Battlefield Study Tour by twenty-two members of the Royal Military Police's Specialist Operation
This Charity's co-founder Martyn Cox and historian Trustee Paul McCue were closely involved with a cross-channel battlefield study tour made in July by twenty-two men and women from the Specialist Operations Regiment of the Royal Military Police - most were members of its Close Protection Unit (CPU) and some from the Service Police Crime Bureau (SPCB).
The Royal Military Police's Close Protection Unit guards ministers, senior military officials and diplomatic staff on global deployments: and the Service Police Crime Bureau is operated by the Royal Military Police, Royal Air Force Police and Royal Navy Police.
The CPU's Capt Marc Smith - who was the tour's Exercise Director - and Staff Sgt Alex Chambers worked closely with Martyn during the planning stages, which included a recce in France before finalising the topics and itinerary for the tour itself. The most senior member of the tour group was the regiment’s then CO, Lt Col Belinda Forsythe MBE, and on July 3rd the first stop was Beaulieu where the group visited the Secret Army exhibit and the memorial plaque.
Paul gave a talk on the SAS Operation Bulbasket and also answered questions following an SOE talk by Beaulieu’s own historian/guide, Nick Saunders. The RMP group then crossed the Channel overnight from Portsmouth to Ouistreham and drove directly to the Musée de la Résistance in Limoges, where they were greeted by Martyn Cox and the museum’s director Annie Martin - who'd opened the museum that afternoon especially so that this British military group could make a private visit. Before the group explored the museum, Martyn gave a presentation covering wartime special forces activities in the Limousin, and notably the role of SOE in the march north of the Das Reich Panzer division. The group’s schedule didn’t permit a visit to the area just south of Limoges most associated with Salesman 2 and the capture of Violette Szabo, but at least Martyn’s audio-visual presentation included a ‘virtual’ visit to this area.
This included excerpts of filmed testimony by the late Bob Maloubier DSO, MBE the remarkable French SOE agent who'd parachuted into the Limousin with Violette and the other two members of SOE's Salesman 2 team led by Philippe Liewer the day after D-Day. Their mission was to arrange supplies for the Maquis to be dropped by parachute so that these several thousand local resisters could be armed and trained in guerilla warfare by Bob. He was already a highly experienced saboteur and demolished many bridges along the roads through the area that Das Reich needed to use as it passed through the Limousin on its way towards the post D-Day Battle for Normandy. The following morning the tour group headed north to take in the solemnity of Oradour-sur-Glane, and dreadful massacre that had taken place there, before driving onwards to Valençay, where a wreath was laid at the SOE F Section memorial. They were back in Ouistreham that evening where Martyn had arranged for them to be greeted by Romain Bail, the dynamic Anglophile mayor of this charming port town. The next day the group had time to visit the museums and WW2 sites in and around this part of Normandy, and notably Pegasus Bridge. Then it was 'all aboard' for the ferry back to Portsmouth. Following an overnight stay at the RMP Officers’ Mess at Southwick Park (which is also home to the historic D-Day Map Room) the final phase was a compilation of the participants’ research notes followed by a group debate.
Secret WW2's Paul McCue and Martyn Cox were pleased and proud to have been involved in this project, having originally been recommended to the Close Protection Unit's Capt Marc Smith by Sandhurst's Deputy Head of War Studies, Dr Simon Trew.
To assist with the 'study' aspect of the tour Martyn created a dedicated online resource for the participants containing copies of relevant archive documents and photos, and published research on SOE, plus a suggested reading list; and they must have done something right because Captain Smith emailed to say that, "... it could not have happened without you" ... and to show his group's appreciation they kindly made a donation to the Charity. NB: These are some of the titles on the reading list provided to the RMP group: Das Reich: 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich – Drive to Normandy, June 1944
by Phillip Vickers SAS Operation Bulbasket by Paul McCue
Das Reich by Max Hastings
Many thanks to the tour group members who kindly provided photos, but please note that additional images have also been included in this gallery for ilustrative purposes.