Richard “Ruby” Rubinstein
(1921 - ?)
Richard Arthur Rubinstein was born in Baker Street,
London on 29th August 1921, son of Arthur Bernard (born in
Birmingham) and Floris Rubinstein (nee Newport, who was born in London).
They had married in 1920 after Floris converted to Judaism;
they belonged to Marlborough Place (formerly the St John’s Wood) synagogue,
where Richard learnt his Hebrew and was bar mitzvah. Arthur was an importer
of millinery and associated goods for the clothing trade and his father
had come as a Jewish immigrant to Britain from Latvia in the early 19th century. Richard’s grandfather, Bernard, had been a junior officer in
the Tower Hamlets Rifles Volunteers, mostly a Jewish unit. He married
the sister of his Company Commander, Julia Lazarus, scion of the old
Exeter Jewish family. Bernard’s father, Joseph, was President of the
Synagogue in Mitau, Latvia and allocated stallholder areas for peddlers
in the ghetto market. Only peddlers among the Jews were permitted to
travel, and through them Joseph established an underground escape network
to save young Jewish boys from the tortuous experience of compulsory
service in the Czarist army, where they were put in high risk battalions
in the hope they would be killed or simply forget their Jewish roots.
Perhaps in some way, Richard’s wartime secret work in SOE could thus
be seen as the continuation of a family tradition in clandestine operations!
Richard went to University College School between
1929 and 1939 and then won a place at Imperial College to read aeronautical
engineering. Meanwhile, as the 1930’s war clouds gathered, and asked
by his mother not to join the OTC at school in 1934, he instead, aged
only 16 years, joined the Territorial Army at the Duke of York’s Barracks,
Chelsea, on 23rd March 1938, where, with the connivance of
the recruiting officer, lied about his age to get in. He attested as
CofE and was now a member of the Royal Engineers, as Sapper 2051152
(321 Company 26 Anti Aircraft Battalion); this later became 26th Searchlight
Regiment, Royal Artillery in August 1940. Mobilised at the Munich crisis
whilst still at school, and then temporarily demobbed, he was at a Territorial
Army camp in August 1939 when war was declared and so never was able
to take up his place at Imperial College. He went straight into the
In charge of a sound locator during the London Blitz,
he sometimes faced anti-Semitism in the barrack room but was always
able “to look after myself” . Aged 19 in February 1941, he successfully tried
for a Commission, passing out in June as 2nd Lieutenant No.
193114 from 133 OCT Unit. He became a searchlight troop commander (69
Searchlight Regiment, RA, Royal Fusiliers) in Norfolk, commanding six
searchlight sites and over 80 men, using a motorbike to keep control
over a 50-mile circuit. By 1943 he was a Searchlight Battery Training
Captain in charge of over 24 searchlights in Wiltshire, sometimes flying
with the RAF nightfighters, to check on the performance of his lights
to form a neat cone to indicate a target to the fighters, and also flying
with new bomber crews to help them interpret the night sky and avoid
the searchlights that they would meet over enemy territory.
By 1943 he wanted to take a more active role in the
fighting war, but was rejected by the RAF and Commandos. He married
his sweetheart Gay Emily (nee Garnsley ) in April 1943 and then saw
a notice at his HQ asking for volunteers to work in Occupied Europe,
language skills not essential! He applied and was sent on a three day
selection course in August 1943, in a large country house near Petersfield
in Hampshire. Promoted to Captain, he was accepted with the comment,
“he appears well motivated but is he tough enough?”. After six weeks
he was ordered to report to a London address near Trafalgar Square,
from where he was sent to another country house (on November 17th 1943) at Hatherup Castle near Swindon.
Richard was to be trained for an SOE Jedburgh team
to be inserted into North West Europe. Most teams were intended for
France. They comprised one British or American officer, an officer of
the country of insertion and a sergeant wireless operator (WO) of the
same nationality as one of the officers. Jedburghs were unique in being
the first military group that was truly international and were under
joint SHAEF  /SOE
command Their aim was to parachute in, after D Day ahead of the advancing
Allies, with arms and other supplies, wearing full British or Allied
uniform, and work with the SAS and French Resistance to harass the enemy
en route to Normandy from various parts of France, who were attempting
to stop the Allied invasion. They were to aid the advancing Allies in
whatever way they could, depending on the local situation. At Hatherup
(SOE Special Training School – STS – No. 45), the British and Americans
trained together up to January 1944 and then they were all moved to
Milton Hall (2 miles from Peterborough) where the French members joined
them in a cohort of 300 men to make up 100 Jedburgh teams  . Milton Hall was part of the Fitzwilliam Estate and was the
permanent home of the European Jedburgh Teams, commanded first by Lt
Col Frank Spooner and later by Lt Col Musgrave.
In his first training report  dated 4/12/43, it was questioned whether “his temperament would
stand the strain of action” although he “was very keen and confident”.
