Alsace et Bastille

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sexta-feira, 26 de agosto de 2011

Daily Telegraph tell us the story of Simon Warrender, famous for his mission to arrest a princess in Estoril

Simon Warrender

Simon Warrender, who has died aged 88, was a reluctant British aristocrat and involved in an undercover wartime mission to arrest a Portuguese princess.

The assignment to arrest Princess Philippa of Braganza, who was known to be smuggling industrial diamonds from Uruguay for use in German munitions factories, came when Warrender was attached to the staff of Admiral Sir Frederick Edward-Collins in Gibraltar.
Edward-Collins explained the mission: Warrender was to go to neutral Portugal and pose as a civilian at a hotel in Estoril, where the diamond handovers were believed to be taking place. After the briefing, however, Warrender still had some questions. How exactly, he wanted to know, were the diamonds coming in?
“In the royal fanny, Warrender”, the Admiral replied. “Don’t worry, you won’t be obliged to conduct a search. Just apprehend the lady.” Warrender boarded the ship in which she was travelling from Montevideo and duly arrested the princess .
Simon George Warrender was born in his parents’ house in Mayfair on August 11 1922, the second son of the Tory politician Victor Warrender, the future Lord Bruntisfield and a godson of Queen Victoria. Field Marshal Alexander was a godfather at Simon’s christening. A great-great-grandfather was the social campaigner the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury; Simon’s Warrender ancestors, meanwhile, had played a prominent role in Edinburgh, where they had amassed vast property interests.
At the time of Simon’s birth the Warrender family trust was worth about £4 million, and he grew up at Exton Park in Rutland, a “playground for aristocratic sports”. As a child, however, he saw little of his socialite parents and as a result never regarded them with affection.
He was educated at Eton, where he became public schools’ fencing champion but neglected his studies, reasoning that, since his father had paid £500 to ensure his entry into the Grenadier Guards, “academic results bore little influence on the future my parents had planned for me”.
His resentment of his parents and jealousy of his older brother John, heir to the fortune, led him to develop a deep-rooted antipathy to the “false standards” of his aristocratic upbringing. His teenage years featured bitter political rows with his father.
In 1939 he cycled to Portsmouth, where he joined the RNVR as an ordinary seaman. “Simon,” said his horrified mother, “you obviously don’t know what you’ve done. You haven’t even learnt to drink gin yet!”
His first job was as captain of the heads (lavatory-cleaner) in the destroyer Southdown, but he was quickly talent-spotted, commissioned after training at HMS King Alfred at Brighton, and appointed to the fast minelayer Manxman.
During the British capture of Madagascar in October 1942 he commanded a flotilla of boats which landed Royal Marines and South African troops in the face of fierce but short-lived opposition by Vichy French troops. He next took part in the relief of Malta, and undertook minelaying operations in the Mediterranean which were only briefly interrupted when Manxman was torpedoed on December 1; he spent several hours clinging to a raft.
In June 1943 Warrender was appointed to the new destroyer Savage and spent the next two years on Arctic convoy duties. He was the torpedo control officer during the Battle of North Cape on Boxing Day that year when the Home Fleet hunted and sank the German battleship Scharnhorst. He fired a full salvo of eight torpedoes against the German vessel, and claimed three hits before turning away to allow other destroyers to deliver the coup de grace. He was awarded a DSC.
In 1944 he was posted as a Flag Lieutenant to Melbourne to prepare for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s Pacific Fleet for Allied campaigns under the command of the US Navy. His last duties were the relief of the Japanese prisoner-of-war camp at Sham Shui Po, and helping to reestablish British administration in Hong Kong.
Warrender’s parents had divorced during the war, and it was with some misgivings that he returned home. Within half an hour of his arrival, he had become involved in an angry brawl with his older brother and, when his father intervened, he stormed out, never to return.
In 1949 Warrender, who had a pilot’s licence, got into the cockpit of a single-engine Percival Proctor and announced that he was flying to Australia. His ostensible purpose was to find a market for a flying-boat business in which he had become involved; but his real aim was to ask Pamela Myer, with whom he had fallen in love when stationed in Melbourne, to marry him. The flight took 34 days, and they married in London in 1950 in a ceremony dubbed the “wedding of the year” by the Australian press; footage was broadcast on Australian television.
In Melbourne, Warrender set up as an insurance broker, pioneering new forms of insurance to ride the postwar cons umer boom. Within a few years his business had grown from a one-room office to a group of seven companies comprising insurance brokerage, investment management and travel agency. He took Australian citizenship in 1967.
Later Warrender rekindled his early interest in aviation. He was the first Australian to buy a ticket to the moon when they were offered by Pan American Airways, and in the 1970s worked with the British aviation entrepreneur Freddie Laker when Laker tried to break into the Australian market.
Warrender regarded his adopted country as “the best in the world”, but was dismayed to find that the snobberies and discriminations that he abhorred in Britain were alive and kicking in Melbourne. In 1971 he made headlines by becoming the first man to resign from the exclusive Melbourne Club in its 132-year history, after his wife’s cousin was blackballed — ostensibly on account of his Jewish heritage. Warrender found himself being cast in the role of hero in the press, but ostracised by the “sweet sherry set”.
A series of financial ups and downs and the death of a son in a car accident took their toll on his marriage, and the Warrenders eventually divorced, though they remained close. Simon Warrender died on May 8, and is survived by Pamela, their son and two daughters.

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