traffic. Over the previous 40 years, because of their highway robberies and kidnapping they had from time to time been bombed by the RAF. Then in 1964 it was decided to bring the Radfan tribes to order and end their mine-laying and ambushing along the Dhala road.

On the 6 May 1964, X Company, under command of 3 Para, was ordered to clear the lower ground of the Wadi Dhubsan, a long and narrow valley regarded as impregnable by the dissident tribesmen. 3 Para were to provide covering picquets on the heights above.

At a pre-dawn briefing X Company Commander, Major Mike Banks RM voiced his doubts that these picquets would be in position before X Coy started their advance. He told his troop commanders that if they were not, X Company would have to clear and hold the heights themselves. Shortly after dawn X Company had made the descent and was ordered forward along the narrow valley floor.

X Company came under fire early on and the leading Troop was ordered to send a rifle section up to suppress this fire. Sgt Paterson, then commanding a rifle section, took this first picquet. This meant scrambling up as fast and as high as possible. Several hundred feet above the Wadi bed he heard a number of enemy tribesmen on a ridge above them. Paterson’s section opened fire and attacked. His timely action cleared the ridge and established a covering picquet. So began a long day. X Company lost one marine killed and three men very badly wounded, two of whom were discharged as a result.

Major Banks submitted the names of his men meriting gallantry awards. It is understood that Sgt Paterson was one of those recommended. Only one award was made to a member of X Company, a Mention in Dispatches to the medical orderly, a Leading Sick Berth Attendant, Royal Navy.

Some weeks later, towards the end of July, 1964, a patrol from Support Company, 45 Commando, based on a high Jebel, was tasked to lie up in a distant fort for up to three days. The aim was to set and spring an ambush. This fort was half a mile or so out in a long valley or wadi and believed to be unoccupied. Given the nature of the ground two rifle sections, one led by Sgt Willie Paterson were chosen.

Early on that first morning the ambush was sprung when two tribesmen entered the killing ground. When fire was opened two further men appeared. Three were hit, presumed killed. At the same time a further group of tribesmen were seen some 300 yards away heading for higher ground. It seemed as though a hornets nest had been kicked over.

A report was radioed in clearing stating the situation. The patrol was ordered to follow up the ambush and search for further dissident tribesmen.

Sgt Paterson and his rifle section went out. They crossed the killing ground then moved into a small corn field with the corn about knee high, offering little or no cover. They advanced down the wadi following a cliff on the far side, spaced about 8 yards apart. They came under fire from high right. Sgt Paterson brought his men back through the corn field. The riflemen moved in short rushes. Up, run and get down. No one was hit. The best place seemed to be the fort some 100 yards away over the wadi bed.

Willie Paterson took his men over in a rush but halfway across this open ground they came under intensive fire and Paterson, in a split second decision ordered his men to take cover in and about the large boulders of the wadi bed.

Viewing the action from the distant Jebel Widina, the S company commander called for air support. The RAF Hunters arrived and took three passes at the junction where the enemy were spotted in some number. A Vickers MMG was brought forward on to a high crag looking down on the junction of the two wadis. This was far away from the patrol but a secure place to provide the steady blanket of cover that started. By this time it was past midday.

Halfway through the afternoon another Troop arrived in support and climbed onto a ridge opposite the fort. Things started to get interesting then as some enemy had, by this time, got up onto some high ground on the far side. They were bringing accurate fire on to the ridge and the wadi below. The Vickers was of no effect as the enemy were tucked in to dead ground.

Soon the newly arrived patrol was trying to respond to accurate fire zipping past. At this long range the Tribesman’s rifle of choice, the Lee Enfield, was better suited with longer range sights. The Hunters were gone away but the day had yet to run its course.

Darkness came before the enemy could gain the higher ground. The supporting troop departed and the two sections of the ambush patrol started to reform. They had been lucky so far. Sgt Paterson had kept his section intact in extremely difficult circumstances. They were joined by the section from the fort and after a very short planning discussion it was decided there was little chance of finding bodies on such a dark night, stumbling around the enemy’s back yard was not an option. The enemy were there in greater numbers than the initial briefing had indicated. The patrol had sprung a successful ambush killing two and probably a third and hit a fourth.

Sergeant Paterson’s view was “Quit while ahead” and thanks to his quick decision-making his section took no casualties. It was time to go home. It was set to be a long night. Few of the patrol had eaten in 24 hours and there was about 2,000 feet of very steep rock and shale ahead of them. The Patrol got back in to their base as dawn broke the next morning.

Sergeant Paterson was recommended for Military Medal for his leadership and decision making in these two actions. This was subsequently awarded.’

