Colonel Sir Ronald Thomas Stewart Macpherson was a highly decorated Scottish British Army officer during and after the Second World War. He fought with the No. 11 Commando unit and French Resistance forces, becoming infamous among Axis forces as the “Kilted Killer”.
Having caused so much damage to military infrastructure, a bounty of 300,000 francs was placed upon his head. He was awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre three times, and the Légion d’honneur.
McPherson entered the Commandos from school at the start of World War II. He conducted raids against Rommel in North Africa, with the Maquis in France and fought in Italy. He believed he would die in battle and believing this it made him take incredible risks.
Two days after D-day, on June 8th 1944, MacPherson was parachuted into France to help organise the French Resistance known as the Maquis. He was kitted out in full Highland battledress including kilt & dirk (dagger). This was deliberate and designed to focus the attention of the Maquis on his daring and successful raiding rather than on his youth (he was 23).
The Germans also paid attention him and set a 300,000-franc reward for the capture of this ‘bandit’.
MacPherson was informed that a German column of 7000 hardened fighting men supported by 15,000 garrison troops under Major General Erich Elster, was withdrawing to the German border through the gap between two advancing Allied armies.
Via the Loire Valley lay a vital bridge which the Resistance had been ordered to hold. They possessed light weapons and MacPherson reasoned their death was the most likely outcome – unless the German General could be persuaded to give up without fighting.
So MacPherson in full Highland dress drives in a vehicle openly flying both the Union Jack & the Cross of Lorraine, toward the German commander.
MacPherson: “my job was to convince the General that I had a brigade, tanks and artillery waiting on the other side of the river and they could not get through. The clincher was when I told him that I was in contact with London by radio and could at any time call up the RAF to blow his people out of sight. The truth, the only thing I could whistle up was Dixie, but he had no way of knowing that.” The German General believed MacPherson and so he surrendered.
Quotes from MacPherson’s autobiography ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ – the Amazon link is given below in sources:
“Late that evening I was racking my brains, trying to think how we could withstand such a superior force, when I was summoned to the local telephone exchange, where of all things, a perfectly normal landline call came to me from Captain Arthur Cox, another Jedburgh who was in an area in the middle Loire. He had tracked me down, perhaps through radio contact with London, to give me the news that he had been approached by the Americans, who were asking for an attempt to be made to get the surrender of the Germans under Elster.’
‘The German general accepted the inevitable but continued to fret about his own protection and that of his troops. We eventually agreed that he would order an immediate ceasefire, with his troops laying their arms but retaining them and not moving from their existing locations until they were handed over to the safe custody of the Americans. We had just finished these negotiations and got his signature when up came Lieutenant Samuel Magill of the 329th Infantry. (He was) accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel Jules French, who saluted politely and said he would be very pleased indeed to take immediate responsibility for all 23,000 Germans’.
‘On the way out I exchanged some words with the black-uniformed colonel (Elser’s second in command). I had a sneaking suspicion that, although he looked like a tough and seasoned soldier, he was probably quite glad at the outcome and appreciated the inevitable end of the war. He handed over to me his Luger pistol… the staff flag, a metal pennant from his rather smart Mercedes staff car. I also kept a copy of the surrender document, which was delivered to the War Office in my final report.’
The German surrender to allied forces:Major General Erich Elster
After the war, MacPherson went to Oxford University, became a Royal Equerry and worked in the timber trade. Settling in Newtonmore, Inverness-shire, with his wife Lady Jean MacPherson.
One of Britain’s most decorated former soldiers, MacPherson was also appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London in 1977, and served as High Sheriff of Greater London in 1983. Knighted in 1992. He was also a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur and was personally awarded the Star of Bethlehem and a papal knighthood by the Pope.
He married, in 1953, Jean Butler-Wilson, who survives him, with their two sons and a daughter.
Sir Thomas Macpherson, born October 4 1920, died November 6 2014
Rest In Peace, Noble Warrior.