John Robertson

Staff member
Jonathan James
  • UNIT
R.M. Special Boat Service
  • RANK
Major (OBE), Lieutenant Colonel (QGM), Colonel (CBE)
Officer of the Order of the British Empire, Queen's Gallantry Medal, Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Falklands 1982 (OBE), op.Haven Northern Iraq 1991 (QGM), 1997 (CBE)
London Gazette 49134, 8th October 1982, Page 12857 (OBE)
London Gazette 52833, 13th February 1992, Page 2577 (QGM)
London Gazette 54794, 13th June 1997, Page B5 (CBE)


Queen's Gallantry Medal : Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel THOMSON, 45 Commando was deployed to Northern Iraq on 23rd April 1991 as part of the Coalition Forces of Operation HAVEN. With a wideranging remit to supervise and safeguard the reinstatement of hundreds of thousands of Kurds into their former homes, the Commando rapidly embarked upon a formal military operation within the territory of an unpredictable and hostile aggressor.

Lieutenant Colonel THOMSON was faced immediately with the task of occupying the city of Zakhu. Until then very much an Iraqi stronghold, it was full of police and secret police. To further heighten the tension. Intelligence reports firmly indicated that Iraqi military and other security authorities would oppose Coalition forces. Notwithstanding this. Lieutenant Colonel THOMSON commenced active, aggressive day and night patrols and frequently shared these with his men, particularly in sensitive, dangerous parts of the city.

It was during one such patrol on 24th April 1991 that he encountered a wounded Kurdish refugee being threatened by an armed Iraqi secret policeman. With great courage and without drawing his own weapon. Lieutenant Colonel THOMSON immediately confronted the Iraqi and quickly disarmed him. This quick witted and selfless action undoubtedly saved the life of the Kurd and defused an extremely tense situation. A shooting incident at this stage of the Operation would have led to a dramatic escalation within Zakhu, and would have totally negated the early momentum which the Coalition had established.

On 13th May 1991 a 45 Commando foot patrol became involved in an exchange of fire at Saddam Hussein's Presidential Palace. Lieutenant Colonel THOMSON was immediately on the scene and in the aftermath of the deaths of two Presidential Guards he quite deliberately showed himself within small arms range to the remaining Iraqis, and with his customary high profile ensured that calm was soon restored.

Throughout both these incidents Lieutenant Colonel THOMSON showed total disregard for his own safety. With the full knowledge that, at any time, his actions could well have resulted in his own death, he left his Iraqi aggressors, his own men and the Kurds who so badly needed reassurance, in no doubt as to who was in control.

Lieutenant Colonel THOMSON'S highly courageous actions, provided enormous encouragement and support to so many, and were in the highest traditions of the Royal Marines.

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