Colin McVean Gubbins grew up in Japan where his father worked in the British consular service. After being sent back to England and educated at Cheltenham College, at the age of 19 Gubbins entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. Gubbins served throughout the Great War with the Royal Artillery gaining the Military Cross while serving on the Western Front and getting wounded.In 1919 Gubbins went to Russia where he served under General Edmund Ironside and General Anton Denikin in the White Army. He also served in the Anglo-Irish war of 1919-21. His experiences in Russia and Ireland gave him clear insights into the nature of guerrilla warfare. He joined Military Intelligence and wrote a series of pamphlets on the subject including "The Art of Guerrilla Warfare", "Partisan Leader's Handbook" and "How to Use High Explosives".
After the fall of Poland in September 1939 he was head of Military Intelligence mission to Poles and Czechs in Paris, France. In 1940 he moved to Norway to command the Independent Companies (forerunners of the Commandos), also under MI(R) auspices. For this he was awarded the DSO.
In November 1940 Gubbins was seconded to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which had recently been established. Besides maintaining his existing connections with the Poles and Czechs, Gubbins was given three tasks: to set up training facilities; to devise operating procedures acceptable to the Admiralty and Air Ministry; and to establish close working relations with the Joint Planning Staff. As head of SOE, Gubbins co-ordinated the activities of resistance movements worldwide. Gubbins' role involved consultation at the highest level with the Foreign Office, the Chiefs of Staff, representatives of the resistance organizations, governments-in-exile, and other Allied agencies including particularly the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
In 1946, when the Special Operations Executive had been disbanded, the War Office had no suitable work for him. He became Managing Director of a Scottish carpet company, Grays at Newton of Ayr close to Prestwick Airport. Gubbins spent his last years at his home in the Hebrides, on the Isle of Harris. He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of the islands area of the Western Isles in 1976.
16 September, 1914: 2nd Lieutenant - Royal Artillery
9 June, 1915: Lieutenant
16 August, 1916: Acting Captain
2 January, 1918: Acting Captain
1 November, 1917 - 27 december 1917: Acting Major (backdated)
12 February, 1918: Captain
22 March, 1919: Adjudant Chef (ADC)
6 October, 1919: commission relinquished
1 October, 1922: temporary commission relinquished as Brigade Major
14 January, 1925: Adjudant
21 April,1926: Seconded to the Staff in India; Area Head Quarters - General Staff Officer, 3rd Grade
20 February, 1928: Staff College Quetta
16 February, 1928: vacated appointment India
1 February, 1931: General Staff Officer, 3rd Grade, War Office
8 April, 1933: Brigade Major Regular Army 4th Division
1 July, 1933: Batalion Major
24 February, 1934: Batalion Major
1 February, 1935: Commission relinquished as Brigade Major
1 October, 1935: Seconded as General Staff Officer, 2nd Grade, War Officer
1 July, 1938: Batalion Lieutenant-Colonel
1 October, 1941: Lieutenant-Colonel
5 December, 1941: Colonel
21 December, 1943: Temporary Major-General
27 April, 1946: retirement - Honoray Major-General
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