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My uncles Fred Long (London Irish Rifles) and Victor Long (1st SAS)

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:11 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Victor Long was from Kimberley Street in the Ballynafeigh area of Belfast. Victor - Service Number 7021988 - was initially with 1st (Airborne) Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles before becoming a member of 1st Special Air Service Regiment on 17 March 1944. Victor took part in Operation Archway which had been planned to support the XVIII Airborne Corps 'Operation Varsity' parachute landings across the River Rhine. The force from the Special Air Service was known as Frankforce after Lieutenant Colonel Brian Franks who was in Command of the Operation. Two reinforced Special Air Service Squadrons, one each from the 1st and 2nd Special Air Service Regiments, numbered about 300 all ranks and carried in 75 armed Jeeps.

Victor was one of the first British troops who liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on the afternoon of 15 April 1945. Victor later recalled that "After we entered the camp one of the first things we came across was a huge open grave that was almost full of dead bodies. There were lots of dead bodies everywhere and the people that were alive were in a bad way. We weren't allowed to leave the camp until we'd been fumigated because there was so much disease around."

Sergeant Long was involved in Operation Gain which was a British Special Forces operation by D Squadron, 1st Special Air Service. He had arrived by parachute on 17 June 1944 and, after lying-up for some time, they made contact with Major Fenwick and his six-strong Headquarters Section who had landed the previous day.

As a member of Lieutenant Bateman's Section, Victor recalled that "we didn't really allow the Maquis into our Camp because Major Fenwick said you couldn't trust them." Victor's first action was blowing up the Orleans to Pithiviers Railway Line on 20 June. On 12 August Captain Riding sent Vic Long and John Morton on a road watch and the following morning Leslie Packman and John Ion set off in a Jeep to collect the pair. When their pick-up did not arrive, Victor and John Morton walked for about an hour before they heard shooting. The two men watched as there was more rifle fire before about forty or fifty Germans moved onto the road and pushed the Jeep into a ditch at the side of the road. Having heard nothing from Packman and Ion, the two men returned to their camp where they reported what had happened to Blair Mayne. The bodies were later recovered and Victor made a statement regarding what had happened and his observations which was to be used at a later War Crime Investigation.

On leaving the Special Air Service Regiment on 16 November 1945, he received his 1st Special Air Service Regiment Service Certificate which is signed by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair 'Colonel Paddy' Mayne. Victor was Mentioned in Despatches and has an Oak Leaf attached to his 1939-1945 War Medal. He was also awarded the 1939-1945 Star, France and Germany Star, and the Defence Medal as well as the General Service Medal with 'Palestine 1945-1948' Clasp.

Nigel Long's other uncle, Fred, served in the Royal Ulster Rifles from 1938. "Blown up" in the desert in Palestine, he returned to action with a piece of shrapnel still lodged into his chest near his heart. He joined the London Irish Rifles in Sicily and was with them when they pushed up through Italy. This is where Fred got Mussolini's hat.

Fred told the young Nigel that he stole the hat from Mussolini himself when behind enemy lines. This wasn't the only thing that he stole - he was also "busted" for chipping gold off the Vatican. His army records demonstrate that he should have received the Victoria Cross for saving 5-6 English soldiers in Italy, but did not receive recommendation from his seniors, perhaps due to the Vatican incident.

Nigel has tried to confirm the veracity of the Mussolini hat story. Apparently, Mussolini did get a hat stolen, and a BBC historian who visited the Ulster Museum in the 1960s confirmed, after several weeks' research, that it is "very possible that it is Mussolini's hat."

History

Item list and details

Mussolini's Hat and images of Victor Long's service in RUR and SAS

Person the story/items relate to

Victor and Fred Long

Person who shared the story/items

Nigel Long

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Uncles

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID

90523