George Lane (British Army officer)

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George Lane
Born (1915-01-18)18 January 1915
Upper Hungary, Austria-Hungary
Died 19 March 2010(2010-03-19) (aged 95)
United Kingdom
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Special Operations Executive
British Army
Years of service 1939-1945
Rank Colonel
Unit No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando
Battles/wars

World War II

Awards Military Cross
Spouse(s) Miriam Rothschild
(m. 1943–57)

George Henry Lane, MC (18 January 1915 – 19 March 2010) was a British Army officer in the Commandos during World War II, achieving the rank of colonel. He performed a number of missions behind enemy lines. Captured on one such mission, Lane was spared after he had tea with Erwin Rommel, and later escaped.[1][2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Lane was born in Upper Hungary, with the birth name Dyuri or György Länyi. His family were Jewish; his father Ernest Länyi was a wealthy landowner. The family moved to Budapest after the end of the First World War, when his parents' land was allocated to the new state of Czechoslovakia by the Treaty of Versailles.

He moved to London in 1935, where he befriended the Dean of Windsor, Albert Baillie. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford and then read English at the University of London, but also trained with the Hungary men's national water polo team, and wrote for a Hungarian newspaper on a freelance basis.[5][6]

Second World War[edit]

After the outbreak of the Second World War, he volunteered to join the British Army. He was accepted as an officer cadet by the Grenadier Guards, but as an alien was also served with a deportation notice. Connections via Baille with Anthony Eden, David Margesson and James Thomas removed the threat of deportation, and he served for a year as a sergeant in the Alien Pioneer Corps. He joined SOE, and undertook clandestine missions in occupied Belgium and the Netherlands. After he refused to serve with SOE in Hungary, he transferred first to No. 4 Commando and then the German-speaking X Troop (later 3 Troop) in No. 10 Commando. He was commissioned in 1943.

He met the entomologist Miriam Rothschild the same year, while recuperating at her house in Northamptonshire. She was herself half-Hungarian, and they were married in August 1943. They had four children, and adopted two: two sons and four daughters.

While commanding one of the Operation Tarbrush commando reconnaissance raids on the coast of the Pas de Calais shortly before D-Day, Lane was captured by the Germans on 18–19 May 1944. He expected to be executed in accordance with Hitler's Commando Order but instead he was questioned over tea by Field Marshal Rommel, with Lane pretending to know no German, and to be Welsh to hide his Hungarian accent when speaking English (the commanding officer of 3 Troop, Captain Bryan Hilton Jones, was Welsh), and then imprisoned at Fresnes Prison near Paris and then Oflag IX-A/H at Spangenberg Castle in Hesse.

He later escaped and was liberated, finding shelter with his brother-in-law Victor Rothschild in Paris, whose house had plenty of Château Lafite and Dom Pérignon but no hot water. He was awarded the Military Cross for his war service, for his part in the Tarbrush raids.[7]

Later life[edit]

He was formally naturalised as British in 1946.[8] He assisted his wife to run her estate at Ashton Wold near Oundle in Northamptonshire after the war, until they were divorced in 1957.

He moved to the US and worked as a stockbroker. He married Elizabeth Heald in 1963. She was the daughter of Conservative politician and former Attorney General Sir Lionel Heald. They lived in London and had a son.

He died in London, survived by his second wife, their son, and three daughters from his first marriage.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Colonel George Lane". The Daily Telegraph. London. 26 March 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2010. 
  2. ^ Naughton, Philippe; Costello, Miles (7 April 2010). "George Lane, wartime commando". The Times. London. Retrieved 7 April 2010. 
  3. ^ Jay Nordlinger. "Starved and dangerous, &c.". National Review. Archived from the original on 9 April 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2010. 
  4. ^ Chris Mair (1 April 2010). "Obituary: Colonel George Lane". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 7 April 2010. 
  5. ^ Commando: Winning World War II Behind Enemy Lines, James Owen, p.263-269
  6. ^ Ten Commando, Ian Dear, p.7, 86-91
  7. ^ The London Gazette, 25 September 1945, Issue 37284, Page 4781; http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D7396206
  8. ^ The London Gazette, 20 August 1946, Supplement 37694, Page 4181

Further reading[edit]

  • Ian Dear (1987), Ten Commando 1942–45, London: Leo Cooper Ltd, p. 169. ISBN 0-85052-121-1. Lane's citation for the MC.
  • Russell Miller (1993), Nothing Less than Victory: An Oral History of D-Day, London: Michael Joseph, pp. 72–78. ISBN 0-7181-3328-5. Operation Tarbrush and Lane's interview by Rommel.
  • Peter Masters (1997), Striking Back – A Jewish Commando Writes, London: Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-629-3. A history of 3 Troop.