His 7th report on 4/3/44, described him as “a leader who
obeys orders…mixes well with the French to practice the language…keen,
aggressive and popular”. By his 8th report (13/3/44)  he “ spoke French fairly well” and was “practising continually
to improve….was very fit with lots of endurance….was a forthright type
that people would have faith in, with above average organising powers…..keen,
quick, estimates situations well, has leadership ability, is intelligent
and contented with his work”. His Company Commander – Major B W Gilmour
– wrote, “he is the type who can do all three duties equally well (liaison,
organisation, leadership)….his French is easily understood, he has
plenty of tact and drive and personality….can be trusted to do any job
well…a first class officer in every way and is very popular with all
Further intense training consisted of parachute
jumps at Ringway, study of German army weapons and tactics, explosives
and sabotage, unarmed combat, ambush and guerrilla techniques, radio
operation, etc. Richard was given the code name of “Augure” and also
false French identity papers  (in the name of Robert Andre Richard, which maintained his
own initials, so it could easily be remembered) as an industrial designer,
in case he ever had to make an escape in civilian guise. The risk, however,
was very great, as the records show that few SOE/SAS captives – in uniform
or not – escaped execution. They were given wireless skeds (schedules)
for reporting in  .
On the night of August 5th 1944 at 2200,
Richard’s team - known as Douglas 1 and consisting of a British Tank
Corps WO, Sgt. John D. Raven code name Halfcrown  , and French officer Jean Roblot, cover name Jean Ronglou,
code name Anachorere  - was joined by 2nd Lt. J Poignot from the local FFI group and took off from Fairford in
an RAF Stirling  . Richard was dressed in full British paratrooper uniform with a
captain’s rank and gear, armed with a .45 colt revolver and M1 carbine
with folding stock, a commando knife, and 5 million francs for local
purchases and wages for the French Resistance! However, they could not
find the DZ (Dropping Zone)  and so returned to Fairford till next day.
This was fortuitous as their supplies had not arrived at Fairford to
accompany them and were to be dropped for them later! The following
day Aug. 6th they went to Keevil and took off at 2315 with
two Stirlings. They were dropped successfully this time with all their
nine “supply packages” into Brittany just north east of Vannes  at an SAS base named Dingson  , with 17 French Breton SAS reinforcements,
to work with the local Resistance to help cut off the German naval bases
garrisons from Normandy – especially around the port of L’Orient. They
were met by 150 local people of all ages and then marched to a prepared
To get to the local Resistance HQ it was necessary
to travel by lorry and boat from Nostano, but there was room for only
6 packages and two were hidden at the DZ – one having been lost! Security
was not good though and the day following the drop, one of the women
Resistance workers was arrested by the Germans. Hiding in woods, Richard’s
team then went to pick up the packages at Nostano and arrived ten minutes
after a German search party had left – fortunately finding nothing!
From the woods and away from prying civilian eyes, they made their first
contact with London at 0715 on Aug. 7th. That night they
were moved to the safety of local FFI HQ  . This was the house of a M. Tristan, Deputy for Morhiban
– and the 5 million francs were handed over. They were then hidden on
8th Aug. at a small oyster farm where they stayed for a week,
sending many messages to London, but making only poor contact with Mission
Aloes. On Aug. 16th they moved to FFI HQ at Vannes itself
and made contact with the US Army.
In his report, Richard complained of poor responses
from London for supplies to the SAS and FFI, which lowered his standing
with the locals.
Most of the Brittany countryside was empty of the
enemy by now, but they were still strong in the port areas and it was
here that the Germans had to be harassed and contained. Richard’s team
also assisted the SAS with the landing of several gliders carrying arms
for 3000 men, and later, Dakotas with further supplies  . By late August their job was done. Richard
reckoned that they had really arrived too late to be of real use to
the FFI (Forces Francais de L’Interieur)  as much of the information on local German strength was already
known to the Americans; and so they were extracted by Dakota to Normandy
and thence by plane ( which was also carrying wounded troops) , to
Hendon aerodrome on Aug. 24th.
Here Richard faced the irony of customs charging him
duty on a silk dress length he had bought in France for his wife
Gay – a red flowered pattern, she remembers!
He and Gay then enjoyed some leave on a friend’s boat,
sailing the Thames – but with orders to ring in every day to HQ at
Milton Hall. After 4 days he was recalled and told that his team would
soon be dropped again, this time as Douglas 2, into Eastern France.
During the preceding week they underwent some further training and then
the day before, Richard’s WO, John D. Raven, was injured by a mis-firing
pistol and was replaced by a young and not too experienced American
, John T. Van Hart  .
Following a poor briefing, they flew from Harrington
aerodrome in Northamptonshire on the night of 15th September
in an American OSS Liberator and dropped in Jura, 28 kms. south east
of Besancon, on a plateau near the village of Reugney  with several packages, some of which were lost when parachutes
failed to open.
Their job was to assist the active local Maquis in
working together and harassing the German lines as the American and
French forces were advancing north from the Rhone valley region after
the Allied invasion of Southern France. However, the area was already
mostly liberated, but after a few days, the Arnhem airdrop had occurred
in Holland and Richard’s team were ordered to march north with the
Resistance along the west bank of the Rhine in the valley of the River
Doubs and generally help create havoc among the Germans, to prepare
for an Allied Rhine crossing. But with failure at Arnhem, an Autumn
Rhine crossing could not take place and so the team were told to report
on German troop movements. Here, near Montbeliard, they did important
work gathering information for the advancing Free French Forces for
the capture of Belfort. But again, response from London was poor and
eventually Douglas II was ordered home.
They split up for safety reasons, and Jean took the
American WO and went in one direction and Richard found a German motorbike
and went in another. About 25 miles east of Besancon, Richard met the
French army who were quite suspicious of his riding a German vehicle
whilst wearing British uniform, and he was arrested and tied to a tree.
