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Sergeant Percy Clements

Sergeant Percival Peter Clements

 

Unit : X Troop, 11th Special Air Service Battalion

Army No. : 2564415, later 327224

Awards : Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Cross, Military Medal

 

Sergeant Clements was awarded for the Military Medal for his part in Operation Colossus, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions as a prisoner of war. His citation for the former reads:

 

On the night of 10/11 February 1941, Sergeant Clements was Second-in-Command of a Section of parachutists which with three other Sections successfully landed near the aqueduct. Despite the Royal Engineer Section being missing, along with all the arms containers, the remainder of the Force with a reduced quantity of explosives successfully destroyed the aqueduct. The party then set out in small groups to cross the mountainous terrain to an RV fifty miles away at the mouth of the River Sele, to be collected by a submarine. After two days and night exposed to the winter elements, when within about ten miles of the RV, Sergeant Clements' group was surrounded by a far superior force of armed civilians and of Italian carabinieri and infantry. After a short fire-fight in which the group, armed only with one sub machine-gun, seven pistols and three knives, was entirely outgunned, it was forced to surrender, and all were taken P.O.W.

 

 

His Distinguished Conduct Medal citation reads:

 

Sergeant Clements was a member of a party of parachutists dropped in Calabria in February 1941 to blow up an aqueduct, who were subsequently captured by the Italians. Shortly after capture they were taken to Camp 78, Sulmona, where Officers and Other Ranks were placed in separate compounds, no communication between them being allowed. Despite this regulation Sergeant Clements, who took charge of the most secret communications in the Other Ranks compound, managed to maintain clandestine communication with the Officers, and exchanged with them particulars of all secret messages received from the War Office. He also arranged the despatch of similar messages to the War Office in selected Other Ranks letters and later, when the Officers were moved to another camp, was responsible for maintaining all communications between the Camp and the War Office.

 

On 12 September 1943, following the Italian armistice, when all attempts to escape were strictly forbidden, Sergeant Clements escaped to the hills. From there, on 14 September 1943, he watched the Germans enter the camp, and he then made up a party of Sergeant Lawley and Private Rae, both of the Parachute Regiment and started walking South. Private Rae was unable to keep up and fell out at an early stage of the journey, but Sergeant Clements and Sergeant Lawley continued walking as far as Morrone, their journey lasting twenty-two days. At Morrone they hid up for a week until they were able to join the British Forces at Casacalenda on 13 October 1943. Throughout their escape Sergeant Clements was in charge.

 

In view of the fine work of a secret nature which this N.C.O. rendered, in addition to his initiative in making his escape, I strongly recommend him for the award of the D.C.M.

 

 

Sergeant Clements returned to the Parachute Regiment and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, serving with the 12th Parachute Battalion of the 6th Airborne Division in the Ardennes, where he was awarded the Military Cross. His citation reads:

 

On 5th January 1945 Lieutenant P. Clements commanded a platoon which was given the task of occupying a position on the feature North of Grupont dominating the area in which the 12th and 13th Parachute Battalions were operating. The patrol reached its objective by 0300 hours and took up position as ordered. During the following nine hours the platoon lay up in a wood on the feature, which was also occupied by the enemy, reporting enemy movements and inflicting casualties including the killing of the officers of a reconnaissance group which approached the position.

 

At about 1200 hours the platoon came under accurate fire from close range. Lieutenant Clements, although fully exposed to enemy fire, personally passed the necessary fire orders for the artillery to engage the area held by the enemy. The enemy then brought up at least one Tiger tank which engaged the area held by the platoon. By this time the platoon was coming under accurate fire from the rear as well as the front. Lieutenant Clements then decided that the platoon must withdraw. He organised the withdrawal down the very exposed slope of the feature.

 

At the first [?]d he was wounded in the stomach. Although he could not move himself he continued to command the platoon, and issued necessary orders for the remainder to withdraw. Throughout this period the platoon had no food and was exposed to very severe weather conditions. It was entirely due to the fine leadership, determination and example of this officer that the platoon carried out its task and was able to withdraw when this task had been completed.

 

Clements lost consciousness shortly after this incident and when he regained it he was in a hospital in Scotland. He recovered from his wounds, but was deemed no longer fit for service and so was retired from the Army. 

 

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