David Young’s Four Five The story of 45 Commando Royal Marines 1943-1971 adds the following additional details on the Wadi Aimaan action:

‘No account of this patrolling phase in the Radfan would be complete without the story of 1 Troop in the Wadi Aimaan. The operation, near the end of the Commando’s third tour, shows first class ambushing techniques plus the determined efforts of the dissidents to pin our men down in the lower ground. The Troop was under the command of Support Company on the Jebel Widina and on the night of 24 July descended into the Wadi Aimaan to lay an ambush - in conjunction with Five Troop... The patrol commander continues with his recollections:

‘It was pitch black as we descended to the wadi floor and I had to call up Company Headquarters to fire a starshell so that we could identify the house we were heading for near the ambush position. I had two sections with me and we waited patiently until dawn. We had been told to expect two dissidents in the area and at nine o’clock on the morning of the 26th one enemy came into the killing ground moving rather suspiciously, I thought he might be acting as a decoy. Then another armed man appeared, I wasn’t sure if there were more to come but decided to open fire as we had at least two “in the bag”. Marine I. E. Deakins, with a sniper’s rifle hit one at a range of over 300 yards, and the GPMG teams killed the other who was dashing to cover. Two more dissidents appeared on the scene and we injured one of them. I sent a sitrep back on the radio and was ordered to give chase after the wounded man. I left one section back in the building and moved forward with Sgt. Patterson’s [sic] group. We picked our way very slowly downhill as we were in our own killing ground. After we had gone about 400 yards another group of dissidents opened up with a Bren gun from higher ground. We dashed for what cover we could find, but as we were out in the open I decided we should move back a bit and seek the rather sparse protection of a nearby cornfield. For some time the twelve of us lay amongst the corn whilst the enemy bullets ploughed into the crops around us and I then ordered Sgt. Patterson [sic] to make a break and take half the group back to our original building. Fire increased and they were pinned down behind a small tree and boulder where they had a long and uncomfortable wait until darkness. I took the other Marines up a steep cliff and got out of the firing zone. The radio then packed up on us but at midday we were joined by the Recce Troop who had been flown in. We stayed on this cliff all afternoon and at about four-thirty saw considerable enemy movement to our east - they were probably preparing to counter-attack. The Vickers guns, brought down to the southern tip of the Widina, opened up and a Hunter air strike was called. The dissidents dispersed but we thought it unwise to move until darkness had come. It had been an unpleasant day, but we hadn’t suffered any casualties. My group then went back and joined up with Sgt. Patterson [sic]. The dissident bodies had still not been recovered, but by now I had a feeling that the other enemy were moving close and it was therefore considered an unnecessary risk to attempt another recovery. We thankfully set out in the darkness on the 2,000 foot climb and didn’t get into our lines until after daybreak.’

Paterson advanced to Colour Sergeant and served with 42 Commando 20 July 1967 - 5 December 1969 (awarded L.S. & G.C. 5 December 1968). He served with 45 Commando, 6 December 1969 - 13 September 1977. On the latter date he was discharged to Pension. Colour Sergeant Paterson died in June 2013.

1 of only 7 M.M.’s awarded for Radfan.

Sold with the following related items and documents: four mounted related miniature awards - N.G.S. with ‘Malaya’ clasp only and G.S.M. with ‘Radfan’ and ‘South Arabia’ clasps; Two Parchment Certificates of Service; Royal Marines Company Record Book; Naval Pay and Identity Book; Certificate of Discharge; letter of congratulation from Major Mike Banks, C/O X Company, 1 Troop, 45 Commando, R.M. on the occasion of the award of the M.M., dated 6 May 1965; letter to the same effect from Lieutenant General N. H. Tailyour, C.B., D.S.O., Commandant General Royal Marines, dated 27 April 1965; letter to the same effect from Lieutenant General Sir Charles Harington, K.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., Commander in Chief, Middle East Command, dated 7 May 1965; letter to the same effect from Major General J. H. Cubbon, C.B., C.B.E., G.O.C. Middle East Land Forces, dated 23 April 1965; letter to the same effect from Major General F. N. Grant, HQ Plymouth Group, R.M., dated 29 April 1965; letter to the same effect from Lieutenant Colonel R. J. McGarel Groves, R.M., 45 Commando, dated 28 April 1965; letter to same effect from Colonel M. A. Wilberforce, 1I.T.C.R.M., dated 27 April 1965; letter of commendation and appreciation for service from the Commandant General Royal Marines, dated 29 July 1977; two Certificate of Hurts; and other ephemera, newspaper cuttings and photographic images of recipient in uniform.