Major Colin McVean Gubbins

born in Yokohama

Educated at Cheltenham College, at the age of 19 Colin Gubbins entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, serving throughout the Great War with the Royal Artillery. 

1914 Sep 16. Gubbins was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in 1914. On the outbreak of war he was visiting the German city of Heidelberg in order to improve his German language skills and had to make a perilous journey back to Britain via Belgium, arriving in Dover the day before Britain entered the conflict. Gubbins served as a battery officer on the Western Front, initially serving with the 126th Battery as part of the British Army's 3rd Corps.

1914 Nov 9 . Moved to France

1915 May 22. He first saw action in the Second Battle of Ypres

1915 Jun 9. He was promoted to lieutenant.

1916 Jul. He fought in the Battle of the Somme and received the Military Cross for rescuing wounded men under fire.

1916 Sep 22. MC For conspicuous gallantry. When one of his guns and its detachment were blown up by a heavy shell, he organised a rescue party and personally helped to dig out the  wounded while shells were falling all round.

1916 Oct 7. He was wounded in the neck by a gunshot but fully recovered.

1917 Nov 1. 29 Bde RFA 126 Bty A/Maj.

1917 In the Spring Gubbins participated in the Battle of Arras and in the winter suffered the effects of mustard gas.  

1918 Feb 12. Gubbins was promoted to captain and took part in the Battle of St Quentin.

1918 Apr 17. Shortly afterwards he was evacuated from the front with a case of trench fever

1919 Apr 13 he joined the staff of General Sir Edmund Ironside in the North Russia Campaign serving as his ADC in Murmansk from 13 April

1919 Sep 27. Ceased to be ADC to Ironside.

1919 Nov 2 . Gubbins was posted to the 47th Battery of the 5th Division in Kildare. He served as an intelligence officer and in 1920 attended a three-day course in guerrilla warfare organized by the HQ 5th Division. Gubbins characterised his service in the conflict as "being shot at from behind hedges by men in trilbys and mackintoshes and not allowed to shoot back". There is no open page relating to Gubbin’s service in Ireland 2-11-1919 to 27-9-1922

1921 Nov 28 He was brigade major RA attached to 5th division in the Curragh until 21-1-22 and 28-3-22 to 22 Sep 22 

1922 Jun 28. Promoted to Brigade Major, he provided 18-pounder artillery pieces to the Irish Free State Army for the attack on the rebel held Dublin Four Courts. He handed the two field guns over to Emmet Dalton. The guns were from the 17th Field battery. Gubbins biographers say he participated in the attack on the Four courts from Winetavern street and Bridgefoot street.

1922 Jul 8. Ten days later he reluctantly provided a gun carriage and six black horses for the funeral of ex-IRA leader Michael Collins who had been assassinated by his former comrades.

1922 Sep 27. He was posted back to England.

1925 Jan 14 Adjutant

1926 Apr 21. GSO3, Army Headquarters, India

1928 After a period with signals intelligence at GHQ India, Gubbins graduated from the Staff College at Quetta

1931 Feb 1. was appointed GSO3 in the Russian section of the War Office. Having been promoted to brevet major, in 1935 he joined MT1, the policy making branch of the military training directorate.

1933Apr 8. Brigade Major, Royal Artillery, Eastern Command Bt. Maj.

1933 Jul 1.   Major

1938 Jul 1.  Bt. Lt.Col

1938 Oct in the aftermath of the Munich Agreement, he was sent to the Sudetenland as a military member of the International Commission.

1939 Apr. He joined GS(R) — later to become MI(R) , where he prepared training manuals on irregular warfare, which were later translated and dropped into occupied Europe.

1939 Head of Military Intelligence mission to Poles and Czechs in Paris, France A/Col. 20.04.1940 Commander, Ind. Coys (NW Exp. Force), Norway (DSO) to discuss sabotage and subversion with the Polish General Staff. 

1939 Oct 1. GSO2. War Office (Military Intelligence Department)  

His experiences in the Russian Civil War and his subsequent experience during the Anglo-Irish War stimulated his lifelong interest in irregular warfare. One of the lessons drawn from the Anglo-Irish War was the importance of captured enemy documents which had provided the security forces with a wealth of invaluable intelligence on the IRA. Upon later establishing SOE, one of the key security features introduced was "Commit as little as possible to writing. Memorise if you can. If you must carry documents, select what you must carry. Burn all secret waste and carbons".

1940 May 25, 2 Acting Commander, 24th Infantry Brigade (Guards) (Norway) A/Brig. Gubbins commanded independent companies, the forerunners of the commandos, during the Norwegian campaign, April–June 1940, and formed secret stay-behind parties who were to have disrupted rear areas of the German UK invasion force ( SEALION).

Nov 1940, He joined SOE, in charge of training and operations, and became its mainspring; from September 1943 he was its executive director. Having once got its resources organized, he was glad to place them at disposal of local Cs-in-C.

02.07.1940 Raised & commanded AUXILIARY UNITS, GHQ Home Forces WS/Lt.Col. 20.10.1940 Director of Operations & Trg, SOE (Executive Head of Special  T/Col. 20.10.1940 Operations Executive 1943) (KCMG & CMG) Col. 05.12.1941 Seniority 01.07.1941 (retd 27.04.1946) T/Brig. 26.04.1941   A/Maj.Gen. 21.12.1942   T/Maj.Gen 21.12.1942   Retired 26.04.1946

1940 Aug 6. DSO  Norway

1944 Jan 1. CMG 

1946 Jan 1. KCMG

Foreign Awards: Officier Légion d'Honneur (France);    Grand Officier Order of Leopold (Belgium); Croix de Guerre (Belgium);    Order of Dannebrog, 1st cl. (Denmark);    Commander, Royal Order of St Olav, with star (Norway; 26.02.1954);  Grand Officer Order of Orange Nassau (the Netherlands);    Polonia Restituta (Poland);    Commander Legion of Merit (USA; 14.05.1948). Comdr Order of White Lion -


British Intelligence in Dublin Castle