He suggested that they call his HQ to verify his SOE story and to use
the coded message “I have lived at number 77 since 1927” (his address
in West Hampstead at 77 Broadhurst Gardens)  . This proved his identity
and he was released, just as his comrade Jean turned up to find that
the French were from his old regiment that he had left in 1943 (when
joining SOE) in North Africa. He told Richard and the WO to go on alone
as he was staying to fight with them. Richard told him that this was
fine as their work was finished but that he should go to visit his parents
first. He never did, and soon after was tragically killed in the heavy
fighting against the Germans in the Rhine valley forests area in November
1944, leading a company infantry attack.
Richard made his way to Paris SOE HQ using his letter
of authority (which all Jedburgh team members carried, ordering whoever
it may concern to assist the holder in any way possible) to obtain petrol.
After a short leave he was returned to the UK by Dakota on October 4th 1944 and given some more time to spend with Gay, whose aunt lent them
a car to use on a holiday.
For his work in France, Richard was mentioned in Despatches
(London Gazette 30/8/45) and awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Etoile
Vermeil (Bronze Star). His citation reads, “ Capt. Rubinstein volunteered
for missions in occupied France and was dropped with an allied team
for the first time in Morbihan on Aug 6th 1944 and the second
time in Jura on 15th Sept. 1944. Although these two areas
were particularly heavily controlled by the enemy, he was able to organise
an important information system, which proved to be most useful for
the Allied advance. This officer displayed the greatest bravery under
all circumstances as well as complete devotion to his mission and to
the common cause. Signed by De Gaulle, 16th Jan. 1946. 
Recalled to SOE in London, Richard was given the three
options of either returning to the army, dropping into Germany with
the SAS to release Allied POW’s  , or going to Burma. He chose to go to Burma. Higher authority
also agreed that those who had the experience of fighting with the
Maquis in France would be the first and best available to be switched
to Burma after VE Day  .
American Jedburgh members were off to help Chiang
Kaishek’s Nationalist Chinese, the French to fight in Indo-China and
the British to Burma . At one point, in one of those strange ironies
of war, Jedburghs were fighting on opposite sides as the Chinese advanced
into French territory.
Richard left London on November 3rd 1944
, arriving in Bombay via Liverpool and the Mediterranean on the SS
Otranto, in December 1944, having had all the appropriate innoculations.
Richard was attached to the famous Force 136 of SOE, based on a small,
idyllic beach coconut plantation near Colombo in Ceylon (Sri Lanka),
called Horuna. At that time Slim’s 14th Army was fighting
its way south from North Burma with the Chinese, towards Rangoon, which
he wanted to reach before the Monsoon broke in June, and he welcomed
any help SOE could give him in organising friendly Burmese to help harass
and destroy the Japanese behind their lines, as they made their fighting
retreat. The Burmese leaders had been as anti British as they were
anti Japanese, but they soon realised when the Japanese occupied them,
that the British were by far the lesser of two evils, and offered to
The evening before insertion, extra pockets were sewn
on tunics, seams strengthened, rifles zeroed, and rucksacks re-packed.
The limit was 45 lbs. (about 18 kilos.) but with emergency rations,
medical kit, wireless parts and ammunition, it was quickly exceeded.
After the usual hectic briefing (they had not been warned off for the
mission until 2000 hrs. on 23rd January! There were no written
orders and only a brief verbal background – none of which exactly inspired
interviews, preparation of codes, and maps and reports to digest, on
25th January 1945, Richard took off at 1800 hrs. for Operation
“Dilwyn/Monkey”  in an RAF Liberator from
Jessore, about 50 miles north east of the SOE operational HQ in Calcutta
. He was parachuted by night with two comrades, Major Hugo E. Hood
(Somerset Light Infantry) and the Wireless Operator Ken Brown (Royal
Tank Regiment), landing at 2130 hrs. They were to assist an SOE intelligence
group led by William “Bill” A. Howe, MC (a former rice buyer who
had lived in Burma for some years, alive today and over 90 years old,
who was the senior British officer on the ground ), his Burmese 2nd i/c was Capt. Kum Ge Tawng Wa, and his resistance group of about 200
men. They dropped, guided by fires, with their radios and a load of
arms and other supplies onto a small plateau. Approaching the drop zone,
the exit hatch in the aircraft was opened by the Dispatcher and all
Richard could see was a beautiful tropical moon and thick forest; he
was very frightened and chewing gum to calm his nerves during the long
flight, with such ferocity, that it ended up all over his lips and
chin! Suddenly he was pushed out into the silent, dark world below.
He fully admits that he was always more afraid of the jump, than what
awaited him on the ground!
This was Kachin country, a cheerful hill people, fiercely
loyal to Britain and indeed many had been soldiers in the British led
Burma Rifles and so formed the core of the resistance groups. They were
met with hot coffee and then conducted to a comfortable hut with bamboo
mats and blankets to sleep in. One subadar major with 20 years service
told Richard in excellent English that he had been to Britain for the
King George VI’s Coronation in 1936 as ADC to the representative of
the Burma Army and stayed at Wellington Barracks in The Mall!
