Lt-Col Mike Webb
Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Webb, who has died aged 82, fought with 2 Commando in wartime operations in Italy, the Dalmatian Islands and Albania, and held the MC and Bar.
In July 1944, the Albanian partisans were desperately in need of weapons, and the decision was made to try to establish a beachhead through which arms could be supplied. The coastline chosen was in the area of Mirara, south of the Linguetta Peninsula.
First, however, the German garrison of 150 troops at Spilje had to be overcome, and this task was given to 2 Commando, which formed part of the force that embarked from south of Bari, Italy. The landing and the approach march were made in darkness, but the Germans had been forewarned by Albanian quislings, while the barking of dogs reinforced their suspicions that an attack was imminent.
Webb, then a captain, in command of two troops of 2 Commando, had to attack a series of strongly defended enemy houses and machine gun posts. He led several assaults himself with great dash and determination, and his infectious, aggressive spirit was an inspiration to his men when he rallied them for the final attack.
His force was called upon to assist other troops who were pinned down by snipers lying up in the vineyards. Later, during a difficult disengagement, when a large number of casualties had to be evacuated to the beaches, Webb proved a tower of strength. The attack by 2 Commando accounted for most of the garrison, and the remainder was soon rounded up by the partisans. Webb's courage, unflagging energy and leadership were recognised by a Bar to his MC.
Michael Hinton Webb, the son of an officer in the South African Army, was born on June 6 1921 at Hove. His home was in Johannesburg but he was educated at Stowe and, after the outbreak of the Second World War, he returned to South Africa and enlisted in the 1st Battalion Transvaal Scottish.
He was commissioned in 1941 and embarked for the Middle East in June that year. On May 28 1942, 1/3 Battalion Transvaal Scottish, part of the 1st South African Division, was at Bir-En-Naghia in Cyrenaica, northern Africa, when a fierce attack by the Italians forced the forward outpost to withdraw. It was vital to hold this position because it dominated the battalion's lines and also the sectors on both flanks. Webb, then a lieutenant, was detailed to take two sections and occupy the outpost.
His small force, despite coming under heavy shell and machine gun fire, succeeded in re-occupying the post. The next morning, he led an attack against the Italians. More than 100 prisoners were captured, and Webb was awarded an immediate MC.
In March 1943 he was seconded to the British Army on his appointment as ADC to General Sir Brian Robertson, the Commander Tripolitania Base. Webb was fascinated by higher strategy - but a life of action held still stronger attractions and, eventually, he persuaded the general to release him. After parachute training, Webb joined 2 Commando, part of 2 Special Service Brigade and, in January 1944, he accompanied his unit to Vis.
The Germans were determined to capture the island, the last of the Dalmatians still in the hands of the partisans; for the Allies, it was essential to maintain a foothold there to keep open communications with Marshal Tito.
The commandos raided the German garrisons on the nearby islands, harassed enemy shipping and ran supplies to the partisans on the mainland. The Germans were forced on to the defensive but, although they had to shelve their invasion plans, they kept up attacks from the air.
To escape from the hurly-burly of life on Vis, 2 Commando treated the nearby island of Hvar (which was under German occupation) as a recreation centre. After telephoning the postmaster there to make sure that the coast was clear, they would take a schooner across after dark, lodge with the local partisans, spend the next day swimming and sightseeing and return that night to Vis and the war.
After the operation at Spilje Bay and, subsequently, at the port of Sarande, in which he played a key role, Webb fought with 2 Commando in the Battle of Lake Comacchio and finished the war at Molinella, north-east of Bologna.
On being released from full-time military service in April 1946, he went back to South Africa to try his hand at farming and the Stock Exchange. But life in the peacetime Cape seemed dull, selfish and safe and in 1951 he returned to England to sign up again.
With the support of a number of distinguished soldiers, including Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, Webb joined the 1st Battalion Scots Guards. Undeterred by his loss of seniority, he accompanied the battalion on two tours in Egypt as a company commander, serving with distinction and panache for the next 12 years.
In 1959 Webb was posted to the War Office as GSO2 to the Director of Military Intelligence. He retired from the Army in 1963 in the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
A charismatic leader and trainer, he was also a natural desert-fighting soldier with great self-confidence, unusual rapidity of mind and a rare intuitiveness, possessed by very few, as to what the enemy was likely to do next.
In retirement, Webb used his excellent connections and numerous Arab friendships to help the Arab cause in the Yemen and elsewhere. A colourful figure who eschewed anything but the best, he liked the champagne life and could live only in Belgravia. As old age caught up with him, he was sustained by his friendships with Sir James Goldsmith, John Aspinall and many others.
Mike Webb was unmarried.