FROM THE BOOK: “PIERCING THE REICH”
AUTHOR: JOSEPH E. PERSICO
They learned the art of silent killing, perfected by W.E. Fairbairn, the legendary British Major, sometimes known as “Delicate Dan.” Knife strokes taught, should be upward, from the testicles to the chin. The hand in a “tiger claw” position was most effective for gouging out eyes. A single sheet of newspaper, they learned, could become a crude dagger. Fold the paper to approximately six inches by two inches. Then fold it diagonally to form a sharp point at one end. Drive the pointed end hard into the stomach or under the jaw, just behind the chin.
FROM THE BOOK: “BEHIND JAPANESE LINES”
AUTHOR: RICHARD DUNLOP
British Major Dan Fairbairn, who had been chief of police in Shanghai before the Japanese capture of the city, taught the Fairbairn method of assault and murder. His course was not restricted to Camp X but later given at OSS camps in the United States. All of us who were taught by Major Fairbairn soon realized that he had an honest dislike for anything that smacked of decency in fighting.
“To him, there were no rules in staying alive. He taught us to enter a fight with one idea; to kill an opponent quickly and efficiently,” said Ray Peers.
Fairbairn had invented a stiletto as precise as a surgeon’s scalpel. He wielded it with a flashing, slashing vigor that invariably proved fatal to an opponent.
“Why is it so long and thin?” I asked him one day in a question period during my own course of instruction. “It doesn’t have a cutting edge.”
“It doesn’t leave any marks on the body,” he replied. “Scarcely more than a tiny drop of blood.”
Fairbairn taught his trainees to fire anything from a pistol to a BAR at close quarters, by aiming with the body. In unarmed combat he overcame one hulking trainee after another. With a wry smile the wiry major would admonish his bruised and bleeding students, “Don’t let anybody lead you down the garden path.”
FROM THE BOOK: “THE FIRST COMMANDO KNIVES”
AUTHOR: PROF. KELLY YEATON, LT. COL. SAMUEL S. YEATON (USMC)
AND COL. REX APPLEGATE
On January 24th, 1933, he wrote me:
“This man Fairbairn is beyond the shadow of a doubt the greatest of “the greatest of them all.” I’ve had about 12 hours of conferences with him and done a couple of hour’s work on the mats. His stuff is not jiu-jitsu or judo – he gave us an exhibition of judo using five men, two third-degree black belts, two second, and one first, to prove it. He uses some of their falls and a few holds, but not more than about 20% of it and most with variations. It’s not Chinese boxing, of which 80% is mere ritual. It’s a collection of all the known methods of dirty fighting and it will beat them all. He knows it will, he’s done it. Judo is to clean on every hold a judo man’s eyes and testicles are vulnerable. But it is awful fast; still, it’s not as fast as boxing. We proved that, and to the Japanese, at that. Given men of equal speed, it’s the man who is not surprised by the others method of attack who will win. We put Sam Taxis [the third Sam] who boxes featherweight now against a third degree judo man [the punches not to be delivered and the throws not to be carried out] and it was a draw. But we had a man hold up his hand as a target and Sammy Taxis put a one-two on it while a man stood beside the hand and tried to grab his hands. All they got was his necktie. The remarkable thing about Fairbairn is that although he damn near does know it all, he doesn’t seem to think he does. If you’ve got an idea, he’ll not only listen to you and point out what’s wrong, if anything, but he’ll admit if it’s new to him and as good as or better than his own current methods.”
One of the motivating causes for the interest in the fighting knife was the discovery that even Fairbairn (“The Greatest of Them all”) had no real defense against a knife in the hands of trained fighters. We knew a number of ways of disarming men with pistols, some of them relatively safe. Even trying to disarm a person with a knife is dangerous, unless the person attacks with the dramatic “assassin’s stab” holding the knife like an ice-pick overhead. For that kind of stupidity there is a clear and positive response, fortunately. But even for the Paris “Apache’s” style coming in low, with the knife edge upward and aiming at the guts, Fairbairn had only two suggestions
B. “With a lighting-like kick of either foot, kick him in the testicles or stomach.”
But when my brother asked him to demonstrate this move, “Willie never even got up from his desk he just said, ‘You missed the phrase lighting-like I don’t do lighting-like any more.'”
FROM THE BOOK: “SOE ASSIGNMENT”
AUTHOR: DONALD HAMILTON HILL
“Another or our distinguished instructors was a tall spare man – who looked like a bishop – with steel-rimmed spectacles, a soft voice and wrists of iron. He was Captain Bill Sykes – formerly of the Shanghai Police – and he taught unarmed combat and quick shooting reactions such as how to kill four people in a room whilst falling down on the ground near the door lintel to make oneself a difficult target. His methods of unarmed combat and silent killing were such that many were able in the years to come to save themselves entirely owing to his instructions. The Germans in 1942 published a pamphlet, which portrayed his methods, and used it in neutral countries to enlist sympathy against the diabolical British. ‘Our man’ in Lisbon picked up one or two and sent them to me for comment with a request for a UK posting, and training with Bill Sykes.”
