Captain Bryan Hilton - Jones
Captain Bryan Hilton-Jones formed the X Troop and conducted many missions including quest to get an Enigma machine
X Troop was set up by Winston Churchill to wreak brutal revenge on Germany. Led by a Welsh man from Harlech
The mastermind of the “Enigma pinch,” as it was called, was Commander Ian Fleming, personal assistant to the director of Naval Intelligence (and later author of the James Bond novels). Approximately half a mile offshore, beyond the reach of the German batteries but near enough to see what was happening on the beaches, Fleming watched in shock and horror from the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Fernie, one of the two headquarters ships, as reports of slaughter on the beaches came pouring in. Instead of this disaster, Fleming’s commandos were supposed to have found the Enigma machine and its relevant codebooks
and brought them to him, so that he could whisk the crucial goods back to England. The evidence I’ve found on the X Troopers who took part in Operation Jubilee supports the theory that at the heart of the raid was the quest to get an Enigma machine, and the X Troopers appear to have been crucial to Fleming’s plan. Their fluency in German meant that they could quickly evaluate the documents in the hotel and decide what they should bring to Fleming. It would also mean that they could do on-site interrogations of captured Germans. The particular requirements of this operation explain not only how the men ended up in Operation Jubilee but perhaps also how X Troop came to be formed in the first place. Lord Mountbatten, who was overseeing the Enigma pinch as chief of Combined Operations, at that time was also administering the creation of the No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando. He likely suggested to Bryan Hilton-Jones that they pick a handful of fluent German speakers to
join the Dieppe Raid. The precise timing of X Troop’s establishment lends further support to this theory. Hilton-Jones recorded in the X Troop war diary that on July 11, 1942, X Troop was officially formed and “the first raw material consisted of a Sergeant from the Pioneer Corps and six ex [Pioneer Corps] privates from Military Intelligence, War office.” At first the handful of
recruits who were chosen specifically for Dieppe were attached to No. 1 Commando, but on July 23 they were moved to Harlech, in northern Wales, where, according to Hilton-Jones, “10 Commando HQ was situated and itself was in the process of forming.” It thus seems that two things happened simultaneously: German speakers were recruited for the Dieppe Raid, and when Mountbatten wanted a German-speaking unit for 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando, he used this group as his first recruits.
An energetic, highly capable, and driven Welshman, Bryan Hilton-Jones, was chosen as the Commanding officer (CO) of X Troop. Hilton-Jones was an accomplished and dedicated mountaineer with a first-class degree in modern languages from Cambridge; he was fluent in Welsh, English, French, German, Arabic, and Spanish. He had been raised in a wealthy family in Wales and had spent a lot of time in Egypt visiting his grandparents, who owned department stores in Cairo and Alexandria. He was willowy and dashing, with wavy brown hair and green eyes. Hilton-Jones joined the army on July 15, 1939, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in June 1940. By May of 1941 he had been selected for the Intelligence Corps due to his keen mind and fluency in languages, especially German, which he had studied at the University of Bonn. In December, bored with a desk job, Hilton-Jones volunteered for the army’s No. 4 Commando, where he took part in cross Channel raids. In July of 1942 he was promoted to captain and assumed command of X Troop. Now Hilton-Jones confronted his next big challenge: he had been given command of a unit that had no men. Somewhere, somehow, he would have to find the soldiers to fill it. As he later wrote in the X Troop war diary, he decided that he would use an unusually high
standard to recruit. For their success in Operation Tarbrush, Bryan Hilton-Jones and George Lane were awarded the Military Cross in August 1944. The Skipper’s commendation note read that “the whole of the Tarbrush operations were only made possible by the outstanding leadership and organizing ability of Captain Hilton-Jones. In spite of lack of sleep on seven consecutive nights, it was largely due to his untiring efforts that these urgent operations were brought to such a successful conclusion.” In Lane’s citation it was noted that the intelligence about the mines had “a direct bearing on the final plans for Overlord. The operation was of the highest importance,” and due to Lane’s “tenacity and purpose [he] assisted in obtaining the vital intelligence,” which meant that D-Day could go on as planned. Locked away in Spangenberg Castle, Lane surely would have been heartened to know that he had contributed to keeping the invasion on track. Medals and praise were all very well, but what mattered most to Captain Hilton-Jones and Lieutenant Lane were the men they had spent the past two years molding into shape and the mission upon which they were about to embark. D-Day would be the ultimate crucible and testing ground for the secret Jewish commandos of X Troop.
New Book: X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II
Prof. Leah Garrett
Larry A. and Klara Silverstein Chair in Jewish Studies
Department of Classical and Oriental Studies
Hunter College, City University of New York
Hunter West 1328