Terence Otway

Last updated

Terence Brandram Hastings Otway
Batterie de Merville Terence Otway 19-08-2013 17-16-59.JPG
Born 15 June 1914
Cairo, Egypt
Died 23 July 2006
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1933 - 1948
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit Royal Ulster Rifles
Commands held 9th Parachute Battalion
15th Parachute Battalion

Second World War

Awards Distinguished Service Order
Legion d’Honneur (France)

Lieutenant Colonel Terence Brandram Hastings Otway DSO, (15 June 1914 – 23 July 2006) was an officer in the British Army, best known for his role as commander of the paratroop assault on the Merville Battery on D-Day.

Lieutenant colonel, is a rank in the British Army and Royal Marines which is also used in many Commonwealth countries. The rank is superior to major, and subordinate to colonel. The comparable Royal Navy rank is commander, and the comparable rank in the Royal Air Force and many Commonwealth air forces is Wing Commander.

Distinguished Service Order UK military decoration

The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the Commonwealth, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat. Since 1993 all ranks have been eligible.

Officer (armed forces) member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority

An officer is a member of an armed forces or uniformed service who holds a position of authority.


Early life

Otway was born in Cairo, Egypt on 15 June 1914 at the American Hospital, he returned with the family to England in 1915 where he stayed while his father served in France. From December 1918 to autumn 1921 he lived in Rushbrooke, County Cork, Ireland. The family returned to England where Terence attended the local Council school at Thame, Buckinghamshire, followed by Watford Grammar School. In the last 6 months of 1923, he became severely ill with whooping cough. As a result, on medical advice he was sent to Dover College where the sea air would help lungs that were in a poor state. He was at the Junior school until 1928 and the senior school until 1932.

Cairo City in Egypt

Cairo is the capital of Egypt. The city's metropolitan area is one of the largest in Africa, the largest in the Middle East, and the 15th-largest in the world, and is associated with ancient Egypt, as the famous Giza pyramid complex and the ancient city of Memphis are located in its geographical area. Located near the Nile Delta, modern Cairo was founded in 969 CE by the Fatimid dynasty, but the land composing the present-day city was the site of ancient national capitals whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo. Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life, and is titled "the city of a thousand minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture. Cairo is considered a World City with a "Beta +" classification according to GaWC.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Early military career

In January 1933, Otway entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst reaching the rank of Cadet Sergeant and passing out 18th of 200. Although this gave him eligibility to join the Indian Army, he chose the British and, in August 1934, was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles, based at Gravesend.

Royal Military College, Sandhurst British Army military academy

The Royal Military College (RMC), founded in 1801 and established in 1802 at Great Marlow and High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, but moved in October 1812 to Sandhurst, Berkshire, was a British Army military academy for training infantry and cavalry officers of the British and Indian Armies.

British Indian Army 1858-1947 land warfare branch of British Indias military, distinct from the British Army in India

The Indian Army (IA), often known since 1947 as the British Indian Army to distinguish it from the current Indian Army, was the principal military of the British Indian Empire before its decommissioning in 1947. It was responsible for the defence of both British Indian Empire and the princely states, which could also have their own armies. The Indian Army was an important part of the British Empire's forces, both in India and abroad, particularly during the First World War and the Second World War.

Royal Ulster Rifles British Army infantry regiment

The Royal Irish Rifles was an infantry rifle regiment of the British Army, first created in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 83rd Regiment of Foot and the 86th Regiment of Foot. The regiment saw service in the Second Boer War, the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War.

In the summer of 1935, Otway required a serious middle ear operation at The Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham. During convalescence his pub-crawling companion was the Crown Prince of Spain who was in the next room.

Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona Spanish count

Infante Juan of Spain, Count of Barcelona, was the third son and designated heir of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. His father was replaced by the Second Spanish Republic, and under his son, Juan Carlos I, a constitutional monarchy was restored.