The arms were distributed and immediately the British
Army training and discipline of the Kachins took over as they formed
up and started drilling and marching ! Richard remembers being most
moved and impressed by this experience. Many still wore bits of old
British army uniform – belts, puttees, hats – which they had kept since
the 1942 retreat, and now proudly wore. As time went by more and more
former British Army veterans joined up and were given ID discs and
by the end of January numbered about 350.
The Jedburghs had some army rations but generally
depended entirely on the Burmans, who accepted them completely; they
ate local food such as fruit, rice with chillies, and stewed meat and
vegetables; Richard and the Jedburghs would sometimes supplement this
with bartered eggs, buffalo milk and the occasional chicken. On special
occasions a larger animal would be killed for a communal feed-up! They
lived in the field with the Burmese, sleeping in thatched huts, or in
the open with mosquito nets.
In the area of Kutkai/Kutkhia, cool at about 4000
feet altitude and 20 miles square, the country is very wild and, at
that time, largely unexplored – and in appearance rather like Scotland
with forested and grassy hills, heavily forested valleys, and few roads.
Within 5 days, the group were ready, after some basic training, to go
on the offensive. Richard organised and supervised many ambushes of
Japanese military targets, mining and shooting up convoys on roads,
in camps and along paths, inflicting many casualties, the Burmese often
going in close with their dahs (short swords). Intelligence on the whereabouts
of the Japanese and their movements would arrive from many local Kachin
sources. It was also necessary to provide a small detachment to prevent
the ravages of Chinese deserters and local bandits from attacking the
villages of the Kachin whilst the men were away fighting the Japanese.
Some amenity drops organised by Richard, to assist
the well being of Kachin communities, sometimes resulted in replies
from HQ BCS (Burma Country Section) that they could not keep acting
as “Fairy Godmother” due to scarce resources. The teams on the ground
rather resented this attitude, but nevertheless such drops were periodically
Generally, the Burmese preferred to be told how to
deploy and be given firm and clear instructions, and then wished to
get on with the job without any interference from the Jedburghs. They
were extremely tough, fierce and courageous and wanted to keep their
leaders (the British SOE, who after all supplied them with their means
to resist) safe and sound at jungle HQ’s, whilst they, by and large,
did the face to face fighting. Wearing trousers, with lighter skins
and especially being much taller than Burmese, they rightly protested
that the British were simply far too conspicuous in the bush.
By Feb. 7th six actions had been fought
(Feb. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th,
6th, and 7th) in which 109 Japanese had been killed,
31 wounded and 42 POW – later evacuated (Operation Cheetah Report).
By the end of February, Richard’s men had despatched
even more Japanese and wounded dozens of others. Groups of 10 –20 guerrillas
would occupy concealed camps (or outposts) and after reconnoitering
for enemy bivouacs, attack at night. Japanese stragglers would also
be constantly picked off, day and night. Burmese casualties were very
few. To support these fighting patrols, there were two mini HQ’s, where
fresh supply drops could be made, and from which the outposts were
reinforced and supplied. They also formed a camp for local refugees
and arranged drops for them of food, salt, blankets and clothing and
medical supplies. On one occasion, 45 Indian escaped POW’s arrived and
their evacuation was arranged with SOE. They even recovered material
looted from the Kachins by Chinese deserter bands.
Among the Burmese fighters with Richard was Duwa (Chieftain)”Rusty”
Shan Lone, who already had an MC and OBE from 1942. He worked with another
resistance group some miles from Richard’s and they both soon amalgamated
to form a 400 strong anti-Japanese unit  .
As Chiang Kaishek arrived in March from the north,
Richard and his team were ordered out (in Dakotas, which brought more
arms for the resistance; they used a captured Japanese landing strip
at Kutkai) after almost 2 months behind enemy lines. With him went 13
young Kachins to join the Jedburghs as armed SAS-style soldiers for
Force 136 (Special Forces) , in more hostile Central Burma.
Richard was meant to collect arms and pay the guerrillas
at army rates; in fact, many weapons were deliberately left behind so
the Kachin could protect themselves later from local outlaws and Chinese
deserters. A last supply drop of cloth and salt was arranged and he
gave away several thousand pounds in silver rupees , whose sparkle the
Kachin delighted to see and who mistrusted paper money anyway. At Kongsa
they even re-opened the local church and market (bazaar) and a small
hospital. A peace party (manaus) was held, with speeches and religious
thanksgiving ceremonies to Richard and his team; there was dancing in
full silk and feathered head dresses and swords, and some amusement
when Richard was asked to demonstrate English dancing! There was of
course a huge feast and the killing of a buffalo. Touching gifts were
exchanged – native crafts for tobacco and sweets – and many goodbyes.
It was particularly moving when everyone stood and sang “God save The
King” in English and Burmese.
Richard’s debriefing report did make some criticisms
of HQ – namely, lack of information of exactly where Allied troops were,
to save them sending raiding parties into areas that the enemy had
already left; too few supply drops for local people who were sacrificing
so much to help the Allies; lack of interpreters with the Jedburgh Teams;
poor radio procedure by HQ; too few medical supplies ; and that they
wanted British blankets and groundsheets replaced by USA hammocks and
Arriving in Calcutta Richard’s team went to their
rest house in a block of flats run by SOE, re-entering the unreal world
of peace time India; here the team let off steam and scrubbed away the
stench of their unwashed sojourn in the wildest of jungles, wrote
their reports, were debriefed and then were returned to Ceylon. Their
hut at Horuna was now adorned with trophies – mostly Japanese swords
and flags – and they had adopted a green parrot  .
