Ewen Southby-Tailyour

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Ewen Southby-Tailyour
Birth name Simon Ewen Southby-Tailyour
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch RoyalMarineBadge.png Royal Marines
Rank Lieutenant colonel

Aden Emergency

Dhofar Rebellion
Northern Ireland
Falklands War
Awards Sultan of Muscat's Bravery Medal
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Other work Yacht skipper, author

Lieutenant Colonel Ewen Southby-Tailyour OBE[1] is an author, sailor, and retired Royal Marine who served for 32 years in the Royal Marines retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel specialising in (and often commanding) amphibious vessels from all the NATO countries. He has held various appointments in four Commando units and served in a number of Royal Navy ships as well as those from France and the United States. After retiring from the Royal Marines he concentrated on his sailing and writing careers and has authored a number of books on military history and the Royal Marines.

Early life[edit]

The son of the late General Sir Norman Tailyour, former Commandant General Royal Marines, Southby-Tailyour comes from a family with strong ties to the Royal Marines; an uncle, two cousins and a step-brother have previously served in the Corps. He attended Stubbington House School, Nautical College Pangbourne[2] and the University of Grenoble in France.

Military career[edit]

Southby-Tailyour's early career included active service operations in Aden, Northern Ireland, Oman, the Falkland Islands, Hong Kong and 13 winters in the Norwegian Arctic developing the use of fast raiding and assault craft for supporting commando operations. He also served in the United States, India, Djibouti, the West Indies, the North Sea (oil-rig protection), Cyprus, Corsica, Malta, Bahrain, the Yemen, Kuwait and the South Atlantic 1977-1979 (before the Falklands War).

He was attached to the USMC in 1977 in the eastern Mediterranean and, earlier, to the French Commando Hubert in Toulon with which he attended their combatant nageur course and served in a submarine, a helicopter carrier and ashore in Corsica. Following Arabic language courses at the Berlitz School of Languages in London and the Command Arabic Language School in Aden he was seconded for two years as a reconnaissance platoon and company commander with the Sultan of Muscat's Armed Forces during the Dhofar War where he was awarded the Sultan's Bravery Medal for gallantry in action - the approximate equivalent of the UK's Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

In 1978, he was the officer commanding a small Royal Marines detachment that was posted to the Falkland Islands. The following year he was promoted to major.[3] It was then that on his own initiative he sailed around and extensively charted the waters around the islands, and had a 100+ page notebook filled with data on harbours, inlets and landing spots. It is still to this day the most comprehensive sailing guide for the area. Despite the then Chief Hydrographer of the Royal Navy stating at the time that Southby-Tailyour's work was the "amateur jottings of an itinerant yachtsman and of no value to this department" this work and his personal knowledge of the area would later prove highly valuable in the Falklands War. In 1982 he was voted the United Kingdom's Yachtsman of the Year.

Falklands War[edit]

After the Argentine forces invaded the Falklands, the British Forces heard of a man who had extensive knowledge of the islands. They got hold of Southby-Tailyour, who confirmed that he did have such data - but refused to give up his precious notebooks and charts unless he was assigned as "staff officer without portfolio" to the invasion. He was resultantly made the navigation adviser to 'the command' as well as commander of the Task Force Landing Craft Squadron for which he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) as well as being recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).

During the war, Southby-Tailyour was often ignored by Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward.[citation needed] On one occasion there was some controversy over the landing procedures at Fitzroy and Bluff cove, with resultant miscommunication between naval and land forces that led to the delay of disembarking the Welsh Guards from the RFA ship Sir Galahad despite being ordered to do so by Southby-Tailyour. The disastrous result was that subsequently the ship was struck by Argentine bombs resulting in the deaths of 48 Welsh guardsmen.[4]

Later years[edit]

Southby-Tailyour's final four years service were spent on the staffs of the Commandant General, Royal Marines, and the Director General Surface Ships (Amphibious Group), helping to design and procure the next generation of amphibious shipping and craft, most notably Ocean, the Albion-class landing platform dock, the LCVP Mk 4 and the LCU Mk 10.

