Roy Farran was born in 1921 and spent most of his early life in India where his father was in the RAF and he attended Bishop Cotton School, Simla. He returned to the UK in the mid-1930s and joined the Inns of Court (TA).

Major Roy Farran DSO MC
Major Roy Farran DSO MC

He was posted to the RAC OCTU at Sandhurst in September 1939 and commissioned in April 1940. He joined The 3rd Hussars in the desert in the autumn of 1940 in time to take part in the Battle of Sidi Barrani.

In May the following year, ‘C’ Squadron, in which Farran was a Troop Leader, was sent to Crete.

During the battle, Squadron was fully committed to supporting the New Zealand troops in the area around Chania, especially in the village of Galatos.

During the latter stages of the battle, he was badly wounded, taken prisoner, and subsequently awarded the MC.

Although only ‘C’ Squadron took part in the operations in Crete, 3H was, at the request of the New Zealand Government, awarded it as a Battle Honour.

After the fighting, Farran was evacuated to a hospital in Athens. He made a number of efforts to escape before finally being successful, chiefly due to the assistance he received from the Greek population, who lent him money to hire a caique.

He put together a group of British and Australians, all of whom were attempting to evade recapture, and set out for Egypt. After nine days they were rescued by a British destroyer 40 miles North of Alexandria.

For this escapade, Roy received the first bar to his MC.

In the early part of 1942, he was appointed to the staff of 7th Armoured Division in the desert and six months later was wounded a second time and evacuated to England.

After postings to three different units, he managed to join a draft for North Africa in February 1943. He was immediately accepted for the SAS and in May of the same year joined the 2nd SAS Regiment as a Squadron 2 i/c.

In the autumn of the same year, he led ‘B’ Squadron on reconnaissance and sabotage operations in southern Italy. On the night of the 27th of October, he led a detachment of 2 SAS, which was dropped behind the German lines north of the River Tronto. This was a highly successful operation for which he was awarded a second bar to his MC.

He returned to the UK early in 1944 and on August 19th landed by Dakota in command of a Jeep Squadron with the specific task of preventing German reinforcements from reaching Normandy. Over the next four weeks his small team, as well as destroying a considerable amount of transport, also destroyed troop carriers, a goods train, and a large fuel dump.

At Beaulieu, he and his team forced the German garrison to evacuate and his team, at a small cost to themselves during the whole operation, killed or wounded 500 of the enemy.

For this operation, which was known as Jedburgh, he received the DSO which was gazetted in the name of Patrick McGinty, a pseudonym he had used since escaping from the Germans in 1941.

He returned to Italy in late 1944 and was posted to GHQ 5th Army as Advisor to the Army Commander on Special Forces. During this time, the SAS were active in northern Italy and Farran, having been strictly forbidden to take an active role, succeeded in emplaning with the advance party and falling out of the aircraft with a parachute on. Farran then raised a force composed of British commandoes, Italian partisans and escaped Russian prisoners, which became known as the Battaglione Alleato.

At the end of March, he led an attack on the German 51st Corps Headquarters, again in contravention of orders, during which both the Corps Commander and his Chief of Staff were among the casualties.

As a result of his various acts of disobedience to orders, there were calls for his court-martial, but as the Americans announced that they were awarding him the Legion of Merit, these were abandoned.

When the War ended, Farran went to Norway with 2 SAS to supervise the evacuation of German occupation forces. In 1946 he was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government.

He had rejoined The 3rd Hussars in August 1945 and in October of the following year returned to the newly opened RMA Sandhurst as an instructor. Shortly before he left the Regiment, and whilst it was stationed at Sarafand, a group of Jewish terrorists dressed as 3rd Hussars forced their way into the camp, raided the arms store, and made off.

They were hotly pursued by Farran and 2 other officers of the Regiment who had been having lunch, and whilst two of the raiders were wounded, they got away when Farran’s vehicle skidded off the road.

In March 1947 he returned to Palestine and was loaned to the Colonial Office for employment with the Palestine Police on intelligence duties.

During this period, a Jewish youth, whose body was never found, was abducted, and on the grounds that a hat bearing Farran’s name had been found nearby, he was charged with murder and placed under house arrest. He managed to escape twice and on both occasions surrendered himself to the authorities.

He was held in Allenby Barracks and was escorted by officers of the Regiment, but to avoid any further attempt at escape, there was an outer cordon provided by an infantry company. On one occasion, when the company commander was absent, Farran and the officer escorting him at the time, Peter Cavendish, moved to another room. When Farran and Cavendish could not be found, the alarm was raised and a major search was put into operation.

Half an hour later the two 3rd Hussars appeared, demanding to know what all the fuss was about. Subsequently, it was established that Farran had no case to answer and all charges against him were dropped.

He returned to the UK in March 1948 and resigned his commission in the rank of Major, but soon after he did so, whilst he was away from home, his brother was killed by a letter bomb which had been sent by one of the Jewish terrorist groups.

At the beginning of 1949, he joined the Territorial Army and served with 21 SAS (TA) with whom he remained until November 1951.

Shortly afterwards, he emigrated to Calgary, Alberta, where, in addition to trying his hand at dairy farming, he worked as a reporter and columnist for the Calgary Herald and in 1954 founded the North Hill News, which became one of Canada’s leading weekly newspapers.

In 1961 he was elected a City Alderman and ten years later a Progressive Conservative Member of the Provincial Legislature. He was Minister for Telephones and utilities and Solicitor-General.

He retired from politics in 1979 and took on the Chairmanship of both the Alberta Racing Commission and Head of the North American Jockeys’ Association. He continued as a columnist and was a visiting professor at Alberta University from 1985 until 1989.

He also established the Farran Foundation in the French Vosges, a centre for the exchange of French and Canadian students.

He was a prolific writer and his published works included Winged Dagger, the story of his own wartime experience, and Operation Tombola. Shortly before his death, he was created a Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur and as he was at the time unfit to travel, the French Ambassador in Ottawa made a special trip to Calgary to invest him with the Order.

Farran was one of only 24 officers to be awarded three MCs during the Second World War.

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