Bill Hudson (British Army officer)

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Colonel
Bill Hudson
DSO OBE
Bill Hudson SOE.JPG
Hudson in uniform
Birth name Duane Tyrell Hudson
Nickname(s) Marko (nom de guerre)
Born (1910-08-11)11 August 1910
Bromley, Kent
Died 1 November 1995(1995-11-01) (aged 85)
Durban, South Africa
Allegiance British
Service/branch Special Operations Executive
Years of service 1939–1945
Rank Colonel
Battles/wars Yugoslavia in World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Order
Order of the British Empire
Memorials Swimming complex at St. Andrew's College
Spouse(s) Ada Proskurnikova
Other work mining engineer

Colonel Duane Tyrell "Bill" Hudson DSO OBE (1910–1995) was a British Special Operations Executive officer who worked as a liaison officer with the Yugoslav Partisans and Chetniks in occupied Yugoslavia during World War II.

Early life[edit]

Duane Tyrell Hudson was born on 11 August 1910 in Bromley, Kent, of South African parents. He attended St. Andrew's College in Grahamstown, South Africa, then the Royal School of Mines of the Imperial College London. He was a noted athlete, excelling in boxing,[1] rugby, swimming, riding, skiing, and wrestling.[2] Having worked as a mining engineer in South Africa,[3] in 1935 Hudson travelled to Yugoslavia where he was involved in mining and did some prospecting. The following year he married a White Russian ballerina, Ada Proskurnikova. She refused to live near the mine Hudson managed, and they soon divorced.[1] By 1938, Hudson had become fluent in the Serbo-Croatian language.[4] Hudson's mining activities included work as a consultant mining engineer in Belgrade, and as manager of an antimony mine in Zajača in the Mačva region, where he was working when World War II broke out.[3]

World War II[edit]

In the autumn of 1939, Hudson was recruited into Section D of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), the section responsible for conducting political covert actions and paramilitary operations in time of war, and was based in Zagreb. During this period, one of Hudsons' SIS colleagues was murdered, and pro-German Croats planted a bomb beneath his office which nearly killed him.[1] He established a sabotage organisation to attack Axis ships in Yugoslav Adriatic ports using limpet mines.[2] Section D was absorbed into the new Special Operations Executive in mid-1940,[1] and SOE headquarters for special operations in the Balkans was established in Cairo.[5] In February 1941, Hudson personally sank an Italian ship. After the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Hudson was extracted from the country.[1]

Montenegro[edit]

On 13 September, Hudson and a small group of Yugoslav military personnel left Cairo by air for Malta on the first leg of a new SOE mission, codenamed "Bullseye".[6] Three days later, they boarded the British submarine HMS Triumph, which landed the party on the coast of the Italian-occupied territory of Montenegro near Petrovac on the evening of 20 September. They were accompanied as far as the shore by Captain Julian Amery. Having left Cairo with little notice, they were forced to supplement their equipment from the submarine's stores.[7] The party consisted of Hudson (using the nom de guerre "Marko"), former Royal Yugoslav Army Major Zaharije Ostojić, and two former members of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force, Major Mirko Lalatović and Sergeant Veljko Dragićević, who was a radio operator. Both Lalatović and Ostojić were Montenegrins.[6][8] The original intent had been for the party to consist only of Yugoslavs, and Hudson had only been ordered to accompany them 12 hours before they departed. Hudson's instructions were rather vague; he was expected to "contact, investigate, and report on all groups offering resistance to the enemy, regardless of race, creed or political persuasion".[3]

The party was picked up by guerilla units near the coast, and by 26 September they were with a band of communist-led rebels led by Arso Jovanović and Milovan Đilas,[9] one of many communist-led groups in Montenegro. These groups, along with nationalist-led groups, were the scattered remnants of the forces that had rebelled against the Italians in July. The revolt had been suppressed within six weeks, and divisions had begun to appear between those rebels led by communists and those led by nationalists. Clashes had begun to occur, and Hudson assessed that the communist-led groups were stronger. Initially based at the village of Radovče, about 16 kilometres (10 mi) north of the Italian headquarters at Podgorica, Hudson radioed Malta recommending that assistance be provided to the communist-led rebels in Montenegro.[10]

On 10 September, the British in Malta picked up a radio message indicating that a Colonel Mihailović was leading a guerilla force located in western Serbia. Unbeknownst to Hudson, the Yugoslav members of his party were already aware of this, and they had been ordered by the Yugoslav government-in-exile to travel to Mihailović's headquarters as soon as possible. On 9 October Hudson was made aware of Mihailović's existence by his British contacts, and he was also ordered to journey to western Serbia, as Mihailović did not have radio codes to encrypt his messages.[11] Hudson and Ostojić departed for Serbia around 13 October, accompanied by Jovanović, Đilas and another senior Partisan, Mitar Bakić. The leaders of the Montenegrin Partisans needed to visit their own supreme headquarters in Užice in western Serbia to receive directions on how to handle relations with the nationalists. Interestingly, the party left its two radios behind with Lalatović and Dragićević, although one had already burnt out and the other was heavy and obsolete.[12] Hudson apparently had not been trained in the operation of the radios.[13]

Serbia[edit]

At Tito's headquarters[edit]

