Captain George Paterson MC**
- Second World War Medal Set
Left to Right: Military Cross and Two Bars, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star and 1939-45 War Medal.
The medals of Captain George R. Paterson include a Military Cross with its distinctive purple and white ribbon. Given for gallantry under enemy action, this set records not one but three awards (represented by the two additional bars) of this medal! Two relate to his actions in combat and his escape from capture. The third is from an intelligence service and remains secret.
Captain Paterson left Kelowna, BC, as a student to study forest engineering in Edinburgh before the war. In 1939 he joined the Royal Engineers, who trained him in demolition. He soon found himself the only Canadian of the first combat jump of an elite special forces unit in the British Special Air Service (S.A.S.). They parachuted into Italy and after completing a sabotage mission all survivors were captured trying to get to a submarine waiting on the coast.
After several years as prisoner managed to escape while being moved by train to Germany. He and other pulled up boards in the boxcar and when the train slowed he jumped. After crossing the frontier into Switzerland he was debriefed by a secret Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) intelligence officer. Paterson agreed to return for them as an S.O.E. liaison officer to work with the partisans in northern Italy.
Captured in a fire fight during a mountain ambush he was placed in a Gestapo prison in Milan. Using a disguise he escaped again and rejoined the Italian partisans, who liberated Milan prior to the Allies’ arrival. He was there when Mussolini was captured while fleeing to Germany, and tried and executed by partisans. Paterson also knew about the clandestine Jewish resistance’s escape route for refugees from Europe that passed through Milan on to Palestine. He was in Milan the war ended on VE Day (May 8, 1945).
A modest man, he returned to forestry after the war. The City of Milan granted him Honourary Citizenship and he returned to see his partisan friends long afterwards. He retired to Sidney, BC, to fish and enjoy his grandchildren, and expressed mild embarrassment when a book, Mouth of the Wolf was written about his service. He died in 2004
His collection, a gift of his descendants, includes documents and photograph albums. A few sample pages are seen here.