Donald Stott

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Donald John Stott
Don Stott.jpg
Stott aboard a ship in the Mediterranean during his time with SOE in Greece
Born (1914-10-23)23 October 1914
Birkenhead, New Zealand
Died 20 March 1945(1945-03-20) (aged 30)
Balikpapan Bay, Borneo
Allegiance New Zealand
Years of service 1939–1945
Rank Major
Unit 5th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery
Special Operations Executive
Z Special Unit
Commands held Robin 1
Battles/wars

Second World War

Awards Distinguished Service Order & Bar

Major Donald John Stott, DSO & Bar (23 October 1914 – 20 March 1945) was a New Zealand soldier and military intelligence agent during the Second World War. As a member of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Stott took part in the Battle of Greece, and the subsequent Battle of Crete. Captured by the Germans on Crete, he successfully escaped from a prisoner of war camp after several months of internment. Making his way back to Egypt, he joined the Special Operations Executive in 1942 and was dispatched to Greece to support the local resistance efforts against the Germans. In 1944, he transferred to the Z Special Unit, which was based in Melbourne, Australia as part of the Services Reconnaissance Department. Appointed commander of Robin 1, a small team formed to collect intelligence in the Southwest Pacific, he disappeared, presumed drowned, on 20 March 1945 while leading his team on a reconnaissance mission to Balikpapan Bay, Indonesia.

Early life[edit]

Born on 23 October 1914, Stott was the son of a butcher in Birkenhead, New Zealand. Educated at Northcote Primary School and then at Takapuna Grammar School, Stott was a keen sportsman. Upon finishing his education, he was employed at the New Zealand Herald as a rotary machinist.[1]

Military career[edit]

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Stott enlisted in the New Zealand Military Forces in December 1939. Posted to 5th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery,[2] he was quickly promoted to sergeant. In 1940, he embarked with the 2nd Echelon of the 2nd Division,[1] which formed the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, for Egypt. However, during transit the ship on which he was traveling, the Aquitania,[3] was diverted to England.[4]

In March 1941, Stott was shipped with the 2nd Echelon to Egypt to join up with the 1st Echelon of the 2nd Division, which had been in the country since February 1940,[5] and then onto Greece to take part in the defence of Greece. The New Zealanders, together with other allied forces, were forced to retreat to the island of Crete following the German intervention in Greece. He was wounded and captured during the subsequent Battle of Crete.[2]

Stott described the wound in a letter home as being '"not at all severe. I was hit by a bullet just above the knee (right) on the inside of the leg and it did not strike a bone so I was lucky",[3] and it was not so serious as to prevent him escaping a prisoner of war camp in Greece. Together with another New Zealander, Bob Morton, Stott vaulted the fence of the camp in broad daylight and successfully evaded the German guards with the help of Greek police who led the pursuing Germans astray. After spending several months in and around Athens,[6] Stott and Morton were eventually able to get to Egypt, crossing the Mediterranean by sailboat.[7]

Special Operations Executive[edit]

Following recuperation from his adventures in Greece, Stott was posted to Officer Training School (OTC). It was during his time at OTC that he was asked to conduct sabotage missions in Greece for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a request he gladly accepted.[8]

Greece[edit]

Stott, by now commissioned as a captain, returned to Greece with his fellow escapee, Bob Morton, in 1942. Stott was to utilise his knowledge of the country, accumulated during the several months that he and Morton spent on the run from the Germans following their escape from captivity, to join the British Military Mission that was then based in Greece and co-ordinating the Greek resistance efforts.[9]

In 1943, Stott, together with fellow SOE operative Geoffrey Gordon-Creed, destroyed the Asopos Viaduct. This was an important operation, as it resulted in the diversion of German troops destined for the frontlines to occupation duties in Greece. For his exploits, Stott was awarded a Distinguished Service Order (DSO),[10] after the commander of the British Military Mission in Greece, Brigadier Eddie Myers originally recommended Stott for a Victoria Cross. Myers considered that the Victoria Cross would have been awarded had a shot been fired during the Asopos mission.[11] Remaining in Greece and continuing his sabotage operations, Stott received a head wound when blowing up a bridge and was forced seek medical help from acquaintances in Athens.[12]