CAPTAIN PETER MASON, A RETIRED BRITISH INTELLIGENCE OFFICER, NOW LIVING IN CANADA WRITES:
“So, E.A. Sykes had far more of an interesting career in the Far East, than just being a volunteer special sergeant attached to the sniper squad of the Shanghai Municipal Police! “As to any ‘yarns,’ I only recall two stunts that he performed, and both involved the Government .45 auto. The first was demonstrated with a proved empty Colt’s auto. To illustrate how pushing a prisoner along with a .45 will push back the slide and perhaps disconnect the firing mechanism, should the prisoner know his pistols (!) allowing him to wipe the handgun aside, etc., etc.
“And the other example, which I saw demonstrated, was after we did the combat pistol course, and all were felling rather over-confident with the knock-down power of the issued Colt cartridge, Bill called a greatcoat-clad sergeant over to stand at the fifty-yard target backstop. The ‘target’ stood with feet about thirty inches apart, hands in overcoat pockets, and holding the garment away from his body. A loaded ‘Thompson’ was set at repetition fire mode, and Bill tapped-off single shots that struck the center of the man’s coat. At each shot I saw his coat ‘flick’ and I, like everybody present, assumed that the bullets just hit the multi-layers of cloth and dropped to the earth. Our greatcoats were double breasted heavy woolen material, with a same cloth lining, plus a heavy-weave horse hair-like spacer, so that’s six layers. But to this day I wouldn’t want to try it!
NANCY FORWARD (SOE) (CODE NAME “WHITE MOUSE”) WHO WAS FAMOUS FOR HER WORK WITH THE FRENCH MARQUIS, IS ONE OFTHE FEW SOE AGENTS STILL LIVING. SHE WRITES:
“I have already told you that Sykes was the instructor who taught me ‘silent killing,’ amongst other things. Poor Sykes was forgotten like many other people in Great Britain, and elsewhere. My impression of Sykes was very favorable and I would have liked to have known him better. I was the only female in our class and I remember that whenever he addressed me, or gave me an order, his tone of voice was not so ‘crisp’ – to coin a common old phrase – ‘a thorough gent!’ I have always regretted that I was unable to thank him for all the things he taught me.”
BILL PILKINGTON, WHO WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CLOSE COMBAT INSTRUCTORS TRAINED BY FAIRBAIRN AND SYKES FOR DUTY WITH THE HOME GUARD, STILL LIVING IN ENGLAND, WRITES:
“Of course, we must remember that in 1939-45 there were still some ‘deadheads’ in our forces, officers who had not advanced professionally in civil life, and when called to service life, they were reluctant to acknowledge they were ‘behind’ in knowledge. “This was one of the aspects with both Fairbairn and Sykes; they both openly criticized the Top Brass, for ‘Dog in the Bloody Manger’ attitude. These comments were, in my hearing, openly said to Staff Officers, by both Fairbairn and Sykes. And they were quite right, the ‘Old Guard’ of Whitehall Wafflers who had slept soundly from 1918 to 1939, failed to appreciate how advanced other nations were, compared to Britain, but the worst part was the Old Guard were reluctant to allow others who had kept abreast of the times to circulate their knowledge. Obviously, this was to protect their image. This may well have some bearing on the lack of written work available today, much has been deliberately destroyed out of jealousy.”