In autumn 1935, Otway was posted to 1st Battalion, based in Hong Kong. He travelled by P & O liner to take up his post as Intelligence Officer. In May 1937, he was posted to Hong Kong HQ Cipher staff. In August 1937 he was promoted to Lieutenant and rejoined the battalion who were posted to Shanghai as part of the international force sent to protect the settlement from the Japanese who had invaded China. The battalion suffered four months of constant bombing, shelling and machine-gun fire from the Japanese, losing twenty killed. In December 1937, the battalion was posted to Rawalpindi, then part of India. On return from six weeks leave the battalion was posted to Razani, North West Frontier. Otway was appointed Signals Officer.

Hong Kong East Asian city

Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is a special administrative region on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China. With over 7.4 million people of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre (426 sq mi) territory, Hong Kong is the world's fourth most densely populated region.

Shanghai Municipality in Peoples Republic of China

Shanghai is one of the four municipalities under the direct administration of the central government of the People's Republic of China, the largest city in China by population, and the second most populous city proper in the world, with a population of 24.18 million as of 2017. It is a global financial centre and transport hub, with the world's busiest container port. Located in the Yangtze River Delta, it sits on the south edge of the estuary of the Yangtze in the middle portion of the East China coast. The municipality borders the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the north, south and west, and is bounded to the east by the East China Sea.

Rawalpindi Metropolis in Punjab, Pakistan

Rawalpindi, commonly known as Pindi, is a city in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Rawalpindi is adjacent to Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, and the two are jointly known as the "twin cities" on account of strong social and economic links between the cities. Rawalpindi is the fourth-largest city in Pakistan by population, while the larger Islamabad Rawalpindi metropolitan area is the country's third-largest metropolitan area.

Early wartime service

In August 1939, during three months leave, Otway married Stella Whitehead, daughter of Basil Whitehead of Bovey Tracey, Devon, a retired Colonial Police Officer, who had been Chief of Police in Penang, Malaya. Terence and Stella returned to Rawalpindi, but Stella flew home in April 1940, while the battalion returned by sea to Oxford for conversion to mechanised infantry (from the camels, mules and horses they had been using in India.)

Bovey Tracey village in United Kingdom

Bovey Tracey is a small town and civil parish in Devon, England, on the edge of Dartmoor, its proximity to which gives rise to the "slogan" used on the town's boundary signs, "The Gateway to the Moor". It is often known locally as "Bovey". It is about 10 miles south-west of Exeter and lies on the A382 road, about halfway between Newton Abbot and Moretonhampstead. The village is at the centre of the electoral ward of Bovey. At the 2011 census the population of this ward was 7,721.

Devon County of England

Devon, also known as Devonshire, which was formerly its common and official name, is a county of England, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It is part of South West England, bounded by Cornwall to the west, Somerset to the north east, and Dorset to the east. The city of Exeter is the county town. The county includes the districts of East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, and West Devon. Plymouth and Torbay are each geographically part of Devon, but are administered as unitary authorities. Combined as a ceremonial county, Devon's area is 6,707 km2 and its population is about 1.1 million.

Penang State of Malaysia

Penang is a Malaysian state located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, by the Malacca Strait. It has two parts: Penang Island, where the capital city, George Town, is located, and Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula. The second smallest Malaysian state by land mass, Penang is bordered by Kedah to the north and the east, and Perak to the south. Currently, Penang is home to Southeast Asia's Longest bridge connecting the island to mainland.

In December 1940, Otway was promoted to Major. He went to Staff College in June 1941, passing out 4th of 200 in December 1941. During 1942 he served as a Staff Officer in London, responsible for briefings and briefing papers for the War Cabinet. In July 1943 he returned to the Royal Ulster Rifles as a Company Commander. The battalion was part of the 6th Airborne Division.



In August 1943, Otway transferred to the Parachute Regiment to become Second-in-Command of the 9th Battalion. In March 1944, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and took over as Commanding Officer.

The Normandy landings - the invasion of Europe took place in June 1944. The 9th were dropped in the night before to secure vital objectives, particularly to neutralise the Merville Gun Battery.