Post-military career[edit]

On retirement he was employed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for duties in the Republic of Serbian Krajina and, subsequently, in Croatia along the Dalmatian Coast. He was retained by ABS Hovercraft Limited as their amphibious and military adviser while also learning to 'fly' hovercraft. Currently he is believed to be aligned to Griffon Hovercraft.[citation needed]

In 1991, he established an amphibious consultancy that advised builders and governments on the design of amphibious vessels and the procedures for their operation. For ten years he was a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's boat committee .

He has published 14 books on amphibious-related subjects (including a novel) and is a commercial yacht skipper and amateur explorer. He was the South of England Firefly dinghy champion in the late 1950s while his many other sailing awards include the Ocean Cruising Club's Award of Merit for sailing single handed through an Arctic winter, twice winning the Royal Cruising Club's Goldsmith Exploration Award and being presented with two engraved Rolex watches from the Royal Yacht Squadron for two further, high-latitude exploring cruises. For two seasons he surveyed uncharted fiords in the north-west of Iceland. In 1959 he turned down an Olympic sailing trial as he felt he was not competitive enough in a sport where application of the rules rather than fair sailing was often the winning formula. In 2000 he founded the Jester Challenge yacht 'event' for vessels under 30 feet in length after they had been 'banned' from the more established trans-Atlantic events: this unique biennial event (to Newport, Rhode Island and, every other year to the Azores) has no rules and, importantly, no entry fees. From 2013 a similar Jester Challenge between Plymouth and Baltimore takes place each odd year to introduce 'newcomers' to the sport of single-handed ocean crossing. In 2014 the Ocean Cruising Club awarded him the Jester Medal for 'services to single-handed sailing'.

His book 3 Commando Brigade: Helmand Assault[5] reached number seven in the Sunday Times best selling list. He has also written an historical novel of the Falklands that has been optioned for a full-length feature film. His other interests include watercolour painting, shooting and snorkelling. He is a member of the World Ship Trust, the National Maritime Historical Society of America, the Society for Nautical Research, the Royal Institute of Navigation and the Society of Authors. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation.

He sat on the Royal National Lifeboat Institute boat committee for ten years, was the South West area governor of the Ocean Youth Club and the south-west area member of the Royal Yachting Association's cruising committee.

Personal life[edit]

He lives in south Devon and the French Pyrenees. His wife is Plymouth's longest serving magistrate and a Deputy Lieutenant for Devon. His married son is an experienced yachtsman and a practicing osteopath in Plymouth. His married daughter is a diving instructor and the Operations and Managing Director of 360-Expeditions based in the Pyrenees.


  • Falkland Islands Shores [Macmillan/Nautical, 1985]
  • Reasons in Writing: A Commando's View of the Falklands War [Leo Cooper, 1993]
  • Amphibious Assault Falklands: The Battle for San Carlos [Leo Cooper/Orion, 1996]
  • Blondie: A Life of Lieutenant-Colonel HG Hasler DSO OBE [Leo Cooper, 1998]
  • Jane’s Amphibious Warfare Capabilities [Jane’s. Biannual to 1999]
  • Jane's Amphibious and Special Forces [Jane’s. Biannual since 1999 to 2014]
  • The Next Moon. A Special Operations Executive Agent in France [Penguin/Viking, 2004]
  • Jane's Special Forces Equipment Recognition Guide [HarperCollins, 2005]
  • HMS Fearless, The Mighty Lion [Pen and Sword, 2006]
  • Skeletons for Sadness [Seafarer Books, 2007]
  • 3 Commando Brigade, Helmand [Random House/Ebury Press, 2008]
  • Commando Assault, Helmand [Random House/Ebury Press, 2010]
  • Nothing Impossible. A Portrait of The Royal Marines 1664 - 2010 [TMI, 2010]. Editor
  • Exocet Falklands. The Untold Story of Special Forces Operations [Pen and Sword, 2014]