Richard Uniacke Denny Townsend DSC (5A22)

Date of Birth: 6 Aug 1914
Date of Death: 4 Sep 1999
Generation: 9th
Residence: Repton & Isle of Skye
Father: Doctor Thomas Henry Denny (Pa Willy) Townsend [5A10]
Mother: Studdert, Ethel Mary
  1. Oakes, Ursula Yvonne
  1. Colonel John Richard Marcus [5A26]
  2. Desmond Thomas Denny [5A27]
See Also: Table VA ; Scrapbook ; Lineage ; Ancestors' Tree ; Descendents' Tree

Notes for Richard Uniacke Denny Townsend DSC

Married 23 March 1943 at St Paul's Church, Knightsbridge. Ursula Yvonne (1) was the only child of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Henry Edmund Oakes MC and bar (2).

Richard was educated at Marlborough and Christ Church, Oxford (BA 1936). During school and university holidays he and his sister Margaret Townsend [5A23] spent much time sailing. In 1935 they bought a six ton gaff-rigged cutter named 'Mab' which they sailed extensively and circumnavigated Ireland; Richard's experience in small boats was to serve him well later.

After graduating Richard worked for the British Council teaching English in Poland. His sister planned to sail 'Mab' to the Baltic in 1939 to join him but this had to be abandoned and Richard was forced to leave Poland on the outbreak of war in September 1939. During the very early stages of the war Richard worked with BBC Intelligence where he was able to make use of his fluent French and German. Following this he worked for a short time with his sister and brother-in-law running explosives across the Pentland Firth. Once this task had been completed he joined the Intelligence Corps, once again hoping to make good use of his language skills.

In early 1942, having just completed his basic military training in Winchester, Richard was summoned to the War Office in London and after a searching interview was asked if he would like to volunteer for 'special duties'. In March that year he was commissioned (London Gazette 35982) in the RNVR and joined the Inshore Patrol Flotilla (IPF) as First Lieutenant of an ex-French trawler – N51 Le Dinan. The IPF was part of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and the trawlers were used to run agents and materiel to and from Brittany. The boats, unarmed save for small arms, sailed under French colours and would spend up to four days off the Brittany coast pretending to fish under close surveillance by the Germans.

In October 1942 Richard took command of his own boat; a 66ft Concarneau trawler called President Herriot, but given the number A04 (MV2022). A year later having participated in a total of ten operations, on two of which he landed on the French coast in daylight dressed as a fisherman to collect secret mail from a 'dead letterbox', Richard left the IPF to take command of the Motor Yacht ‘Anne’ which was acting as escort to SOE experimental underwater craft. He was awarded the DSC (3) for his work with the IPF and his exploits are recorded in the book 'Secret Flotillas - Clandestine Sea Lines to France and French North Africa 1940-1944' by Sir Brooks Richards. A detailed account of his experiences during the war is included in his ‘Scrapbook' and this has also been translated into French and published in the June 2011 (No.40) and September 2011 (No.41) issues of the journal "Fondation de la France Libre".

After the war Richard spent a few months in Flensburg, Schleswig Holstein, helping in the clear up. Following this and wishing to make best use of his language skills he took a teaching position at Repton after the war. In addition to teaching French and German, he played a full part in the extra-curricular activities of the school and is remembered for establishing a thriving Sailing Club and a Mountaineering Club amongst others. Appointed Housemaster of The Mitre in 1955 Richard thrived on the challenges that this presented and he remained there until 1964 when he was appointed Head of Modern Languages at Portree High School on the Isle of Skye. He had already bought a house on the island some years before which had been used for family adventure holidays.

Over the next few years, in addition to teaching, he busied himself in his spare time extending and improving the house. After his retirement in 1974 he devoted himself to developing his large garden, making and restoring furniture and involving himself in the local community. In June 1999 ill health forced Richard to leave his cherished home and to move to Somerset to join his son, Colonel John Townsend [5A26]. He died just three months later.

(1) Ursula was born on 19 August 1922. Photographs of her celebrating her 100th birthday are shown in Richard's 'Scrapbook'.

(2) Edmund was born on 24 March 1895 and was educated at Lancing College and the Royal Military College, Woolwich, London. During the First World War he served with the Royal Artillery in France and Italy and was awarded the MC and bar for gallantry in the field. Severely gassed during the war, and after a brief spell serving with the Indian Army, he was forced to retire and went to live in New Zealand. On the outbreak of the Second World war Edmund joined the Royal Artillery of NZ and was part of the expeditionary force deployed to Greece that subsequently was forced to evacuate the country by the Germans. Landing on Crete on 27 April 1941, he was the senior artillery officer of that part of the 2nd New Zealand Division that withdrew to the island. The artillery component of the Division had had to abandon their guns in Greece and they were formed into a composite force employed as infantry in the Chania - Maleme area under command of Edmund and known as 'Oakes Force'. Shortly after this he was evacuated to Egypt to assume command of 7th Anti-Tank Regiment. He was killed in action in Libya on 30 November 1941. His obituary is included at the end of Richard's 'Scrapbook'.

(3) Distinguished Service Cross. London Gazette of 23 March 1945.