Now based in Athens and tasked with the sabotage of aerodromes around the capital, Stott was able to get the various factions of the Greek resistance to work together.[2] However, the planned sabotage operations came to nothing as it was realised the targeted aerodromes were too well defended. His efforts to co-ordinate the Greek resistance meant that Stott became embroiled in the internal power struggle between the various Greek resistance groups. Reputedly a staunch anti-communist, Stott favoured working with the EDES, a rightist resistance group, rather than the communist controlled ELAS, the military wing of the National Liberation Front. Greek SOE operatives became concerned that Stott was being manipulated by his EDES contacts, some of whom were of questionable character.[13]

Matters came to a head in November 1943, when the mayor of Athens contacted Stott with back channel peace overtures from the Germans. While the approach was initially dismissed, Stott decided to explore the opportunity in order to collect useful intelligence on Germany's position in Greece. Stott met with key representatives of the Gestapo and, as negotiations became more protracted, Stott began to take them seriously. It became clear that any withdrawal from Greece by the Germans would be at the exclusion of the ELAS from the peace process. When senior SOE officers in Cairo became aware of the extent of the negotiations that Stott was facilitating between the Germans and the Greeks, he was ordered to abandon his negotiations and return to Egypt. Following a debriefing held in Cairo, Stott was awarded a Bar to his DSO as a result of the useful intelligence he collected during the negotiations.[2][13]

Z Special Unit[edit]

The USS Perch, from which Stott launched his final mission

Stott was not allowed to return to Greece following his recent exploits in the country. Instead, after being offered a staff job which was declined, he opted to be seconded to the Australian equivalent of the SOE, the Services Reconnaissance Department, to undertake operations in the Far East. Stott briefly returned to New Zealand where he married Mary Snow in June 1944.[14]

The following month, Stott commenced intensive training at various bases around Australia, including receiving instructions in small boat handling and submarine insertion. In 1945, and by now promoted to major, he was appointed commander of Operation Robin 1 and tasked with conducting sabotage and intelligence missions in Southeast Borneo. A submarine, the USS Perch, transported Stott and his twelve-man team to Japanese occupied Balikpapan Bay. Arriving in the bay on 20 March 1945, Stott was to lead an initial party of four ashore in a pair of two-man Hoehn MKIII military folboats. [15] This was followed by the remainder of his team two days later. Launching at night in heavy swells, Stott had trouble with the motor of his folboat, and he and his companion were forced to use paddles to try to get to shore. En route, the party was detected by the Japanese and were ordered by Stott to seek an alternative landing site. While the second folboat successfully made it to shore, Stott and his companion were never seen again, and were presumed to have drowned.[2][16]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b McDonald 1991, p. 6
  2. ^ a b c d e Crawford (2010). "'Stott, Donald John – Biography'". Retrieved 9 August 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Masters (25 April 2004). "'Letters home reveal the chronicle of an extraordinary soldier'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Bates,1955, p. 23–24
  5. ^ Bates,1955, pp. 8–10
  6. ^ McDonald 1991, p. 8
  7. ^ McDonald 1991, p. 9
  8. ^ McDonald 1991, p. 10
  9. ^ Field & Gordon-Creed 2011, p. 109
  10. ^ Field & Gordon-Creed 2011, p. 143
  11. ^ McDonald 1991, p. vii
  12. ^ McDonald 1991, pp. 36–37
  13. ^ a b Clogg 2006, pp. 149–156
  14. ^ McDonald 1991, pp. 46–47
  15. ^ Hoehn 2011,p.70
  16. ^ Wigzell 2001, pp. 111–130

References[edit]

  • Bates, P. W (1955). Supply Company. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45. Wellington, New Zealand: War History Branch. 
  • Clogg, Richard (2006). "'Negotiations of a Complicated Character': Don Stott's 'adventures' in Athens, October – November 1943". In Seaman, Mark. Special Operations Executive: A New Instrument of War. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-38455-1. 
  • Field, Roger; Gordon-Creed, Geoffrey (2011). Rogue Male: Death and Seduction in World War II with Mister Major Geoff. Coronet. ISBN 978-1-4447-0633-8. 
  • McDonald, Gabrielle (1991). New Zealand's Secret Heroes: Don Stott and the 'Z' Special Unit. Reed Books. ISBN 0-7900-0216-7. 
  • Wigzell, Francis Alexander (2001). New Zealand Army Involvement, Special Operations Australia South-West Pacific World War II. Pentland Press. ISBN 1-85821-815-2.