ANOTHER LETTER BY PILKINGTON DATED OCTOBER 10, 1995. HE WRITES:
“Following the disaster of the Norwegian campaign, and then Dunkirk in 1940, Britain anticipated that Hitler would invade. Desperate measures were called for, because there was little left in the way of arms or ammunition, also the nation had suffered a blow to its spirit. “The Local Defense volunteer Force became, officially, the Home Guard, a body of willing but untrained men, mostly ex-servicemen from the 1914-18 war. In desperation the Government of the day called in two officers from the Shanghai Municipal Police. These were Captain W.E. Fairbairn and Captain E.A. Sykes. “I was introduced to these officers because I had already qualified in Jujutsu to a Brown Belt. Also I was about the only man who had been taught Kendo and Indian Lathi. Captain Fairbairn explained he intended to train a dozen men to become instructors in killing tactics, who would then go out to teach other men to become instructors in the Police, Home Guard, and Civil Defense Corps. These would become the defense of Britain in the event of the invasion. “I found that Captain Fairbairn was very much in charge. Captain Sykes had equal authority, and great ability. He was the finest rifle shot I have ever seen, as well as being very good with the .45 Colt 1911 Automatic pistol. Both officers were very skilled in unarmed combat also, Fairbairn was obviously the master of various disciplines and the first team of 12 potential instructors, including me, soon learned to respect both our tutors. “Captain Fairbairn was very strict, he insisted that the training he gave aimed at perfection. In retrospect, I feel both officers gave us all very good ability to impart knowledge to others. “Captain Fairbairn was a hard man, so was Sykes [now called Bill Sykes, but most certainly NOT to his face] but he had a lot more patience. They were two different men, of course. ‘Bill Sykes looked like a village person, round faced, he had a mild look, unlike Fairbairn who looked hard, despite white hair, horned rimmed glasses giving him the look of a schoolmaster. Bill Sykes was friendly, but never familiar, he would be a bad man to cross. Once or twice he did show temper, but then only for a few moments. “We all learned Fairbairn was married, but we never learned if Sykes was. Apart from his disclosing that before joining the police, he had been a representative for Remington Arms and Ammunition organization, we learned little about him. He did have medal ribbons on his tunic, as did Fairbairn, but I never tried to remember what these were for. “Sykes had a very good knowledge of Martial Arts, and like Fairbairn, he was physically very powerful, and a good boxer. In knife fighting, both Fairbairn and Sykes were excellent. I thought Fairbairn was the better of the two, he was a Master of the blade. Sykes was always relaxed, his moon face was pleasant but you never knew what was on his mind. He was full of surprises in training. “I did teach a few hundred people the killing arts, and I am grateful for the training I experienced with Fairbairn and Sykes, they were really masters of their craft.
FROM THE BOOK: “MAQUIS – THE ACCOUNT OF A FRENCH-AMERICAN OPERTIVE”
AUTHOR: GEORGE MILLER
Such training in these schools had saved his radio operator, he told me. When his circuit got “blown” the Gestapo had captured his operator, a young Frenchman. They searched him, but failed to find the small automatic hidden in a special holster. [Note: a Colt .380 in a crotch holster] The pistol following the rule of his master was ready cocked and at “safe.” When they had handcuffed him they took him away in a car. There were three Germans in the car. One beside him in the back seat. The radio operator had never fired a pistol except in England at the school where he had been taught like us to snap shoot at cardboard targets. He was afraid that he would miss. But he was more afraid of what would happen when he arrived where they were taking him. Despite his manacles he opened his buttons, pushed down the “safe” lever on his [gun] and brought it to the point where it would draw freely. A glance around, he held his breath, drew, and fired as he had been taught. “Bang-bang.” Two holes sprang red in the back of the driver’s neck. The car overturned. He shot the other two.
ELSEWHERE MILLER RECORDS:
We were taught to use the forward-crouching stance and the quick, snap shooting method. Some of us got so accurate with the pistols that we were like King George V knocking down driven grouse. The French-American danced. His legs were tense and springy, but above the waist, except for his straight right arm, his body was loosely balanced. As the targets popped up, or darted from one screened side of the range to the other, his stiff arm leaped to the horizontal and the automatic, a blue, shining continuation of his arm, spoke “crack-crack,” and again “crack-crack.”
FROM THE BOOK: “AMATEUR AGENT”
AUTHOR: EWAN BUTLER.
EWAN BUTLER, AN SOE AGENT, RECALLES HIS TRAINING AT THE HANDS OF E.A. SYKES. BULTER GIVES A PARTICULARLY GOOD ACCOUNT OF THE SOE ASSAULT COURSE AT ARISAIG, JUST WEST OF LOCHAILORT:
This system involved what was called the “battle crouch position.” The gunman crouched slightly, held the pistol in line with the center of his body. Soon is became a second forefinger to him. After several periods on a more or less orthodox range, the students were shown quite an elaborate little village, which lay at the foot of a steep bluff. At the top of the cliff a soldier stood beside a set of levers, which looked somewhat like those in a railway signal-box. The village, we were informed, was full of Germans. It was our business to kill them all. We were given two Colt .45 automatics, already loaded and two spare clips of ammunition apiece. Then, one by one, we were to attack each house in turn. The door of the first house sprang open in response to a brisk kick, and the signalman on the top of the bluff went into action. The houses were fully furnished and fully occupied. No sooner had a dummy, impelled by wires, leaped out of bed to tackle the intruder and been shot for his pains, than a trapdoor opened, “men” emerged from beneath tables, bottles and chairs came hurtling disconcertingly at the gunman’s head. Pistols blazing, one dispatched, as one hoped, all the occupants of the first house, and dashed to the second, where a fresh set of hazards presented itself. By the time I had gone through five houses in a matter of forty-five seconds or so, and had been told that I had scored a creditable number of hits, I was inclined to feel quite pleased with myself. Then came the chilling thought that the dummies, however lifelike their movements, had not been armed.
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