Newly arrived teams from Europe were sent on acclimatisation
training in the thick Ceylon jungle, but Richard’s men were spared that
and disappeared on leave into Colombo till needed.
After a week, they were informed that as veterans
of the Burma guerrilla campaign, they were very highly valued. Richard
(now a Major) was made a team leader and with Dick “Doc” Livingston,
a Rhodesian, who had just been with SOE in Greece, and Ken Brown again
as WO, was to be dropped now into Central Burma as Operation Chimp  ; they would be one of a number of Jedburgh teams to be dropped
near Rangoon. On reaching Calcutta, however, Richard developed an infection
from some scratches he obtained on the beach in Ceylon and was hospitalised
for three days. By this time his mission was switched to the Mandalay
area and was now urgent as Slim’s forces were approaching the town
and needed immediate support from the SOE agents. After sleeping all
night at the airport, within 8 hours of leaving his sick bed, Richard
was with his team in a Liberator, at 0700 hours over Burman jungles
again, this time dropping by day at 1015 am. on 9th April 1945. They
parachuted in, 20 miles north of Pyinmana, landing in a dry river
valley, about 50 yards wide, which was surrounded by forest, at map
reference IQ434460 – in full view of the Japanese ! Richard noted that
only one smoke fire guided them in and there was no recognition signal.
There were 5 in his team, as he had two Burman Army
men with him as interpreters. Two of the team fell in trees, but without
injury, and two containers collided and crashed to earth spilling their
contents – but by the time the Japanese arrived, all had disappeared!
This time Richard’s men  were welcomed by Communist fighters of the AFO (Anti-Fascist
Organisation), and taken by bullock cart for about 12 hours into the
Sittang valley, along which ran the main roads and railway, to the village
of Kyatahaung, where they arrived around 2a.m. on April 10th.
With them came about 10 containers of rifles, brens, grenades etc
for the guerrillas. With the help of two ex-Burma Rifle havildars, the
men were quickly trained and sent off in small groups by Dick to scout
for Japanese, now retreating in large numbers from Slim’s advance down
the valley, as they fled into the surrounding jungle in order to avoid
the ambushes and the air attacks. Tracks were easy to follow as the
Japanese split toe shoe prints were easy to spot.
The objective of Richard’s team was to report on all
Japanese troop movements in order to call in air strikes; contact and
arm the local Burman Defence Army Resistance; and prepare a local drop
zone for arms. On April 10th they called in the first bombing
raid on Japanese targets at Kayanzatkan; on the 11th, six
Japanese were killed in 3 encounters and the HQ moved to Gwegyi. On
April 13th at 1700 hrs., the first drop of arms was successfully
completed and the Dropping Zone (DZ) cleared within 12 minutes! On April
14th a group of 25 fighters ambushed and killed 13 Japanese
and captured arms and documents on the road to Myola-Gwegyi (parallel
to the Rangoon-Mandalay road) down which the Japanese were retreating
in quite large numbers. On April 15th, five more Japanese
were killed at Kyatchaung; within 10 days Richard’s men had ambushed,
captured and killed as many as 48 Japanese, including at Kyatchaung
on April 10th , a Major-General and his staff  of six senior officers (4 captains and 2 lieutenants) and
11 others (mostly NCO’s) ; a large amount of documents were also captured
and sent rapidly by runner to Slim’s forces to the north, and handed
to Major Boyt who was the 5th Indian Division’s liason with
SOE. The report on this coup got back to London and had a profound effect
on policy towards increasing support for Force 136 and SOE and the Burmese
Resistance in general.
When the Japanese were in small groups, they ambushed
them directly; when they came across larger concentrations and targets
such as stores and buildings, they simply radioed for air strikes. It
was rarely possible to take prisoners and in any case this was not the
wish of the Burmese who were doing the fighting; any Japanese left
alive after the first bursts of fire often blew themselves up with grenades.
On 16th April, more Japanese were killed
and on the 17th two POW’s taken but shot trying to escape.
Several other successful ambushes were made and in all, around Pyinmana
and later further south in Toungoo (see below) , they inflicted over
400 casualties on the enemy.
On April 17th , Richard went to make
contact with the Burmese Defence Force (or Burmese National Army) ,
leaving the local guerrillas to fight on. With 20 men, and 2 elephants
to carry their kit, they covered only 30 miles in 3 days due to the
need to lie up to avoid the Japanese en route. Even then, they made
contact and on the night of the 17th/18th killed
10 Japanese at Kyatchaung. On arrival on April 20th , at
the BDF H.Q. at Thindwindaung, they were put in comfortable huts and
able to wash each day from well water, wearing cotton sarongs – the
climate being considerably hotter here. Richard was able to perfect
the skill of bucket filling from a well and also enjoyed the local green
tea, taken without milk whilst sucking a stick of brown sugar! On the
first night the Japanese attacked the HQ but were beaten off. Richard’s
team were given the assistance of a 14 year old boy who had been a
cadet officer with the BDF and when they had gone over to the Allies,
they killed their Japanese instructors and reported to the guerrillas.
