The extremely rare and fascinating Special Forces Special Operations Executive Yugoslavia operations Allied Military Mission to General Mihailovic Interpreter’s British Empire Medal group of awards to Corporal J. Wren, Royal Marines, who was taken prisoner of war at the fall of Crete in 1941, and was one of a party of Marines who whilst on a prisoner train travelling through Serbia, escaped from the train and then received shelter from peasants and acquired a working language of the local language. As such he then served with the local Chetnik

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The extremely rare and fascinating Special Forces Special Operations Executive Yugoslavia operations Allied Military Mission to General Mihailovic Interpreter’s British Empire Medal group of awards to Corporal J. Wren, Royal Marines, who was taken prisoner of war at the fall of Crete in 1941, and was one of a party of Marines who whilst on a prisoner train travelling through Serbia, escaped from the train and then received shelter from peasants and acquired a working language of the local language. As such he then served with the local Chetnik Partisan forces, where ‘he and the other Marines had made a household name for themselves wherever they went’ and then eventually in June 1943 joined up with the Special Operations Executive Allied Mission to General Mihailovic Forces, and continued to be embroiled in further Partisan operations. Involved in ciphering and deciphering, liaison work and as an interpreter, he did ‘much to maintain relationships between our respective Forces’, and was eventually recommended for the Military Medal in August 1944, but was awarded the British Empire Medal in January 1945.

Group of 5: British Empire Medal, GVI 1st type cypher, Military Division; (CPL. JACK WREN. E/X.2083. R.M.); 1939-1945 Star; Africa Star; Italy Star; War Medal. Mounted swing style as worn.

Condition: Good Very Fine.

Jack Wren saw service during the Second World War as a Corporal (No.E/X.2083) with the Royal Marines, and took part in the Battle of Crete where he was taken prisoner of war.

Wren’s award of the British Empire Medal, part of a group recommendation of awards to a number of men of the Royal Marines, all captives from Crete, gives the next stage of his story.

‘These Marines, after capture in Crete, escaped from a train in Serbia. They were sheltered by peasants and acquired a working knowledge of the language. Later they joined the British Mission, commanded by Colonel Bailey, attached to General Mihailovic where they did good work ciphering and deciphering and were invaluable as Liaison N.C.O.’s to the Mission. They were with the Mission 18 months. Their work was invaluable, and the reputation they had with the Serbs was of the greatest propaganda value.’

In the ADM1/16845 ‘Most Secret’ file compiled by the Director of Naval Intelligence - the following is noted: ‘The above NCO’s were made prisoners in Crete and escaped from a train while passing through Yugoslavia. After about a year they joined the SOE Mission which was then attached to General Mihailovitch where they remained for 10 months. In these unusual circumstances they conducted themselves with initiative and resource and by their soldier-like bearing maintained the country’s honour. In fact, they acted exactly as some years’ experience of the Corps would have led me to expect. In view of the services rendered by these four NCO’s it is for consideration that they should be recommended for decorations or otherwise commended.’

The official recommendation for the award to Wren made on 19th August 1944 reads as follows: ‘Corporal Wren was a member of a party of Royal Marines who escaped from a Prison train passing through Yugoslavia during 1941 and served with the Chetnik Forces until joining the Allied Mission to General Mihailovic Forces on 9th June 1943. He and the other Marines had made a household name for themselves wherever they went, and on return it has been obvious from the demonstrations of friendship that they left goods will behind them everywhere. Corporal Wren has been most useful to the Mission as an Interpreter. By his personality, cheerfulness and good behaviour he has done much to maintain relationships between our respective Forces. I recommend him for the award of the B.E.M.’

The recommendation for the British Empire Medal was then altered with a handwritten correction to ‘M.M’ for Military Medal, however this was then corrected to British Empire Medal, the award then Wren received in the London Gazette for 2nd January 1945.