In spite of severe problems in the landing, his battalion took the Merville Battery. Otway started with about 750 men, few of whom had seen action before; of the 150 who took part in the attack, 65 had been either killed or wounded by the end of the action, which saved a great many Allied lives.

His numerically weak and all but exhausted battalion then pushed into Le Plein, where they encountered stiffening resistance and, despite their depleted numbers, took Château St Come on the ridge, and succeeded in beating off two enemy attacks, each of several hours duration, by a regiment of 21st Panzer Division.

Two days later during a routine tour of his positions, a stray shell landed close to Otway. He was diagnosed with severe concussion and on the 19th July 1944 was subsequently evacuated [1] to hospital in Cardiff, then graded unfit for a return to active service, and was posted as a Staff Officer to the War Office.

Otway was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in October 1944 for his outstanding leadership in the actions at Merville and Le Plein. The citation for his DSO stated that his utter disregard for personal danger had been an inspiration to all his men.

Service in Asia

He was regraded category 'A' in May 1945 and posted as Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion King's Regiment (Liverpool) (Wingate's Burma Force) in Rawalpindi with instructions to turn them into the 15th (King's) Parachute Battalion, part of 77th Indian Parachute Brigade attached to the 2nd Indian Airborne Division. In September 1945, Terence was appointed GSO1 at Division which was posted to Karachi, where in December Stella and his son, Michael joined him. After one year Terence was posted to the War Office as a GSO1 and the family returned home. His task was to write the official history of "Airborne Forces". Originally restricted, it finally became available to the public in 1990 as Army Airborne Forces in the Second World War to mark their 50th anniversary.

Post-war career

Disillusioned with the post-war Army, Otway resigned his commission in January 1948. He joined the Colonial Development Corporation as Assistant General Manager, The Gambia, transferring a year later as a General Manager to Nyasaland. In June 1949 he was invalided back to the UK and banned from further service in the East.

Between 1949 and 1965 Otway worked in the area of sales and management, starting by selling life insurance as a learning experience and culminating as General Manager for Kemsley Newspapers (later Thomson Newspapers) and then as Managing Director of the Empire News , a Sunday paper with a circulation of 5.5 million. After the Thomson take-over Terence resigned over financing requirements of the papers.

He started an import/export business specialising in toys and gifts with a shop in Knightsbridge. The business prospered until, in 1965, a change in Value Added Tax law effectively killed it. After a brief period with Outward Bound, Otway joined Scotia Investments Ltd., a public company in the Leisure field, as Administrative Controller in 1966. In 1975, he sensed an impending scandal over misuse of funds and resigned, joining the London Chamber of Commerce with responsibility for membership. He retired in 1979, but retained various connections with business in non-executive directorships.


During retirement, he continued to remain active particularly in areas relating to the welfare of soldiers and their widows, as well as historical aspects of The Parachute Regiment, especially in respect of monuments in Normandy, France. He became known as 'Colonel X' when fighting for the rights of serviceman's' widows and their pensions. He was instrumental in persuading the Government to change their miserly attitude. In 1991, aged 76, he still had the energy to take up the cases of three guardsmen seriously injured during a training exercise in Canada, publicising the issue and successfully putting pressure on the Government for adequate compensation for the men.

In 1995, his health and energy undiminished, he was still pruning branches, perched on a ladder, from a tree in the garden of his home in Tadworth, Surrey, to some consternation of his third wife Jeannie. He was also involved on the fringes in the case for the release of Lee Clegg, a paratrooper imprisoned for murder after a shooting in Northern Ireland at the time of the troubles.

Honours and awards

When he met the German commander of the battery in 1993 he admitted that he did not have the guts to refuse the proferred hand, but said afterwards that he could not forget his men, shot by the Germans as they hung helpless in trees. He shooed away picknickers from the battery, which is now a memorial and museum, declaring: "I don't like people eating and drinking where my men died."

