Alex Massie

A Wartime Christmas

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All the London papers' obituary pages reward close attention, but the Daily Telegraph remains peerless in tracking the lives and, obviously, deaths, of WW2 servicemen. These accounts of remarkable derring-do and extraordinary achievement under testing circumstances naturally seem more, not less, vital as the number of survivors dwindles. Thus this charming anecdote from today's obituary of Lieutenant 'Polly' Perkins, a motor torpedo boat captain who won two DSC's:

On December 18/19 1944, by which time he had been promoted to command the long-range MTB 766, Perkins was hiding in the fjords during an operation to land and recover agents in Norway.

He sent a rating ashore to obtain some Christmas trees for the forthcoming festivities. Three small saplings were brought on board but when the boat returned to Lerwick for a debrief on how the operation had gone, Perkins was persuaded to give up two of the trees to the senior Norwegian naval liaison officer.

One subsequently found its way to King Haakon VII and the other to the Norwegian prime minister, both of whom were in exile in London. Perkins dined out on his claim that this was the origin of the Norwegian custom of sending a Christmas tree to Trafalgar Square every year since 1947.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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