On April 21st Richard was called to meet with Boyt on the road  , and wearing a sarong, disguised as a Burmese, he was taken
by a guide for a meeting - much to the amusement and wolf-whistles of
the Tommies who saw him! He was then ordered back to continue his campaign,
taking a large tin of jam for his team as a gift from the local quartermaster.
He got back to his guerrillas on April 24th, having again
to lie-up on occasion to avoid Japanese patrols.
For three weeks they worked together with the BDF
though there was some tension with a few of the Japanese trained officers.
At Thindwindaung, they were attacked on April 23/24th by
the Japanese with little result, but on the 25th a Japanese
officer was killed. Other groups in the area reporting to Richard killed
15 more of the enemy on April 25th and 26th,
also taking one POW. On May 4th Richard visited Gwegyi to
co-ordinate further operations and collect two POW’s caught on the 20th,
one of whom was wounded – and brought them back for evacuation. On May
5th , ten more Japanese were killed and on May 8th seven more. It was then decided that the area was free of the enemy
and orders came to Richard to withdraw.
At this point Richard had to conduct delicate political
negotiations with the various Burmese Resistance factions to achieve
peaceful disarmament. By May 12th he had then moved his
HQ back to Pyinmana and on the 14th to Gwegyi again . On
May 18th he organised another supply drop. On May 21st Ken Brown was taken ill and Richard acted as WO till his return on
After the usual goodbyes (but decidedly no pay, as
the BDF was determined to be independent of the British) and thanksgiving,
Richard re-joined his guerrilla group and his team were ordered south
70 miles , on May 30th, to the river crossing near Toungoo,
where it was expected the Japs would try to break across and flee further
into Thailand. Here they were to meet another team, code name Reindeer,
and put themselves at their disposal. Trucks from the Army first arrived
and as agreed beforehand, took back the British arms from the Burmese,
but Richard turned a blind eye and allowed them to keep the Japanese
weapons they had captured.
On arrival at Taungoo on June 3rd , Richard
discovered within minutes from a runner that Reindeer’s commander, Major
Dave Britton  – also from Milton Hall – had ventured out
with his fighters on that very day against their advice, and being tall
had been killed by a sniper whilst scouting along the Sittang river
bank. Richard thus stayed with Reindeer (together with radio man Sgt.
R Brierley) in place of Dave Britton, on the west side of the Sittang
river, and Dick Livingston re-formed Chimp with Ken Brown to operate
on the eastern river bank and allied the team with Reindeer’s.
Richard’s job now was to report to the Army all intelligence
on the Japanese attempts to cross the Sittang, in order to set up attacks
on them by air and artillery , and wherever possible actually engage
with them if they tried to retreat across the river.
During a period of two months, Richard’s force reported
on all Japanese forces – two Divisions - as they concentrated for
the breakout across the Sittang. They also were expertly ambushing and
killing dozens of Japanese, at one time capturing the order of battle
for the breakout  . So successful were they that Richard began to question the kills
reported by his Burmese force, but on inspection found them to be all
true! The proof came in the form of his being delivered of a lot of
small green leaf packages, which on opening were revealed to contain
dozens of Japanese amputated right ears.
Another ruse was to give the Burmese villagers a device
which shot coloured flares. Whenever the Japanese broke into a village
looking for food, this would be activated and then British artillery
could be directed onto the village, even though the Burmese knew it
may cause their own people casualties if they had not got away in time.
Such was their hatred, by then , of the Japanese.
In addition to all this Richard’s force guarded villages
from foraging Japanese stragglers, stored rice in safe caches for local
Burmese, and supplied them with food and medical supplies. They patrolled
constantly, allowing British troops to rest after their exhausting
advance south , and received cheerful recognition from Tommies whenever
they returned with Japanese prisoners that it was now possible to take.
By June, the British had a trap prepared along a twenty
mile front of the river and road, waiting for the 10-15,000 strong Japanese
force to make their move to cross. Meanwhile, Richard’s two teams had
removed all boats from the river to deny any ferry transport to the
enemy. When the battle came, it lasted for a week and the Japanese were
annihalated; bodies littered the river and its banks and the stench
of death was everywhere. In one instance, a large country boat was left
deliberately at a mooring and as the Japanese got in they were ambushed
at point blank range. The boat was then re-moored to await the next
group. Richard’s estimate in his report was that up to 2500 Japanese
were killed by his group of 1000 fighters, alone, as well as taking
over 200 prisoners. Eventually the Japanese surrendered
Skirmishing continued until August/September 1945
and the dropping of the Atomic Bombs; Richard’s men were then leaving
leaflets in the jungle for scattered Japanese telling them to surrender.
Until early October 1945, Richard was then collecting up arms from the
Burmese and was back and forth to Rangoon in Stimson light aircraft
to give reports to SOE forward HQ on his progress.
