DOWNES, Reginald William

Known as: 
Reg
Rank: 
Private
Unit/Base: 
Regiment/Corps: 
Middlesex Regiment
Service: 
Army
Service numbers: 
6207462
Born: 
Saturday, November 12, 1921
Died : 
Sunday, November 3, 2019
Age: 
97
Reg Downes
Reg Downes
Reg Downes joined the T.A. in 1938 before enlisting in the Middlesex Regiment.  From there he volunteered for the Commandos and after being selected and completing his training was attached to No. 2 Commando 5 Troop in 1941 [view....].
 
On 15 September 1941 Reg was one of a detachment of 26 men from No. 2 Commando who embarked on board H.M.T. Ulster Monarch in a convoy for Gibraltar, and from there were involved in several journeys to and from Freetown [see Linked Content below]. They were away from their Commando for approximately 7 months, only returning on the news of the raid on St Nazaire in March 1942 and subsequent high casualties suffered by No. 2 Commando.
 
Reg was then posted to the Motor Transport (MT) section of No. 2 Commando, now under the command of Lt Col. J.M.T.F. Churchill, or 'Mad Jack' as he came to be known [more....].
Reg served with No. 2 Commando for the remainder of the war taking part in operations at Scaletta Sicily, Salerno Italy, the Dalmatian Island raids from their base on the island of Vis Croatia (formerly Yugoslavia),  raids at Sarande and Spilje in Albania, and finally more operations on their return to Italy.
 
Post war Reg was a member of the original Commando Assocation which stood down in 2005.  At the age of 91 Reg and his sons, with the help of funding from the charity Heroes Return, made a commemorative visit to Salerno [read more....].  The following quotes from Reg are from the report on the visit posted on the Heroes Return website.
 
  • Training  “I was always a bit of a daredevil, humdrum life didn’t suit me. The training was hard but I was never fitter in my life than I was then.”
  • Sicily  “It was a bit hairy being our first action. I was the section driver and we were loaded up with bombs. We got involved in house- to-house fighting in Scaletta, but by then most of the Germans had retreated to Messina and then back to mainland Italy.”
  • Salerno “This was a heavy battle. We held the beachhead but they really came after us. We were a thorn in their sides and they were trying to wipe us out. We were only supposed to hold it for eight hours but we were stuck there for over two weeks. People had fear. You wouldn’t be telling the truth if you said you hadn’t. But comradeship was very good. You had to rely on your comrades. At first it was very hard to kill people but after a while you got a bit cynical about it. There weren’t many prisoners taken on either side.  It was live or die.”
  • Vis "We used to pick up and destroy boats carrying German ammunition to the Island.  Yugoslavia was full of partisans. Tito had insisted that they were included in our raids on the Germans. They were mostly youngsters very wild and silly, waving machine guns around. It was all a bit risky.”
  • On his return visit with his sons "I thought the grant was wonderful. I couldn’t have afforded to go without it. I looked for the place we landed at Vietri sul Mare, but I couldn’t find it. Then I asked a local and he pointed it out. I also went to Salerno War Cemetery to see the graves of the chaps I fought with. We lost quite a lot there. The graves were beautifully kept. It put a lump in my throat.”

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