Dane Boustead 7th Leicestershire Regiment MC (bar)
Dane Boustead, who has died aged 93, won an MC at the break-out
of Tobruk in 1941 and a Bar in the 2nd Chindit Expedition
In 1944, Operation Thursday
was launched with the aim of dropping long-range penetration
troops into the heart of Burma to strike against the rail,
road and river systems serving the Japanese army operating
against General Stilwell's American-Chinese forces approaching
from the north.
Boustead, then a captain
in the 7th Battalion the Leicestershire Regiment, flew in
to "Aberdeen", the code name for one of the fortified
bases behind enemy lines, south of Myitkyina. As with all
Chindit battalions, the 7th Leicesters were split into two
columns and, by early April, columns 47 and 74 were operating
as independent formations in the jungle.
The Japanese, highly skilled
in jungle craft and able to march and fight on a handful
of rice a day, were formidable enemies. One of their unpleasant
tactics was to dig pits at the side of the tracks in which
they inserted bamboo shoots, the ends of which had been
sharpened to a needle-sharp point. They used to fire along
these tracks, and anyone jumping out of the way risked landing
on top of the spikes.
Another of their tricks was
to poison the waterholes. Birds and many animals would drink
the water, but the mules would turn away. Where a mule drank,
the water was safe.
Boustead accompanied 74 column
on the march northwards through drenching jungle in relentless
tropical rain to link up with the Chinese army. The cumulative
effects of humidity, illness, insects, leeches and the appalling
conditions underfoot took a toll of their numbers.
On May 21 the column was
about to cross a small mountain range near Indawgyi Lake
by the Kyunsalai Pass when a coded message was received
that the Japanese were moving parallel to them and clearly
intended to use the pass. A race ensued through the teak
forest under a rising moon to be first to seize it.
The strain of trying to move
swiftly over a carpet of rustling leaves while remaining
unheard and unseen was so great that the scouts had to be
changed every 10 minutes. The forward platoon secured the
pass in the nick of time, and had just called up the rest
of the column when they heard the sound of Japanese engines
moving up it.
Boustead was ordered to take
two platoons and lay an ambush for the enemy while the rest
of the column dug in. When a company of Japanese came up
the road they were virtually annihilated. He held the position
under continuous fire and beat off an attack in company
strength until he was relieved on May 25. He was awarded
his second MC.
Edgar Mellvill Dane Boustead
was born on June 2 1911 in Colombo, Ceylon. His father's
surname was Vanderspar, but in 1951 Dane changed his name
by deed poll; Boustead was his mother's maiden name, and
he was to spend much of his life working for the family
firm, Boustead Brothers, managing agents in the tea, rubber
and insurance businesses.
He was educated at Harrow
before going up to Magdalen College, Oxford, to read PPE.
In 1932 he started work in
London with Boustead Bros, and in the same year he reached
the second round of the All England Championships at Wimbledon
- he was knocked out by Denmark's top player.
After a spell as a tea planter
in Ceylon, he worked for Boustead Bros in Colombo before
joining the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps in 1939. One of
his duties was to stand on the breakwater and defend Colombo
Harbour against invasion by the Japanese.
Boustead enlisted in the
Rifle Brigade and, in 1941, was commissioned into the Leicestershire
Regiment and saw active service in North Africa with the
2nd Battalion. On the night of November 25 that year, he
commanded a platoon in "C" Company in a night
attack near Tobruk.
When the supporting tanks
were held up by a minefield some distance short of the enemy
posts, his company continued to advance. Calling for covering
fire from his platoon, Boustead cut the wire of an enemy
post and, with one of his sections, killed or evicted the
enemy in one half of the post.
He established his platoon
there, despite having suffered 50 per cent casualties and
despite the fact that the enemy still held the trenches,
some 20 yards away, and were equipped with three machine
guns. When he ran short of ammunition, he decided to withdraw
as soon as the moon went down.
Boustead evacuated the remainder
of his platoon successfully and rejoined his company. The
enemy subsequently abandoned the post and the Leicesters
occupied it. His outstanding leadership was recognised by
the award of an MC.
He accompanied the 2nd Battalion
to Burma, where he transferred to the 7th Battalion which
had been selected for long-range penetration operations
and needed war-tried officers. After the campaign in Burma,
he returned to England and served as deputy assistant adjutant-general
at the War Office.
He had recurrent malaria
and one day collapsed in a chemist. The manager took his
temperature and offered to call the fire brigade instead
of an ambulance. In 1946 he retired from the Army and rejoined
Boustead Bros in Colombo as a director. He remained with
the company, which later became Whittall Boustead, until
he retired in 1962.
Boustead came back to England
and settled in Surrey where, for the next 20 years, he taught
O-Level English and History. He remained a proficient tennis
player, playing regularly until he was 80. He was secretary,
and subsequently chairman, of the local branch of the British
Legion for 15 years.
Dane Boustead married first,
in 1951, Auriel Noble, who predeceased him. He married secondly,
in 1980, Diana Ley, who survives him with the two daughters
of his first marriage.