Brigadier Michael Calvert
Michael Calvert was born on 6th March 1913 at Rohtak near Delhi, the sixth child of Olcanis and Hubert Calvert, with two older sisters and three older brothers. At the age of six, Michael went to England and was enrolled in a preparatory school in Eastbourne. His mother returned to India to join her husband when Michael was eight and the children were left in England with their Aunt Eileen. At fourteen, Michael was offered scholarships at Radley and Bradfield schools, having failed to win a scholarship in his first attempt.
His father allowed him the choice, and Michael chose Bradfield where his brother was at school. At Bradfield, Michael achieved success in maths, science and was a good athlete. The boys were aware that their father could not support them through university and the girls were encouraged to marry. The three eldest brothers were commissioned into the Royal Engineers, and Michael applied for a commission in the Royal Navy. He undertook his medical, but he accidentally kicked the doctor in the nose, and then, being naked and embarrassed, giggled. He was failed because of defective arches.
Failure to gain a commission in the Royal Navy led Michael to apply for a commission in the Royal Engineers and he was accepted. He joined RMA Woolwich as a Gentlemen Cadet in 1931 and flourished. Successful at Woolwich he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in February 1933 and posted to the RE Depot at Chatham. In October 1933, he went to St John's College, Cambridge, to read for the Mechanical Sciences Tripos. He boxed for the Army in the inter-services matches, swam and captained the Army Water Polo Team and completed his Honours Degree course at Cambridge in July 1935. He was offered postings in various parts of the world and chose Hong Kong.
Calvert arrived in Hong Kong in 1936 to join the Hong Kong Royal Engineers and was given responsibility for increasing the unit's strength from 70 to 250 and for their training. In order to communicate with his recruits, Calvert learned Cantonese, which produced an admirable response from his men. While in Hong Kong, he met both bad and good officers and learnt from both.
In 1937, Michael Calvert was posted to Shanghai, which was a treaty port at the time and under protection of the treaty power, Britain, which had a large garrison there and he witnessed much bloodshed and fighting around the port. He witnessed the Japanese attack on Hangchow Bay just outside Shanghai, where they employed landing craft. He wrote up a report that went to the Area Commander, who sent it to the War Office, from where there was no response. After being briefly imprisoned by the Japanese when they captured and raped Nanking, Calvert returned to England and leave.
Calvert trained Commandoes in New Zealand and Australia and later in China before being posted to Burma, where he met Major-General Orde Wingate, and helped in the creation of the Chindits. In 1944, Calvert was in command of the Chindits 77th Indian Infantry Brigade and was awarded the DSO and Bar and the US Silver Star.
Michael Calvert returned to Europe towards the end of the war and was given command of the SAS Brigade in March 1945, a position he held until the SAS was disbanded in October 1945.
During the Malayan Emergency, Calvert was asked by General Sir John Harding (Commander-in-Chief Far East Land Forces) to make a threat assessment of the Malayan Emergency and suggest means of defeating the Communist terrorists. Calvert spent several months in field research before presenting his paper, which drew two main conclusions: that Malaya's Chinese villagers should be moved into fortified settlements to keep them out of the Communists' influence; a special military force should be raised and trained to operate in the jungle for long periods.
Both of these suggestions were adopted and Calvert was ordered to raise the special military unit, which was to be named the Malayan Scouts. The Malayan Scouts were recruited from the thousands of military personnel in the Far East including members of the SOE, Force 36 and Ferret Force. Michael Calvert also helped devise the new unit's procedures and a key part of Calvert's operations was the 'Hearts and Minds' campaign designed to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous population, who would in turn aid the Malayan Scouts. Although Calvert was invalided home in 1952, his methods paid dividends and did much to aid the return of the SAS.
On 13th July 1951, Michael Calvert, DSO, was convicted of committing or attempting to commit acts of gross indecency with male persons and was dismissed from the service. Calvert maintains his innocence and his defence battled to get the guilty verdict retracted with no success despite the prosecution witnesses being known members of a criminal gang.
After his conviction and dismissal from the army, Calvert returned to England and obtained a job with the Shell Petroleum Company in Australia. He left for Australia at the end of 1952 depressed and destroyed by a believed miscarriage of justice. Officials of the company met him on his arrival in Australia who told him they could no longer offer him a job and suggested a post in Iraq. He turned it down and remained in Australia in a cycle of heavy drinking and hard work followed by dismissal for fighting.
Michael Calvert returned to England in 1960 and managed to conquer his alcoholism by 1964. He worked for the Great London Council in charge of recruitment and training of graduate engineers for the Highways and Transport Department, holding this post for five years from 1965.
In December 1976, Michael Calvert published an important page entitled "The Pattern of Guerrilla Warfare", which laid out the dangers of technological reliance and defence against terrorism. Throughout the 1970s, Calvert worked on a variety of books and papers, publishing some and never completing others, including military papers, text books and even a novel.
In 1996 an inquiry into his court-martial was mounted and the surviving prosecution witnesses cooperated openly and willingly, stating that the evidence they had given was false or inaccurate and were horrified to learn that the latter statements, which tried to put right the inaccuracies of the court martial, had not been accepted and the appeal dismissed.
Mad Mike: A life of Brigadier Michael Calvert By David Rooney ISBN 0850525438 Pen & Sword Books Ltd. 1997