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Lt Tomos (Twm) Mansell Stephens, Commandos & SAS  XML
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NIC
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Tomos Stephens was born on 31 May, 1920, and resided in Llanstephan. Carmarthenshire. He enlisted into the South Wales Borderers, but volunteered for service into the Commandos, before entering the newly formed 1st Regiment of the Special Air Service (S.A.S.). Nicknamed 'Twm', Tomos was part of a diversionary assault on occupied France, landing on the night of 6 June, 1944 as part of Operation Bulbasket under the command of Captain John Tonkin.
The force consisted of 39 men of 'B' Squadron, 1st S.A.S. who were parachuted into France with jeeps, which were dropped by converted Halifax bombers. Each jeep came down on a carrying platform with four parachutes, and were highly armed with Vickers 'K' Machine-guns.
Sadly the men were betrayed and their camp was found, and they lost most of the jeeps and men in the resulting fighting. Tomos was wounded and captured by the Germans, and was executed at Verrieres on 8 July, 1944 aged 24.
He is the sole Military burial in Verrieres Communal Cemetery, where he is entombed in a French family crypt.
There is a memorial to 'Twm' at Moriah Chapelyard, Llanstephan.


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This message was edited 10 times. Last update was at 17/08/2018 15:14:37


Nick Collins,

Commando Association Historical Archivist & Photographer.

Proud son of Cpl Mick Collins, 5 Troop, No5 Cdo

"Truly we may say of them, when shall their glory fade?"


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NIC
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Here is a fuller account of Op Bulbasket:
The Royal British Legion wrote:
Operation Bulbasket

Many Members will be aware that there is a Commonwealth War Graves site in the cemetery in ROM (79) containing 30 graves of personnel of B Squadron 1st Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment, one American pilot and a plaque commemorating the deaths of three SAS men of B Squadron with no known graves. However, few members are aware of how they got there.
Their story starts in a Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) directive of 19 May 1944 ordering the SAS Brigade to undertake two operations in France aimed at interfering with the movement of enemy forces in southern France, which might be sent north after D-Day towards the main battle zone in Normandy. Of concern to the SHAEF planners was the speed at which the Germans would be able to rush reinforcements to the invasion area. Of particular interest was the 2nd SS Panzer Division (Das Reich) located in the Toulouse area. The planners anticipated that Das Reich would be able to reach the invasion area three days after D-Day. It was imperative to drop obstacles in its path and seek out its fuel trains and dumps as soon as possible after D-Day.
The operations were codenamed 'Operation Houndsworth' based in the area of the Morvan Hills to the west of Dijon the responsibility of 'A' Squadron 1st SAS and, the one of interest to us, 'Operation Bulbasket' in the area east of Poitiers, the responsibility of 'A' Troop, 'B' Squadron 1st SAS led by Captain John Tonkin.
Tonkin selected Second Lieutenant Richard Crisp as his Second in Command. They were called to London on 1 June for briefings and appraised of the Bulbasket mission as required by SHAEF.
2/3 June were spent in SOE HQ memorising the faces and code names of agents and Résistance contacts of SOE's F(French) Section. Particular emphasis was given to learning the code names of Captain Maingard, known as the SOE agent 'Samuel' and the local leaders of the two main Résistance groups, the Armée Secrète (AS) and the Francstireurs et Partisans (FTP).
Whilst in London Tonkin also received further details of his railway targets from SAS Brigade HQ.
The advance party were inserted at 0137 hours on the morning of D-Day, 6 June 1944 by Halifax T-Tommy of B Flight 161 (Special Duties) Sqn onto the DZ in the area of Brenne marshes 30 Kilometres south west of Châteauroux. On the ground Tonkin was to rendezvous with Captain Maingard by 0700 hours. This he duly did.
The Advance Party, under Lieutenant Tomos 'Twm' Stephens, arrived on 7 June and the Main Party on 11 June. Communication with England was established by carrier pigeon, which flew at a reported speed of 100 kilometres an hour with a favourable wind and took some five hours to reach London.
The unit was to be occupied with railway interdiction work, Maquis training, parachutages, mine laying, patrols using their jeeps armed with Vickers machine guns and the destruction of the vast petrol reserves set up for refuelling Das Reich.
On the 10 June, Tonkin was advised by a railway worker that as many as 11 petrol trains were in the sidings at Châtellerault. Tonkin needed confirmation and sent Lt Twm Stephens on a bicycle the 60 kilometres to Châtellerault to reconnoitre.
Stephens returned on the 11 June and confirmed the presence of the petrol trains, reporting that they were too heavily guarded for the SAS to attack them. The same afternoon Tonkin had the map reference radioed in cipher back to England, requesting an immediate air attack. That evening the target was attacked by 12 Mosquito FB VI from 2 ATAF. OB-West?s fuel trains, vital for the swift refuelling of Das Reich's movement to Normandy had been completely destroyed.
Tonkin was concerned about the possibility of discovery by the enemy. He was always aware of the danger of remaining too long in one place, where informers or German radio direction finding might pinpoint the camp. The unit moved camp regularly keeping close to drop zones (DZ) and water. The Verrières camp was attractive as it was close to the DZ at la Font d'Usson and had a stream running through it, but the SAS had been there since 25 June and on 1 July Tonkin was beginning to feel uneasy, especially as he received word from Maingard's HQ that news of the SAS camp had reached local people in Verrières.
Tonkin was warned that news of the SAS would soon reach the Germans. A new base was set up a few kilometres south in the Bois des Cartes. This was close to the DZ at la Fort d'Usson. A critical re-supply drop was expected during the night 3-4 July. An addition attraction of the Bois des Cartes was the discovery of a well, however, the well dried up after the first few buckets were drawn. Reviewing his options Tonkin decided to make a temporary return to Verrières and its abundant supply of fresh water until another site was found. At most, their return was expected to last no more than one day.
Even as the SAS moved back into the forest German troops in Poitiers were mobilising with a view to dealing with Bulbasket. The SS Security Police and the SD already had information that the SAS camp was somewhere in the Forêt de Verrières and on 1 July had sent agents into the area to pinpoint the camp. The Germans assembled a force for the attack based mainly on 17th Panzergrenadier Divisions holding battalion based at Bonneuil-Matours. Meanwhile, Tonkin was anxious to find another camp location and left on the evening of the 2nd to search, returning in the early morning of the 3rd. Soon after his return disaster struck. The Germans had crept forward under cover of darkness and surrounded the camp.
In the forest 40 of the SAS party, the American flyer Bundy and 9 'Amilcar' maquisards slept unsuspectingly. The Germans attacked at dawn and by 2pm the action was over. Lieutenant Twm Stephens and 7 Maquis were killed, 31 SAS and 1 USAAF flyer were captured and taken to Poitiers. Tonkin and the remainder of the escapees regrouped and carried on with the mission until 23 July.
The fate of the prisoners was sealed. They came under the provisions of Hitler's Kommandobefehl (Commando Order), which stated that "enemies on so-called commando missions---are to be slaughtered to the last man".
An argument ensued between the SD and the Wehrmacht as to who would execute the prisoners. It was eventually decided that the Wehrmacht would. The place of execution was selected in the Forêt de St Sauvant, graves dug and on 7th July the execution by firing squad was carried out at dawn.
As Christmas 1944 approached, the Poitiers area bore relatively few lasting reminders of the enemy's occupation. It was to this background of returning peace that in mid-December 1944 la chasse resumed. The huntsmen were alongside a forestry track, the Borne Vezêtre, when they noticed an area of broken branches just inside the tree line. They found three patches of displaced earth and an exploratory dig soon revealed the reason. Not far below the surface were the remains of a number of bodies. The Gendarmerie in Melle was informed and on the morning of 18 December the Gendarmes arrived in the forest. Carefully they excavated the graves and found bodies dressed in uniform. A label on the inside pocket of a battle dress tunic bore the inscription 'BATTLE DRESS BLOUSE 1940 PATTERN, SIZE 7, T.H. CROMBIE and Co'. There was little doubt that the bodies were of allied soldiers. Positive identification was made difficult as it become clear that most of the dead soldiers' 'dog tags' had been removed.
The identity discs of Trooper Livingstone and Corporal Allan had been overlooked and Lieutenants Crisp's name was market inside his battle dress. A body dressed in French clothing was identified as that of Lieutenant Bundy.
On the completion of the autopsies, the bodies were placed in coffins in the presence of the Mayor of Rom. The coffins were taken to Rom and were tended by the FFI until the morning of 23 December. They were then taken to the Town Hall where they lay in state until the afternoon. At 3pm, watched by a huge crowd of local people who had come to pay there respects, the 30 SAS bodies and that of Lieutenant Bundy were re-buried with full military honours in a corner of the village cemetery in Rom. On or about St Michaels Day (September 29), ceremonies are held at the Stelle in the St Sauvant forest and at the cemetery in Rom to honour the fallen.

