HISTORY: Donabate man - World War Two hero remembered

HISTORY: Donabate man - World War Two hero remembered

By Ian Chambers.

John Maxwell, was the son of Arthur Henry Maxwell (a very successful racehorse breeder who lived at Newtown in Corduff where he ran a stud farm) and Vereana Estelle Beresford Maxwell (Nee Cobbe, one of the Newbridge House Cobbes). He had joined the Royal Marines in September 1932 and had in the meantime risen to the rank of Major. He was among those who had volunteered for the Special Operations Group (SOG), which was commanded by Colonel H.T. Tollemache R.M., to carry out operations behind enemy lines during World War 2. Tough training in the UK in silent killing, handling explosives, clearing and laying mines etc. whittled the volunteers down to the operational numbers they required. In March 1945 an SOG party led by Major Maxwell (Operation Copyright) were taken by submarine to the island of Phuket on the West Coast of Thailand, where after reaching the island by canoe they were to try and get information on the two Japanese Airfields on the Island, details of the beach gradient and if possible prisoners. However, when they landed they were met with a fire fight by the Japanese, Sgt. Major. Ernest Smith was badly wounded, Major Maxwell stayed with him and they became separated from the remainder of the group and were subsequently captured by the Japanese, (The remainder of the group were later captured by Thai Troops and kept as POWs for the remainder of the war, and treated within the terms of the Geneva Convention). Major Maxwell and Sgt. Major Smith were eventually taken to Singapore and at some time were joined by a Sub Lieutenant Tomlinson, a Navel pilot who had been captured when he was forced to ditch in the sea. After refusing to give their captors any more than the basic information required by the Geneva Convention they were, following several months of interrogation and torture, taken to a hill north of Pasir Panjang on Singapore and beheaded. According to their executioners the men had given an impressive display of light banter as they said their farewells to each other.

On 28 December, 1945, at Rengam, Malaysia, three Japanese intelligence officers killed themselves in circumstances described as “amende honorable” after confessing that they had personally tortured and then beheaded three British POWs, Major Maxwell, Sgt. Major Smith and Sub Lieutenant Tomlinson in July 1945, apparently they had feared that an investigation that was taking place would unearth the crime and bring discredit to their Senior Officers.

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