Magazine article The Spectator

Without Fear

Magazine article The Spectator

Without Fear

Article excerpt

Mickie O'Brien's father served with the Royal Marines at Gallipoli. Mickie himself was commissioned in the Royal Marines in 1940 and, after two years in ships (seeing action in Norway), he transferred to 47 RM Commando with whom he landed on DDay. Later, at Sallenelles, he won an MC for leading a bold raid through a minefield, from which 13 out of 15 men emerged wounded. After a clash with his CO (whom he considered, among other gripes, rather too cavalier about sending men through minefields), Lt O'Brien was transferred to 44 RM Commando, where he saw action in the Arakan in Burma and was badly wounded at the Battle of Kangaw.

Ihave a useful mentality for a soldier -- a strong sense of fatalism and no imagination. As a result, war never frightened me. When stuff was coming down and my boys were diving for a trench, I never did. I thought, 'I'll stand a much better chance of surviving because when the enemy come up after the mortar fire I'll see them coming and I can do something about it.' I suppose I acquired a certain reputation. I remember I was briefing one patrol and two of my own troop came along, Birkenshaw and Griffin. They came up to me and said, 'Sir, you give us an order to come with you tonight and we'll come with you. But we're not f---ing volunteering.' There was a terrific character named Troop Sergeant Major Tynan and one day at Sallenelles we were rather bored so we had a look round to see if we could find any Germans. There were no orders, we just decided to go and we found a farm in no-man's-land which had been evacuated very, very quickly. It was full of money, jewellery. So Tynan says, 'Shall we help ourselves to a bit of this, sir?' I said, 'Well, I don't see why not.' Anyway, the following day we had orders that we were going to advance through this farm and take the ground some considerable distance beyond. And I said to Tynan, 'We're up shit creek here, you know.' He said, 'Why?' I said, 'If we take ground beyond the farm, the farmers are going to come back and find things missing. And our fingerprints are going to be all over the bloody shop.' Tynan said, 'F---ing good thinking, sir.

Let's put it back.' So we had to do another bloody patrol to put the bloody stuff back again.

In the Arakan it wasn't established how far the Japanese were from the coast, so I was put in charge of a patrol to find out. …

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