The citizens of Merville-Franceville-Plage in Normandy, France, decided to honour Otway by the placing of a bust depicting him at the age of 29 at the time of D-Day and the assault on the battery. This was unveiled in the grounds of the Merville Battery Museum on 7 June 1997 by himself, Raymond Triboulet, a leader of the French Resistance during the war, and Olivier Paz, the Mayor. The bust was sculpted by Vivienne Mallock who had also created busts of John Howard, Bernard Law Montgomery and Richard Nelson Gale. There was a large family gathering to witness the ceremony and twenty-one people sat down to dinner that night at the Moulin du Pre, a local restaurant, converted from a farmhouse, coincidentally the same farmhouse against which Otway landed on the night before D-Day.

In 2001, he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, and more recently had a new road near the battery named after him (Rue Colonel Otway).

In 2007 his medals and beret were donated to the Merville Battery Museum by his wife, Jean. Visitors can now see the DSO and Légion d'honneur, along with a description of the battle by Terence taken from a BBC documentary.

Film & Media

For the 50th anniversary, Mark Fielder produced a documentary called 'D-Day: Turning the Tide' in which Charles Wheeler, a D-Day landings veteran, visited the area of the Merville Battery and interviewed some of the protagonists, including Lt. Col. Terence Otway, and Raimund Steiner - the commander of the battery at the time of the assault. The documentary also features Maj John Howard who led the glider-borne attack on Pegasus Bridge.

In 2004, for the D-Day 60th Anniversary programming, the BBC commissioned a drama-documentary entitled D-Day 6 June 1944 which included interviews with members of both the Allied and German armed forces, along with dramatisations of some of the key scenes. Terence described the battle, and his character was played by Philip Rham. The film was later released on DVD.


  1. "Terence Brandram Hastings Otway". British Airborne Forces Club. 1 August 2006. Retrieved 12 May 2016.

Related Research Articles

Operation Tonga airborne operation during World War II

Operation Tonga was the codename given to the airborne operation undertaken by the British 6th Airborne Division between 5 June and 7 June 1944 as a part of Operation Overlord and the D-Day landings during the Second World War.

6th Airborne Division (United Kingdom) military unit

The 6th Airborne Division was an airborne infantry division of the British Army during the Second World War. Despite its name, the 6th was actually the second of two airborne divisions raised by the British Army during the war, the other being the 1st Airborne Division. The 6th Airborne Division was formed in World War II, in mid-1943, and was commanded by Major-General Richard N. Gale. The division consisted of the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades along with the 6th Airlanding Brigade and supporting units.

Merville-Franceville-Plage Commune in Normandy, France

Merville-Franceville-Plage is a commune in the Calvados department in the Normandy region in northwestern France.

Richard Winters American military personnel

Richard Davis "Dick" Winters was an officer of the United States Army and a decorated war veteran. He is best known for commanding Easy Company of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division, during World War II. He was eventually promoted to major and put in command of the 2nd Battalion.

Merville Gun Battery bunker

The Merville Gun Battery was a coastal fortification in Normandy, France, in use as part of the Germans' Atlantic Wall built to defend continental Europe from Allied invasion. It was a particularly heavily fortified position and one of the first places to be attacked by Allied forces during the Normandy Landings commonly known as D-Day. A British force under the command of Terence Otway succeeded in capturing this position, suffering heavy casualties.

Anthony Percival Johnson DSO, known as Johnny Johnson, was a British Army officer.

George Van Horn Moseley Jr. was born in Fort Sam Houston, Texas on January 4, 1905, the son of George Van Horn Moseley and Alice Dodds Moseley. His father, then an officer in the 1st Cavalry Division, later rose to become a major general and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army during the Hoover Administration.

James Hill (British Army officer) British Army officer during World War II

Brigadier Stanley James Ledger Hill, was a British Army officer, who served as commander of the 3rd Parachute Brigade, part of the 6th Airborne Division, during the Second World War. Born in Bath, Somerset, Hill was educated at Marlborough College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst before joining the British Army in 1931 and being commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers. He commanded a platoon for a short period, and was then attached to the command post of Field Marshal Lord Gort during the Battle of France in May 1940, where he oversaw the evacuation of Brussels as well as the beach at De Panne during the evacuation of Dunkirk. After a brief period of time in the Irish Free State, he volunteered for parachute training and joined the 1st Parachute Battalion, and was its commanding officer when its parent formation, the 1st Parachute Brigade, was deployed to North Africa.

