Arthur 'Taff' Lawley became a miner after leaving school, but soon decided to join the Army, serving with the South Wales Borderers in Egypt and Palestine during the inter-war years. After a period on the Army reserve (which finished just a month before the Germans invaded Poland), he volunteered for the Army when the Second World War began, joining the Royal Army Service Corps as a Driving Instructor.
In search of a new challenge, he volunteered for 'Special Services' in 1940 at 35 years old. He was accepted for service in No 2 Commando, and kept his rank of Sergeant. Taff qualified as one of the first parachutists at RAF Ringway. Towards the end of 1940, he was one of the few volunteers selected to train for what later became known as Operation Colossus. The plan was intended to disrupt the water supply to three major Italian towns - Brindisi, Bari and Foggia by blowing up the Tragino Aqueduct.
The abortive operation took place on 10 February 1941 and Taff was one of the thirty five men who took part in the operation as part of Lt Deane-Drummond’s Section. Whilst the paratroopers succeeded in blowing the Aqueduct, the effect on the Italian water supply was negligible and quickly repaired. All the thirty five men on the Operation were captured and spent varying lengths of time in Prisoner of War camps.
Taff Lawley managed to escape in September 1943, when the Allies invaded Italy and their camp guards disappeared. He reached Allied lines in October 1943 and eventually reached the UK, where he rejoined the Airborne Forces.
He was posted to 13th Parachute Battalion, and took part in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 as a Company Sergeant Major. He went on to take part in the Rhine Crossing and the Advance to the Baltic, gaining a Mention in Despatches.
After the war, Taff was awarded a Military Medal in 1946 for his part in Operation Colossus.
Taff Lawley died in 1982.
With assistance from Niall Cherry.Read More