Finally he was back in Horuna, Ceylon, where he and
Dick Livingston parted, but to remain friends for many years. Richard
then volunteered to be parachuted into POW camps with doctors to relieve
the misery among the British and Allied prisoners. But he was told
he had done more than his share of dangerous work and was sent instead
to Calcutta to organise the reception and care of agents coming out
of the field for rest and recovery. Many had to be extracted from deep
inside Malaya, Indo-China and Indonesia, for example, and this would
take months. Danger still abounded and British troops, encouraging
Japanese surrender, were still being killed. Richard prides himself
on meeting every SOE group that came out of the field and taking care
of them in a safe house with the cover name of “The School of Eastern
Interpreters”. He encouraged the local detachments of FANY  to spend time with these men and accompany them at bar-b-q’s,
bonfire parties and generally help them have fun and re-adapt to normal
life – all of course strictly above board. Indeed some agents had already
got to know some FANY’s at a distance when they occasionally – and against
orders – inserted frivolous messages at the end of wireless transmissions
from behind the lines. The result of this socialising in the house was
even sometimes marriage between the participants! Even General Gubbins
(SOE Commander) attended some of the parties and thoroughly enjoyed
For his work in Burma Richard was awarded the Military
Cross. The citation read, “ Major Rubinstein was landed by parachute
behind the enemy lines in January 1945 and by his initiative, determination
and efficiency, contributed materially to the effectiveness of the
guerrilla forces then operating in the Kutkai area (of Burma). On returning
in March 1945, he immediately volunteered for further operations , and
early in April 1945 was dropped by parachute near Pyinmana. Here, in
an area through which large numbers of Japanese troops were passing
daily, he quickly organised the local Burmese resistance forces with
such success that ten days after landing, he and his forces ambushed
a party of the enemy , killing one major-General, six officers and seventeen
other ranks, the majority of whom were NCO’s. From the period 8th April to 8th June Major Rubinstein’s party of guerrillas,
operating firstly in the Pyinmana area and later south of Toungoo, inflicted
over 400 casualties on the enemy.
The success of the operation was entirely due to Major
Rubinstein’s initiative, determination and personal courage.  ” (London Gazette 7/11/46; his award is also recorded in
the Jewish Chronicle of November 29th , page 11, 1946 and
in the Hampstead and Highgate Gazette).
Despite all the danger Richard says he always felt
safe because his Burmese comrades were constantly with him day and night,
guarding and patrolling their camps and trails; he pays great tribute
to their simple courage and excellent behaviour.
SOE sent Richard home in January 1946, arriving on
February 9th in London  . His parents home had been destroyed by bombing but in a small
wardrobe, his school blazer and grey flannel trousers had survived!
He was sent to take charge of 404 POW camp in Devon, from April to
August, till his demob. A Sergeant Major Rice (a former POW himself
of the Japanese) happily agreed to take full responsibility for running
of the camp, so long as Richard attended various parades, leaving him
free to study his text books in order to prepare for University. With
the constant support and encouragement of wife Gay, he gained entry
to Imperial College in the October for two years, winning the student
of the year medal! He also re-joined the Territorial Army Anti-Aircraft
Regiment (604) in May 1947. On graduating , it was very difficult to
find work in the aeronautical industry , however, and so he joined ICI
on Merseyside as a senior workshop manager. In April 1949 he was appointed
to command a company of the 13th Bat. Lancashire Parachute
Regiment (TA), using his parachute skills gained with SOE, and various
TA Staff appointments until 1956. Later, with their two sons, he moved
to a more engineering based post with De Haviland/Hawker Siddeley in
Hatfield, with whom he stayed until retirement. He retired from the
TA in 1971.
Richard still attends special Jedburgh Team reunions
(which have been in London, Washington and Paris over the years) and
also with the French Resistance and American OSS  veterans; he has been a senior and active member of the Special
Forces Club since the War and on its Benevolent Fund Committee.
The last large formal Jedburgh reunion was in St Malo in France for
the 50th Anniversary of D Day in 1994. He would have loved
also, to visit comrades in Burma but political problems there have made
In one article, Richard wrote on the 40th Anniversary reunion in Paris, “the tears flowed and we remembered….I
am proud to have been of that number then and I was proud to be of
them again in Paris 40 years on  ”.
In May 1996, a memorial to all the Jedburghs Killed
in Action was unveiled in Peterborough Cathedral, and Richard had a
large part to play in organising this . 
Richard’s Decorations are the MC, 1939-45, France
and Germany and Burma Stars, Defence and War Medals, Mention in Despatches,
Territorial Decoration (London Gazette 19/3/52) and Croix de
Guerre  .
Though not practising in any way, Richard is very
proud of his Jewish name and roots as are his sons who have not changed
their surname! Even Gay – who comes from Wellington in Somerset - has
a Lazarus in her family tree and this could conceivably be from the
same family as his Exeter grandmother!
Like all brave men, Richard is extremely modest and
if truth be told did not even want this article to be written. But it
is the duty, and for me a great honour, of those who come after such
people and so enjoy the liberties that they fought to preserve from
the evils of Fascism, to ensure that what they did is carefully and
accurately reported and preserved. They were ordinary people who did
extraordinary things in extraordinary times – thank goodness. The Jewish
and wider community can be justly proud of Major Richard Rubinstein.
I know I am.
I could not have completed this article without the
untiring help of Richard and Gay Rubinstein, on whose time I imposed.
The staff of the Imperial War Museum Reading Room were of course of
inestimable help, and my thanks aswell to the AJEX HQ staff who first
put me in contact with Dick Rubinstein when they met him at a Duxford
reunion in 2002. Howard Davies of the Acquisitions Section of the PRO
was also very kind in arranging for me to have unique access to Richard’s
file, once permission was granted.
