51ME Commando

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'Middle East Depot Commando Training and Holding Unit'

The Middle East 'Depot Commando Training and Holding Unit' came into being mid December 1940 and was formally established at Geneifa beside the Great Bitter Lake under the command of Major D.W. Melville MC on 25 January 1941.
Its role was to provide training and reinforcements for 50, 51, and 52 Commandos who were all deployed at the time, and also as a Holding Unit for Commandos.
 

'Rommel HQ - Operation Flipper'

Friday, November 14, 1941

Location

Beda Littoria
Libya
32° 45' 59.0004" N, 21° 44' 30.0012" E

The raiding party landed 14 November. The attack on Rommel's HQ by units from Layforce took place 17 November. The raiding party included a group from No 11 Commando (see What Links Here above) led by Lt Col Keyes supported by others, including two from No 7 Cdo who had escaped from Crete, Sgt Fred Birch (No 7 Cdo & 51ME Cdo) and Cpl John Kerr (No 7 and 51ME Commando)

BIRCH, Frederick

Known as: 
Fred
Fred Birch 7 Commando
Sergeant Frederick Birch 7 Commando
Corporal (Acting Sergeant)
2931860
No 7 Commando
'Layforce'
51ME Commando
Liverpool Scottish Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
Sergeant Frederick Birch served in No.7 Commando taking part in operations at Bardia and Crete before moving to 51 Middle East Commando. He was attached to 'C' Bn Layforce for Operation Flipper after which he was taken prisoner of war.
 
Sources
Casualty Lists / National Archives files WO417/36, WO417/37, and WO417/96.

BROWN, Leslie Jock

Cpl. Leslie Brown 1st SAS
Corporal
5437777
SAS
No 8 Commando
'Layforce'
51ME Commando
Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Killed in action or died of wounds
Corporal Leslie Brown had previously served in the Commandos before joining 'B' Squadron of the 1st Special Air Service. He died when his jeep patrol was attacked whilst en route to harass the enemy in Southern Tunisia.
Service*

DAB, Jakob

Jakob Dab Middle East Commando
Raider
PAL 12810
51ME Commando
Pioneer Corps
Military Medal (MM)
Raider Jakob Dab was awarded the Military Medal for gallant and distinguished service.
Recommendation
Before Keren Eritrea.

DRORI, Avishalom

Corporal
PAL/14538
51ME Commando
Pioneer Corps

Corporal Avishalom Druri was Jewish and from Palestine. He volunteered for the British Army and was first posted to the Pioneer Corps before being attached to 51 Middle East Commando. He later joined 'C' Battalion Layforce (No.11 Commando) and was taken prisoner of war during the raid on Rommel's HQ (Operation Flipper).

FISCHER, M.

Private
PAL/10750
51ME Commando
Pioneer Corps
Died on war service
Private Fischer, 51 Middle East Commando, died during operations in Eritrea. 
Son of Aaron and Sara Fischer, of Haifa, Palestine.
 
Sources
CWGC.
 
Notes - Asmara War Cemetery

FROST, Henry Shelmerdine

Captain Henry Shelmerdine Frost
Captain
51425
51ME Commando
Cheshire Regiment 1st Bn.
Mentioned in Despatches
Killed in action or died of wounds
Captain Henry Frost died during operations in Eritrea when leading a patrol up a steep gulley running South from Beit Gabru to harass enemy positions.
Mentioned in Despatches in recognition of distinguished service.
Son of Lt.-Col. John Meadows Frost, D.S.O., and Olivia Frost. of Chester.
 
Sources

HASLAM, Roy

Lance Corporal (later Sergeant)
2319382
51ME Commando
52ME Commando
Royal Corps of Signals
British Empire Medal (BEM)
Posted from the Middle East Commandos to the Indian Long Range Squadron on its formation in 1942. He became the Signal Sergeant and was awarded the British Empire Medal (Military Division) in recognition of distinguished service in the Middle East whilst organising and training those in the Signal Section of this new unit.

HEATH, George

Sergeant
6285981
51ME Commando
The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)
Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)
Sergeant George Heath, 3 Troop, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in recognition of gallant and distinguished service during operations on the night of 4/5 March 1941 at Beyt (or Beit) Gabru, Eritrea.
 
Sources
London Gazette 35221, page 4110.
National Archives file WO373/28/131.