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion

The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was an airborne infantry battalion of the Canadian Army formed in July 1942 during the Second World War; it served in North West Europe, Landing in Normandy during Operation Tonga, in conjunction with the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944 and in the airborne assault crossing of the River Rhine, Operation Varsity, in March 1945. After the end of hostilities in Europe, the battalion was returned to Canada where it was disbanded on 30 September 1945.

3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment

The 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, is a battalion sized formation of the British Army's Parachute Regiment and is a subordinate unit within 16 Air Assault Brigade.

Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Stuart Gray was a senior British Army officer who was General Officer Commanding South East District from 1985 to 1988, Colonel Commandant of the Parachute Regiment from 1990 to 1993 and Lieutenant of the Tower of London from 1995 to 1998.

Edwin Flavell British Army officer

Brigadier Edwin William Conquest Flavell DSO, MC & Two Bars was a British Army officer who served in both World War I and World War II. He served with great distinction during the latter, where he commanded the 1st Parachute Brigade in North Africa and the 6th Airlanding Brigade in Normandy, before becoming Deputy Chief of Staff HQ First Allied Airborne Army.

Napier Crookenden British Army general

Lieutenant General Sir Napier Crookenden, KCB, DSO, OBE, DL was a British Army General who reached high office in the 1960s.

7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion

The 7th Parachute Battalion was an airborne infantry battalion of the Parachute Regiment, formed by the British Army during the Second World War. The battalion was raised in November 1942 by the conversion of the 10th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry to parachute duties. It was initially assigned to the 3rd Parachute Brigade, part of 1st Airborne Division, but moved to the 5th Parachute Brigade, alongside the 12th and 13th Parachute battalions, of the 6th Airborne Division soon afterwards.

8th (Midlands) Parachute Battalion

The 8th (Midlands) Parachute Battalion was an airborne infantry battalion of the Parachute Regiment, raised by the British Army during the Second World War. The battalion was created in late 1942 by the conversion of the 13th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment to parachute duties. The battalion was assigned to the 3rd Parachute Brigade, serving alongside the 7th and 9th Parachute battalions, in the 1st Airborne Division before being reassigned to help form the 6th Airborne Division in May 1943.

9th (Eastern and Home Counties) Parachute Battalion

The 9th Parachute Battalion was an airborne infantry battalion of the Parachute Regiment, raised by the British Army during the Second World War. The battalion was created in late 1942 by the conversion of the 10th Battalion, Essex Regiment to parachute duties. The battalion was assigned to the 3rd Parachute Brigade, alongside the 7th and 8th Parachute battalions, then part of the 1st Airborne Division but was later transferred to the 6th Airborne Division.

Battle of Bréville

The Battle of Bréville was fought by the British 6th Airborne Division and the German 346th Infantry Division, between 8 and 13 June 1944, during the early phases of the invasion of Normandy in the Second World War.

224th (Parachute) Field Ambulance

The 224th (Parachute) Field Ambulance was a Royal Army Medical Corps unit of the British airborne forces during the Second World War.

Battle of Merville Gun Battery

The Battle of Merville Gun Battery occurred on 6 June 1944, as part of Operation Tonga, part of the Normandy landings, during the Second World War. Allied intelligence believed the Merville Gun Battery was composed of heavy-calibre guns that could threaten the British landings at Sword Beach, only 8 miles (13 km) away.

Edward Shames U.S. army officer during World War II

Colonel Edward D. Shames is a retired United States Army enlisted man and officer who later served in the U.S. Army Reserve. During World War II he was assigned to the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Shames is the last surviving officer and, following the death of Donald Malarkey, oldest surviving member of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He is Jewish and was affected deeply by seeing Nazi Germany's concentration camps.