 Some of the section of this paper set in France
is drawn from a personal long interview with Richard conducted by
the author, at his home in Hendon in October 2002. Much of the Burma
section is drawn from the R. Rubinstein/Jedburgh file at the Imperial
War Museum Department of Documents (henceforth DofD) as well as the
 Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force
 Jedburgh team website.
 PRO HS9/1289/2 – Richard’s personal SOE file –
henceforth HS9. He was in Section C, Company 1, under a Lt Bank.
 Now in the Imperial War Museum
 Odd days – 0830, 1500; Even days 1000, 1700; and
Nights 2200, 0200.
 The Special Operations Squadrons which inserted
agents were called “Carpetbaggers” – Jedburgh teams website.
 Jean was a patriotic regular infantry officer
who had been wounded fighting the Germans in 1940 and saw participation
in SOE as the only way to help liberate France.
 Douglas 1 was part of Mission Aloes under the
French Colonel Eono and it was to get the French Resistance to work
with the SAS under Brig. McLeod, to assist the US 3rd Army
advance.The BBC announced their impending arrival on Aug. 2nd
with one of the now famous radio messages from London to occupied
France – in this case, “Le chapeau de Napoleon est-il toujours a perros
gyer” (PRO HS7/18). It was estimated that the work of Douglas 1 and
three other Jedburghs in the area saved the use of one whole Allied
Division in Brittany!
 The DZ map reference was incorrect and they
had to search for 50 minutes during which they were fired upon and
hit by German AA whilst the pilot took drastic evasive action which
caused chaos in the aircraft ! Confusion was not uncommon; in one
report on Aloes, Richard is described as a French Officer (HS6/363).
 DofD, Imperial War Musuem, file on R Rubinstein
contains two manifests dated 24/8/44 for aircraft KG592 (P.O. McLoughlan
and 4 crew) dropping at Vannes 90,000 9mm parabellum (sten gun ammunition)
, 600 grenades, 50 2” mortar bombs HE and 4 packages of medical
supplies for the SAS; another aircraft (KG367 P.O. Wood and 4 crew)
dropping 54 packages of .303 bullets and one 1” illuminator (Verey
pistol and cartridges).
 Letter from Richard Rubinstein; a report in
PRO HS6/502 shows that this wound may have been self-inflicted on
Sept. 7th at 0730 and was the subject of an enquiry.
 Letter from Richard Rubinstein
 Richards AJEX Jewish Chaplain Card – one of
60,000 kept at the museum.
 Original with Major Rubinstein, copy at AJEX
Jewish Military Museum, Hackney, London.
 This scheme came about because the Allies believed
that the Germans were preparing to liquidate POW’s. The idea was that
an SOE/SAS team of about a dozen heavily armed men would go to each
camp with information about the Commandant, his staff and conditions
in the camp, and warn them that if any POW’s were harmed as the
Allied armies closed in, the Germans would face War Crimes Trials.
Eventually, the plan was more or less abandoned.
 “Burmese Experience” by R Rubinstein – report
of Jan. 1949 at IWM DofD.
 Report on Operation Cheetah, IWM DofD
 This was the overall name of the insertion of
Jedburghs in Burma at this time; the code name of Richard’s specific
mission was Operation Cheetah II (telephone interview with Richard
 Special Forces Club Newsletter Autumn 1996 page
8 – “Lone Survivor” article by Richard Rubinstein. Shan Lone was
born in 1910, became a Baptist and went to University, later serving
in the Burmese Civil Service. At the outbreak of war he was the first
Kachin to be commissioned , won an MC in 1942 fighting the Japanese,
and then fought with the Chindits and SOE’s Force 136, winning, as
a Major, an OBE and MiD. He retired in 1974 and later went to live
in the USA; Richard has stayed in touch with him ever since.
 Letter from Richard to Gay at IWM DofD.
 Chimp and Reindeer were part of Operation Nation
(telephone interview with Richard Nov. 2002)
 Major R A Rubinstein, RA (RE); Capt. C R Livingston
RE; Sgt. K J W Brown, RTC; Ko Thein Aung; Ko Sein Maung – From Secret
Report of Operation Chimp 195/375, DofD, IWM.
 This general’s sword hangs proudly today in
Richard’s house; the author can testify that it is still razor sharp.
The red and gold General’s collar tabs were given to the Imperial
 The Burman runner bringing the message had been
twice stopped and questioned by the Japanese en route but managed
to bluff his way through and that night two HQ guards had been killed
by Japanese infiltrators.
 Major D J C Britton (Operation Reindeer Secret
Report 205/375/40 5th Sept. 1945 – IWM DofD
 R Rubinstein papers at the IWM contains a translation
from the Japanese of this fascinating document.
 The Field Auxiliary Nursing Yeomanry, a womens’
corps that did most of SOE’s clerical and coding work in various theatres
of war, though some were also SOE agents.
 Original with Major Rubinstein, copy in the
AJEX Jewish Military Museum, Hackney, London.
 Some of Richard’s exploits are mentioned in
a standard work on SOE in Burma, “SOE in the Far East” , C Cruickshank,
OUP, 1983 London, pp. 35, 184, 186
 Office of Strategic Service, similar to the
SOE but later to become the CIA
 Hawker Siddeley News, undated 1985
 Special Forces Club Newsletter Autumn 1996,
 MoD Records document April 1993
Sources: Martin Sugerman, Reprinted with Permission