Capt (T/Maj) Alan Gardiner REDFERN MBE Rhodesian African Rifles, Kings Royal Rifle Corps and LRDG OC B Sqn. January 1, 194301/01/43 as T/Capt Rhodesian African Rifles for running commando training courses in Gwelo, Southern Rhodesia – many of these commandos were incorporated into the LRDG. He transferred as a Captain from the Rhodesian African Rifles to be a 2nd Lt in the KRRC on 22/04/43 (Gazette 15/10/43). He is known to have taken over S1 patrol in May 1943 [WO218/91] and to have commanded a patrol that sailed from Leros to Simi on 24/09/43 to help in the islands defence when the Germans attempted to take it. From here he was sending back valuable information about Rhodes[Byo Chronicle 20/06/45]. He took over B Squadron a month before his death when Easonsmith sent Lloyd Owen back to Cairo.
During the attack on Leros Redfern is known to have been part of the combined LRDG/SBS mobile reaction force of 3 officers and 27 men that were held in reserve at Point 112, north of Gurna Bay, just a few hundred yards from the German DZ. When he received no orders from HQ during the parachutists descent he is said to have organised T2 Patrol to remain at Point 112 whilst sending Y Patrol to the north of Point 64 (Germano), and leading T1 into the northeast side of Germano [Churchills Folly]. In LRDG Newsletter No.49 (1993) Don Coventry wrote: At approximately 1500hrs on 12th November an enemy air fleet of some thirty troop carriers came in below Clidi Heights and dropped parachutists, which resulted in cutting the island in half. During this engagement Captain Alan Redfern was killed.
He was killed in action instantly by machine gun fire on Leros whilst leading a composite LRDG and SBS party in a close struggle with 500 German parachutists who had been dropped on the narrow strip between Gurna and Alinda bays. In LRDG Rhodesia Gordon Broderick is quoted as stating that: An S1 patrol member said that they had done a night patrol to try and deny the Germans access to their containers. The Skipper went up to look over a rise and was met by heavy machine gun fire. The others had to withdraw.
Lloyd Owen wrote: his loss was a great blow as he was a much liked and respected officer. He had done invaluable work with us. On 22/06/45 the Bulawayo Chronicle echoes this: His death was a sad blow to his squadron and his unit. A most gallant leader, who thought always of his men before himself, his splendid character and cool judgment were capable of solving any problem. Many Rhodesians will remember the commando training he put them through at Gwelo.
12/11/43.Son of Arthur William and Margaret Alice Redfern of Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. Husband of Agnes Opal Redfern of Salisbury. Age 37. Rest in Peace. Leros 3.C.9.
Alan Redfern was the eldest of three sons. He was born in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia on 8 February 1906. He attended Salisbury Boys High School (later renamed Prince Edward). While still a young schoolboy, Alan was never happier than at weekends and during school holidays, when he camped out in the veld. On such occasions he took very little equipment apart from a light rifle and a blanket, and would set off with no other food than mealie meal and condensed milk. He and his native companion were content to live on these and on the wild doves which they shot and cooked.
Alan passed his Matriculation examination before reaching the age of 17 years. Shortly afterwards he joined the Southern Rhodesia Civil Service, and held posts in the Native Department (later renamed Internal Affairs) in various localities, notably at Mtetengwe, near present day Beit Bridge, Zaka and Plumtree, bordering the Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana). While stationed at Mtetengwe he met his wife-to-be, Opal Wilson. They were married in the South African mining town of Messina in March 1931.
Alan studied, and became highly proficient in, both the main local African languages, Chishona and Sindebele. While based at Plumtree, he was appointed Assistant Native Commissioner. With the outbreak of the Second World War, he volunteered for military service and was commissioned into the newly-formed Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR) in 1940, where his knowledge of native languages and customs was needed, as recruits came from the tribal areas. Later, when an invasion of southern Africa by the Axis powers was considered a possibility, Capt Redfern (OC B Coy 1RAR at the time) was tasked with training men as commandos who could undertake guerrilla operations. Many men trained by Capt Redfern in irregular warfare volunteered for the LRDG and formed S1 patrol. Alan Redferns successful training of commandoes earned him the MBE. He accepted this honour with the understanding that he could join the men of the LRDG, whom he had personally trained and for whom he had high regard.
His main hobby was the study of nature and wild life. Along with his father, he turned from hunting big game animals with a rifle to photographing them in their natural environment. While on a hunting trip in1935, Alans father was attacked by a lion. Alan managed to kill the lion while it was on top of his father, who had been severely mauled. Alan negotiated sandy bush tracks to the nearest hospital at Livingstone, about 200 miles. Arthur Redfern survived the ordeal, and Alan promised his wife Opal that he would never shoot another lion after this – his twelfth!
In recognition of Alan Redferns contribution to the country, both in peace and war, the primary school at Plumtree was named Alan Redfern School in the 1950s.
Alan Redfern was survived by his wife Opal (who died in 1962), a daughter named Margaret (born January 1934), and a son named John (born November 1938).
John Redfern, Pretoria, South Africa, 21 February 2010.
The following is the text extracted from the Bulawayo Chronicle dated December 16, 1943.
ROLL OF HONOUR
CAPT. REDFERN KILLED
The Minister of Defence regrets to announce the following casualties:
Sgm. C. H. Whitehead, killed in action on November 15, 1943, in the Aegean
Capt. Alan Gardiner Redfern, M.B.E., killed in action on November 12, 1943, in the Aegean.
Sgm. Whitehead was born in Umtali on May 11, 1920, and educated at Umtali High School.
Before the war he was an apprentice storeman. He attested in September, 1940, and proceeded on commitment outside the Colony in January, 1942. His father, Mr. F. C- Whitehead, lives in East London.
Son of Mr. A. W. Redfern M.P., and Mrs. Redfern, of Salisbury, Capt. Alan Redfern was born in Salisbury on February 8, 1907, and educated at Prince Edward School. He was appointed to the Native Department in 1923, and his appointment as Native Commissioner was notified in October of the present year. He attested at Bulawayo in January, 1940, and left the Colony on active service In April,1943. His wife, Mrs. A. O. Redfern, lives in Pietersburg. Transvaal.
Capt, Redfern was an experienced big game photographer, his photographs of elephant, buffalo and other animals at close quarters have appeared in the Field and other London papers. He shot many lions.
In 1935 he rescued his father, who was ,being mauled by a lion, finally dispatching the lion with a bullet after jumping at it and pushing it off his father.
After recounting- the episode in his diary he wrote:- “And the lion? What does one say of a creature which prefers to come out and meet its end with a growl in its throat ? We were five (ourselves and three natives)), and he had already had a severe taste of our sting and knew well what he was doing. I for one take off my hat to that beast that knew the way to die.”