JAMES, Keith Wyndham

Keith Wyndham James 51 Commando
Keith James 51 Commando
Captain
117487
51ME Commando
Inns of Court Regiment
Yorkshire Hussars
Royal Sussex Regiment
Service
02.09.1939 - Inns of Court Regiment.
04.02.1940 - 110 O.C.T.U. commissioned Second Lieutenant, Yorkshire Hussars.
02.12.1940 attached 51 Middle East Commando.
27.01.1942 attached 1 Special Service Regiment.
25.03.1942 to 15.05.1942 - (1 Special Service Regt) parachute training course, Kabrit.

LAPRAIK, John Neilson

Known as: 
Ian Lapraik, or Jock
Acting Captain (later Honorary Colonel)
132519
51ME Commando
SBS
SAS
Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
Military Cross (MC)
Bar to the Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Territorial Decoration (TD)
Acting Captain John Neilson Lapraik was awarded the Military Cross for gallant and distinguished service in the Middle East [1].
Recommendation

MOORE, Sydney Henry

Known as: 
Syd
Corporal
-
No 7 Commando
No 8 Commando
51ME Commando
-
Post war member of the Commando Association from Tadcaster in Yorkshire. His brother Albert served in No.3 Commando.
 
Sources
Commando Association newsletters 64, 77, 105, and others.
 

OSTERMAN, Werner

Private
PAL/10272
51ME Commando
Pioneer Corps
Died on war service
Private Werner Osterman died during the period his Commando were engaged in operations in Eritrea. Son of Alfred Osterman, of Tel Aviv.
 
Sources
CWGC.
 

RANDELL, Richard Noel

Acting Captain
112949
51ME Commando
Welch Regiment, 1st Bn.
Richard Noel Randell was commissioned Second Lieutenant on 31 December 1939 [1].
  • 6 March 1941, Second Lieutenant, 51 Middle East Commando, wounded during operations in Eritrea when on a patrol up a steep gulley running South from Beit Gabru to harass enemy positions [2][2a].
  • 1 July 1941 promoted Lieutenant [3].

ROSENSTEIN, Natan

Lance Corporal
PAL/12479
51ME Commando
Pioneer Corps
Died on war service
Lance Corporal Natan Rosenstein, an Austrian of Jewish Faith, served in the Commando from November 1941 and died of illness in July 1942. Son of Moriz and Paula Rosenstein, of Paddington, London.
 
Sources
CWGC.
The SAS and LRDG ROH 1941-1947/ Service Record.

SHIELDS, Ronald Francis

Lance Sergeant
4388357
51ME Commando
Coldstream Guards 3rd Bn.
Died on active service
Lance Sergeant Ronald Shields, ‘D’ Squadron, died at 63 General Hospital in the Middle East from burns to his limbs and face received from an accidentally ignited petrol drum thrown up on the beach by sea at El Rakham Bay. 

STAPLES, Montague

Corporal of Horse
304543
No 8 Commando
Middle East Commando
SAS
Royal Horse Guards
Killed in action or died of wounds
Montague Staples was killed serving with the 1st SAS, 'C' Sqn. having left the Commando. 

SWET, Zvi

Zvi Swet 2 Commando
Raider (Private)
PAL 13437
51ME Commando
No 2 Commando
Pioneer Corps
Zvi Swet served in Eritrea and North Africa with 51 Middle East Commando until it was disbanded early 1942. He later volunteered for No.2 Commando who were recruiting replacements for their casualties incurred in Italy.
There are references to his being in the MT Section at some stage*, and also to his being the bodyguard of the No.2 Commando Medical Officer in 1945**.

ULRICH, Itzchaz

Private
PAL/10692
51ME Commando
Pioneer Corps
Killed in action or died of wounds
Private Itzchaz Ulrich died during operations in Eritrea when on a patrol up a steep gulley running South from Beit Gabru to harass enemy positions. 
 
Sources
CWGC.
Account by Lt.Col. Cator in Middle East Commandos, author Charles Messenger.
 

WAJNSZTEJN, Shmaryahu

Shmaryahu Wajnsztejn 51ME Commando
Private
PAL/10696
51ME Commando
Pioneer Corps
Killed in action or died of wounds
Private Shmaryahu Wajnsztejn died during operations in Eritrea when on a patrol up a steep gulley running South from Beit Gabru to harass enemy positions. 
 
Sources
CWGC.
Account by Lt. Col. Cator in Middle East Commandos by Charles Messenger.
 

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