Hudson, Ostojić and the Partisan leaders travelled through Partisan-held liberated territory in Montenegro and the Sandžak to the valley of the West Morava river valley in the German-occupied territory of Serbia, during which Hudson further developed a favourable opinion of the Partisan organisation. The party arrived at Užice, the centre of the so-called Užice Republic around 25 October.[14] Hudson met Josip Broz Tito, who was introduced to him by his pseudonym "Tito". He offered Tito the necessary technical information to communicate with SOE Cairo, if Tito could provide a radio. He advocated that Tito take up his offer, if only so that Tito could make his own case for material support. He told Tito that he also intended to visit Mihailović. Tito received Hudson cordially, but was noncommittal. At this point, relations between Tito and Mihailović were finely poised but the likelihood of ongoing cooperation was low. Tito did not share information about Partisan dispositions with Hudson, and Hudson emphasised that British interests were best served by a unified Yugoslav resistance. Tito, for his part, indicated to Hudson that he wanted to avoid conflict with Mihailović, but considered that all former Yugoslav officers had been compromised by its disastrous showing during the invasion. Tito told Hudson that if Mihailović would not cooperate with him, he expected that the Chetnik leader would not interfere with Partisan operations against the Germans.[15] Hudson witnessed the Partisans fighting the Germans around Krupanj, then returned to Užice. In the meantime, Ostojić had visited Mihailović and returned with a message from the Chetnik leader that Hudson should travel on to Mihailović's headquarters as soon as possible. Having left his wireless sets behind in Montenegro, Hudson had no contact with SOE Cairo during his stay in Užice.[16]

At Mihailović's headquarters[edit]

Hudson left Užice on or around 25 October, and arrived at Mihailović's headquarters at the village of Brajići on the foothills of Ravna Gora on that day. Immediately upon his arrival, Hudson was upbraided by Mihailović for having been with the "communist rabble", and when Hudson advised the Chetnik leader that he would be visiting Tito from time to time, Mihailović threatened to break of relations with the British if that occurred. Less than two days after Hudson's arrival at Ravna Gora, Tito and Mihailović met to make one last effort at forming a joint command, but despite Tito's request that Hudson be present during the negotiations, Mihailović insisted it was not necessary. Despite a provisional agreement, the two leaders were at cross-purposes; Tito would not place himself or his forces under Mihailović's control, and would not conform with Mihailović's urging that he cease attacks on the Germans. By this time, Mihailović knew from Ostojić that he had official recognition from the Yugoslav government-in-exile, who had also promised British recognition and support. The situation in western Serbia was one of incipient civil war. Despite some jointly-held towns and joint operations by Partisans and Chetniks, an atmosphere of creeping distrust predominated between the two camps. Hudson himself still had no access to a wireless. Lalatović and Dragičević had arrived in Užice after Hudson's departure, but Lalatović had travelled on to Ravna Gora without Dragičević and the remaining working transmitter because Dragičević refused to accompany him. Dragičević joined the Partisans and became an important Partisan wireless operator.[17]

Hudson was able to use Mihailović's radio, but from 2 November, Mihailović, confident of British support, began instigating clashes with Partisan bands, which Hudson was powerless to prevent.[18] After the air delivery of some funds for Mihailović, Hudson sent a message to Cairo recommending that British support to Mihailović be conditional upon his co-operation with the Partisans. When the British government accepted Hudson's recommendation, Mihailović considered Hudson's actions to be sabotage, and their working relationship broke down.[19] Tito, for his part, was unaware of Hudson's initial attempts to mediate, and that the airdrop of funds was undertaken against his advice. This meant that Tito also distrusted Hudson. In mid to late November, Hudson managed to get involved in three meetings between Chetniks and Partisans aimed at establishing a truce and a joint operational headquarters. The Partisans maintained that they would do so, but would not accept Mihailović assuming overall command. The Yugoslav government-in-exile even put pressure on Mihailović to work with the Partisans.[20]

Missing funds[edit]

One of Hudson's tasks was to distribute British funds in order to pay for anti-Nazi fighters. He was given more than £80,000 in sovereigns and diamonds, worth over £1.75m in today's currency, which he partially buried in peasant villages. He later confessed that after the war, parts of the treasure were buried, with the aim of retrieving it on his own account when the war ended.

Afterwards, while he was working for the army in Romania, documents show[2] that Hudson recruited Stephen Zollner, a Hungarian Jew buying timber for the British government around eastern Europe, to retrieve the treasure. Zollner managed to acquire three parts of the buried treasure, and sent them to Hudson in a diplomatic bag. The Yugoslav authorities caught him, however, and Zollner confessed everything.

Later life[edit]

He later moved to South Africa, where he died in 1995.

The swimming complex at St. Andrew's College was named in his honour when, upon his death, he left the school a considerable amount of money for new pool facilities.[21]

In popular culture[edit]

He spoke six foreign languages and had a reputation as a ladies' man.[2] According to The Sunday Times,[2] Ian Fleming used Hudson as a model for his character James Bond, although it has also been suggested that the character was modelled on his brother, Peter Fleming.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Foot 1995.
  2. ^ a b c d e Day 2005.
  3. ^ a b c Deakin 1971, p. 129.
  4. ^ Duke et al 2014.
  5. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 125.
  6. ^ a b Tomasevich 1975, p. 143.
  7. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 126.
  8. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 128.
  9. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 127.
  10. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 130.
  11. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 130–131.
  12. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 132.
  13. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 149.
  14. ^ Deakin 1971, pp. 132–134.
  15. ^ Deakin 1971, pp. 134–135.
  16. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 136.
  17. ^ Deakin 1971, pp. 136–137.
  18. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 138.
  19. ^ Deakin 1971, p. 140.
  20. ^ Deakin 1971, pp. 141–142.
  21. ^ Poland 2008, p. 369.

References[edit]