Corrosion consultant and Commando;
Born: May 3, 1921; Died May 23, 2012.
Tom Duncan, who has died aged 91, summed up the spirit of his fellow Green Berets in one unforgettable snapshot of D-Day.
Amid the thunder of guns, the screams of the wounded and the spent lives already littering the sands, he had made it safely to a marshy escarpment just off the beachhead to be greeted by his legendary Commando leader, Colonel Peter Young, DSO and MC.A fearless veteran of countless raids, he flashed him his famous smile and said, with typically British understatement: "Glad you came along Duncan."
That simple acknowledgement, he said, symbolised the essence of the band of men who were proud to be Commandos.
And Mr Duncan was one of the elite, a member of the 1st Special Service Brigade, who supported the 6th Airborne Division that day on Sword beach in Normandy and later advanced to victory across France and Germany.
Born and educated in the village of Hatton, just outside Peterhead, where he was a member of the Boys' Brigade and later the Territorial Army, he was still just 19 when he was called up in 1941.
He served with the Gordon Highlanders before volunteering for the Commandos. Revered as a fierce fighting force, they faced the toughest training of the Army. Based at Achnacarry Castle in the Scottish highlands they had to endure a relentless regime in the freezing mountains where the endurance tests often defeated volunteers. Those who made it through won the right to wear the coveted Green Beret and went on to play key roles in some of the most important campaigns of the Second World War.
Mr Duncan was a member of 3 Commando, part of the 1st Special Service Brigade – later to become known as 1st Commando Brigade – and was led into battle on the Normandy beaches by Brigadier Lord Lovat, accompanied by his piper Bill Millin.
While awaiting the signal for the anticipated invasion he and his fellow Commandos maintained their fitness by practising street fighting in bombed areas of London and training with landing craft and stalking deer in north-west Scotland. They were also visited by Field Marshal Montgomery who "stood on top of his jeep and called us his Corps D'Elite", he recalled.
They were among the first to land at Sword beach on the morning of D-Day in June 1944 and he later described how they were bombarded by continuous shelling and small arms fire as mortar bombs screamed down "like flocks of partridges".
Although he survived the initial assault and joined his colonel on the swamp beyond the beach head, Mr Duncan was wounded later that night by a German grenade.
He was brought back to Britain but two months later had recovered enough to return to France, where he took part in the advance on Caen, followed by the assault on Germany when the Commando Brigade led the advance over the Rhine, Weser and Elbe rivers.
They captured Wesel on March 24, 1945 and then overcame fierce opposition at Osnabruck a few days later. Soon afterwards, while carrying out a recce of the River Weser, he and his captain had a lucky escape after creeping on to a railway bridge which was immediately blown up, but only partially destroyed, by the Germans. They went on to cross the River Elbe on April 29, finally reaching Lubeck on the Baltic coast and meeting the Russian Army as the war ended. He later wrote that victory was accompanied by "a sense of loss and bewilderment that we had actually survived and saddened that so many had not been with us to see the end".
After being demobbed in 1946 he returned home to work as a slater for a local firm Harry Randall Slaters. In 1952 he married his wife Pearl, whom he had met on a beach when he commandeered her towel, and the following year began working for Pearl Insurance.
He spent 14 years with the company before becoming a corrosion consultant for Metalife International, responsible for northern Scotland and winning the contract for the Forth Rail Bridge. Apart from a short spell in Edinburgh, the couple lived in the north-east, at Cruden Bay, and raised two children, daughter Portland and son Jason.
A lifelong supporter of Aberdeen Football Club, Mr Duncan was also a keen gardener, snooker and pool player. A member of the local pool league until retiring in 2008, during his last season he played 54 frames and won almost half. He was 87 at the time.Three years earlier he had entered the district qualifiers for the Pool Scottish Masters and defeated one of the favourites.
His dauntlessness was perhaps a legacy of his days as a Commando and the grit required to face the fragile line between life and death on the battlefield.
He is survived by his wife Pearl, daughter Portland, son Jason, two grandsons and a great-grandson and his sisters Violet and Ruth.
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