A Major Hoodwink

Living History

“A Major Hoodwink – How a Royal Scot Outwitted a German General” has just been published and is now available in paperback edition from Amazon. The author is Rory Johnston, the son of the late Major Hugh Johnston who commanded ‘A’ Company the 7th/9th (Highlanders) Battalion The Royal Scots.

The central story of the book concerns Major Hugh Johnston who was given command of Johnston Force consisting of ‘A’ Company with 11 (MMG) Platoon ‘C’ Company 7 Manchesters and ‘A’ Squadron 11th Bn RTR with orders to advance from the South West through flooded terrain heavily mined and beset with overhead explosive devices and enter the City of Middelburg, the capital of Walcheren, and force the unconditional surrender of General Daser who was the G.O.C. Fortress Walcheren. His refusal to surrender to a Major necessitated Hugh Johnston to promote his rank by borrowing ‘pips’ from his Second-in-Command. Thus promoted, he faced the General and ordered him to surrender by demanding his pistol and requiring the General to issue orders for all his forces to be marched by their officers into Middelburg Square to be disarmed. With a force of some 140 men, Major Johnston held 2000 PoW’s in captivity from late afternoon until relieved the next morning at 3 a.m.

It was a bold feat carried out with daring and bravery.

As a Major with only 140 men under your command how do you secure 2000 prisoners when you are in an isolated position mostly cut-off by sea water flooding in from the breaches in the sea dyke made by the RAF prior to the assault landing to liberate the Walcheren. Not only do you position your Vickers guns in the four corners of the Square but order the bakeries in the town to open up and bake bread to feed the P.o.Ws! When sections of the 2000 men look with askance at the small force guarding them, how to you quell unrest? Clearly you separate those arousing the discontent. Another subterfuge was organising a number of Buffalos of 11th RTR to drive around the city centre with orders to make as much din as possible.

A number of photographs of the surrender are in my album in the Gallery.

Joe Brown.

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