The final resting place of Lieutenant Tomos Stephens is in the village cemetery in Verrières in one of the small, chapel-like vaults of two local families. His wartime burial cross stands in a corner of the vault displaying the SAS cap badge and 1st SAS shoulder flashes. A simple stone plaque records his death.
On the 3 July each year the villagers hold a memorial church service and walk, first to Stephen's grave, then to the forest memorial at La Couarde to honour the fallen.

During the period 10 June-23 July the railway targets in Lots 1, 2 and 4 were attacked 15 times, the N10 south of Vivonne and the N147 were mined and attacks on many other targets of opportunity also occurred. On 12/13 June Lieutenant Crisp laid mines on the N147 in the Forêt de Défant, well aware of the arrival of Das Reich units. It was here that his jeeps cut through Das Reich columns when crossing the N147 to return to base.
An example of Who Dares Wins.

The order to cease operations was received on 24 July 1944.


Extracts have been taken from the following reference material, which are recommended for further reading:
Operation Bulbasket, Paul McCue - Pen & Sword; ISBN 0-85052-534-9
Fire From the Forest , Roger Ford - Cassell; ISBN 0-304-36335-9
Das Reich, Phillip Vickers - Battleground Europe; ISBN 0-85052-699-X


We Will Remember Them

This message was edited 4 times. Last update was at 17/08/2018 14:58:19


Nick Collins,

Commando Association Historical Archivist & Photographer.

Proud son of Cpl Mick Collins, 5 Troop, No5 Cdo

"Truly we may say of them, when shall their glory fade?"


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JB
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This is the picture of the badges on the wartime burial cross of Lt. TWM Stephens. Apparently nowadays the badges are no longer there and replaced by a picture. Hopefully not stolen!

See the full story here

http://www.britishbadgeforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=46978


Cheers,
JB
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This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 17/07/2015 22:21:52

NIC
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A photo of Lt Tomos Stephens in uniform of the South Wales Borderers and a memorial plaque to commemorate him in the churchyard at Llansteffan, Carmarthenshire.

Nick

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This message was edited 5 times. Last update was at 14/02/2016 00:14:22


Nick Collins,

Commando Association Historical Archivist & Photographer.

Proud son of Cpl Mick Collins, 5 Troop, No5 Cdo

"Truly we may say of them, when shall their glory fade?"


[Email]
 
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