Paddy Mayne was a remarkable figure for the Allies during the Second World War. His story encompasses everything – from punching a Commanding Officer to being one of the most decorated soldiers in the British army.
Joining The Reserves
Paddy joined the British Supplementary Reserves in March of 1939, six months before Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Commissioned in the Royal Artillery, Mayne was the ideal recruit: educated, an amateur heavyweight champion in boxing, and played for the international Rugby team – even selected for the British Lions. However, his sporting career would be cut short because of WWII.
Inspired by Winston Churchill’s calls for a “butcher-and-bolt reign of terror behind enemy lines”, Paddy volunteered for the newly formed No. 11 Scottish Commando. The idea of going into occupied enemy territory and wreaking havoc using small bombs and night raids was all Paddy had hoped for.
First Taste Of Battle
His wishes would come true during the Battle of the Litani River in June 1941. Accompanying the 21st Australian Brigade, Paddy and his team attempted a surprise nighttime landing near the mouth of the river to secure the bridge for the Australians. Unfortunately, the unpredictably rough seas deterred them from landing on time, so they weren’t able to land until daylight. By this time, the defenders had already destroyed the bridges. Paddy’s Commando would suffer huge losses as a result, prompting Paddy to lash out at his Commanding Officer for the failure.
Joining The SAS
Paddy was recommended to Captain David Stirling for his bravery during the Battle of Litani River. With Stirling’s help, Mayne was able to join the Special Air Service or SAS, which was then known as a “Parachute Unit”.
From November 1941 to 1942, Mayne would go on to serve with the SAS, participating in night raids that happened behind enemy lines in Egypt and Libya. He pioneered the use of jeeps for their hit-and-run raids on enemy airfields, claiming he had personally destroyed up to 100 aircraft in the process.
How Paddy Destroyed Hundreds Of Planes
According to his official report on one of the raids in 1941, they were able to place bombs on 14 planes (damaging 10 of them), blow up telephone poles, petrol dumps, and many more. However, his most successful SAS raid came on the night of July 26, 1942.
With 18 jeeps, Paddy Mayne and David Stirling’s unit raided the Sidi Haneish Airfield, destroying up to 40 German planes while only losing three jeeps and two men.
Paddy Versus The World
On April 9, 1945, Paddy would undertake one of the most epic advances in history. While clearing a path for the Canadian Armored Division, Mayne was informed that British soldiers were pinned down by German troops near Oldenburg in Northwest Germany. Mayne quickly jumped into a jeep with just a sidearm, drove to where the soldiers were and cleared a nearby house full of Germans. From there, Mayne took a machine gun and drove straight into the advancing Germans headed toward the British soldiers.
With one hand on the wheel and the other on his machine gun, Paddy Mayne shot the Germans and loaded wounded soldiers onto his jeep. Following the extraction, Paddy took those who could fight and headed straight for Oldenburg, where he flanked the German defenders and successfully captured the town. Controversially, Mayne was not awarded the Victoria Cross. Instead, Mayne was given his fourth Distinguished Service Order.