Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat


Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat

Brigadier Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat DSO, MC, TD (9 July 1911 - 16 March 1995) was the 25th Chief of the Clan Fraser and a prominent British Commando during the Second World War. His friends called him "Shimi" Lovat, his name in the Scottish Gaelic language. His clan referred to him as MacShimidh, his Gaelic patronym. He is commonly known as the 17th Lord Lovat.

Early life

Simon Fraser was born at Beaufort Castle, Inverness, Scotland, the son of the 14th Lord Lovat (commonly known as the 16th Lord), and Laura, daughter of Thomas Lister, 4th Baron Ribblesdale. After being educated at Ampleforth College (where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps) and Oxford University, where he joined the University's Cavalry Squadron, Fraser was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Lovat Scouts (a Territorial Army unit) in 1930. [LondonGazette|issue=33576|startpage=727|date=4 February 1930|accessdate=2008-01-10] He transferred to the regular army (still as a second lieutenant) joining the Scots Guards in 1931. [LondonGazette|issue=33860|startpage=5621|date=2 September 1932|accessdate=2008-01-10] The following year, Fraser succeeded his father to become the 15th Lord Lovat (referred to as the 17th Lord Lovat) and 25th Chief of the Clan Fraser. He was promoted lieutenant in August 1934. [LondonGazette|issue=34082|startpage=5460|date=28 August 1934|accessdate=2008-01-10] Lovat resigned his regular commission as a lieutenant in 1937, transferring to the Supplementary Reserve of Officers. [LondonGazette|issue=34459|startpage=7517|date=30 November 1937|accessdate=2008-01-10] He married Rosamond Broughton in 1938, with whom he had six children.

World War II

Prior to the Second World War, in June 1939, Lord Lovat also resigned his reserve commission. [LondonGazette|issue=34632|startpage=3780|date=6 June 1939|accessdate=2008-01-10] In August, as war approached, Lord Lovat was mobilized as a captain in the Lovat Scouts. The following year he volunteered to join one of the new commando units being formed by the British Army, and was eventually attached to No. 4 Commando. On 3 March, 1941, Nos 3 and 4 Commando launched a raid on the German-occupied Lofoten Islands. In the successful raid, the commandos destroyed a significant number of fish-oil factories, petrol dumps and 11 ships. They also seized encryption equipment and codebooks. In additional to the destruction of materials, the commandos captured 216 German troops, and 315 Norwegians chose to accompany the commandos back to Britain.

As a temporary major, Lord Lovat commanded 100 men of No. 4 Commando and a 50-man detachment from the Canadian Carleton and York Regiment in a raid on the French coastal village of Hardelot in April. For this action he was awarded the Military Cross on 7 July 1942. [LondonGazette|issue=35620|supp=yes|startpage=2971|date=3 July 1942|accessdate=2008-01-10] [LondonGazette|issue=35622|supp=yes|startpage=2984|date=3 July 1942|accessdate=2008-01-10] Lord Lovat became an acting lieutenant-colonel in 1942 and was appointed the commanding officer of No. 4 Commando, leading them in the abortive Dieppe Raid (Operation Jubilee) on 19 August. [LondonGazette|issue=38045|supp=yes|startpage=3824|endpage=3825|date=12 August 1947|accessdate=2008-01-10] His commando attacked and destroyed a battery of six 150mm guns. Lovat was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). [LondonGazette|issue=35729|supp=yes|startpage=4328|endpage=3825|date=2 October 1942|accessdate=2008-01-10] The raid as a whole was a disastrous failure: over 4,000 casualties were sustained, predominantly Canadian.

Lord Lovat eventually became a Brigadier and became the commander of the newly formed 1st Special Service Brigade in 1944. Lord Lovat's brigade was landed at Sword Beach during the invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944. Lord Lovat reputedly waded ashore donning a white jumper under his battledress, with "Lovat" inscribed into the collar, while armed with an old Winchester rifle. Lord Lovat instructed his personal piper, Bill Millin, to pipe the commandos ashore, in defiance of specific orders not to allow such an action in battle.

Lovat's forces swiftly pressed on, Lovat himself advancing with parts of his brigade from Sword Beach to Pegasus Bridge, which had been defiantly defended by men of the 6th Airborne Division who had landed in the early hours. Lord Lovat's commandos arrived at a little past one p.m. at Pegasus Bridge though the rendezvous time as per the plan was noon. It is a common misonception that they reached almost exactly on time, late by only two and a half minutes. Upon making the rendezvous, Lord Lovat apologised to Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Pine-Coffin (Yorks. L. I.), of 7th Parachute Battalion. The commandoes then marched across Pegasus Bridge to the sound of Bill Millin's bagpipes, as a result of which twelve men died, shot through their berets. Later detachments of the commandos rushed across in small groups with their helmets on. He went on to establish defensive positions around Ranville, east of the River Orne. The bridges were relieved later in the day by elements of the British 3rd Infantry Division.

During an attack on the village of Bréville on 12 June, Lord Lovat was seriously wounded whilst observing an artillery bombardment by the 51st Highland Division. A stray shell fell short of its target and landed amongst the officers, killing Lieutenant-Colonel A. P. Johnston, commanding officer of the 12th Parachute Battalion, and seriously wounding Brigadier Hugh Kindersley of the 6th Airlanding Brigade.

Later life

Lord Lovat made a full recovery from the severe wounds he had received in France but was unable to return to the army (he transferred to the reserve in 1949). [LondonGazette|issue=39392|supp=yes|startpage=6175|date=27 November 1951|accessdate=2008-01-10] Winston Churchill requested that he become Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms in the House of Lords; however, Lord Lovat declined the offer and in 1945 joined the Government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He later became Minister of Economic Warfare, resigning upon Winston Churchill's post-war election defeat. In 1946 he was made a Commander of the Venerable Order of Saint John. [LondonGazette|issue=37417|startpage=203|date=1 January 1946|accessdate=2008-01-10] His formal retirement from the army came on 16 June 1962, he retained the honorary rank of brigadier. [LondonGazette|issue=42703|supp=yes|startpage=4764|date=12 June 1962|accessdate=2008-01-10]

Lord Lovat's involvement in politics continued throughout his life, in the House of Lords and the Inverness County Council. He devoted much of his time to the family estates. He was chieftain of Lovat Shinty Club, the local shinty team which bears his family name. Lord Lovat experienced a great deal of turmoil in his final years; he suffered financial ruin and two of his sons predeceased him in accidents within months of each other. A year before his death, in 1994, the family's traditional residence, Beaufort Castle, was sold.

Piper Bill Millin, Lord Lovat's personal piper who had piped the Commandos ashore on D-Day, played at Lord Lovat's funeral.

References

* [http://www.unithistories.com/officers/Army_officers_L01.html Officers of the British Army 1939-1945]
* [http://www.pegasusarchive.org/normandy/frames.htm Lord Lovat biography] (Select 'Biographies'; then 'Brigade HQ' within '1 Special Service Brigade')
* [http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/index.asp?webType=0 The London Gazette (pdf format]


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