Hughie McGlade of Portrack, Stockton c1979

t14152The man in the white jumper is Hughie McGlade. He was one of those quiet unassuming people who you would never really notice. But he was a trusted foreman for many of the civil engineering projects associated with construction of the chemical plants on the Tees Estuary. He was my Uncle, who lived next door to us in Kingsport Close, Portrack, growing up in Watson Street.

I never got the story from his own lips… Hughie was taken prisoner during WWII, but escaped to Yugoslavia where he joined forces with the resistance fighters. At some point he took a watch from a dead SS man. If Hughie had been caught he would have been shot on the spot, at best. Is the watch still in existence, and can anyone add more detail to this story? The phtograph was taken in the Conservative Club in 1979.

Photograph and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

In view of the recent interest in Hughie McGlade and his exceptional wartime exploits, here is another photograph courtesy of Fred Starr.

Hughie McGlade at a Portrack do c1978

t14463Hughie at this time would have been a senior foreman out on one of the Seal Sands sites, building chemical plant. I guess a polo neck would have been his standard wear.

This was the only time I heard him mentioning himself. I can’t remember his exact words when he said that there had been redundancies in his outfit. But, he said, the people who got the push were the middle managers and pen pushers in the Portakabin who kept out of the rain. The company needed people like him to see that things got built. This meant working outside, chivvying welders, erectors and crane drivers, etc, no matter what the weather.

Details courtesy of Fred Starr.

9 thoughts on “Hughie McGlade of Portrack, Stockton c1979

  1. Hello, I heard of Hugh McGlade from Gino Beer, an Italian partisan who fought in Operation Tombola. Hugh was also attached to the SOE mission ENVELOPE, lead by Captain Michael Lees. Hugh, along with Gino, some other British ex-pow, and other Italian partisans, was also member of a special group working behind the lines, harassing German transport between the Parma partisan held area and Reggio, at the orders of Captain Charles Holland (SOE mission TOFFEE) and Captain Lees. They are also messengers for all the British BLOs in the area. With Hugh was also an Italian-Canadian soldier called Peter Lizza, acting as interpreter for Captain Lees.


  2. As a young child in the 60s and 70s every one had a button box to play with, I was also lucky enough to be able to play with the box that held my Granddads medals, I only ever asked my Granddad once what he did during the war, his only reply was “What I did in the war is the reason why you are sat on my knee today”. I loved my Granddad so much and think of him often. He was and still is my Hero


  3. A good example of Hughies’ approach to problems was his method of heating the kitchen in 15 Kingsport Close, Portrack. These Council houses, built around 1953 only had a coal fire in the front room, and the warm air system, coming off this, supposed to heat the rest of house was useless.

    Hughie had taken off a connection from the main pipe to the gas cooker. The gas went into a very crude burner on the floor of the kitchen, so the kitchen was heated by an enormous yellow flame nearly two feet long. It looked absolutely lethal, but, by God, it worked.

    What Madge, his wife, thought about this I never did find out, but it wasn’t a permanent fixture!


  4. Hughie was indeed unassuming, generous and one of the nicest men you would ever meet I still think of him to this day which is why finding this photo is so great. Hughie ended up working offshore for a number of years and once we were all supposed to go out together for a drink and we were waiting for him to get home from Aberdeen. Still no sign I said I’d head to the Cons and get the seats while the rest waited for him and would follow on. I got to the Cons and there he was having dropped in on his way home and slightly oiled. Hughie I said they are all waiting for you at home? Don’t worry son he said smiling, sit down they’ll turn up. Pure class.


  5. Thanks Cliff.

    You can see from what I wrote that Hughie McGlade did not say very much about what he had
    done. I had a look on Wikipedia and where there is this short account of Operation Tombola…..

    Fifty men parachuted to the Cusna Mountain area (Reggio Emilia) between 4 and 24 March 1945, under command of Major Roy Farran. A number of airdrops provided weapons for the rag-tag force which armed local resistance fighters and linked up with seventy escaped Russians.

    They were able to attack German LI Corps headquarters, based at two villas in Botteghe d’Albinea in the hills above Reggio Emilia; in that attack the night of 27 March 1945 the Germans had 60 casualties (killed and wounded), while the SAS and partisans had three killed in action and about seven wounded. The attack was done on the sound of a bagpipe. Operation Tombola continued and the raid included the cutting of roads and shelling of a number of installations. Just as important as the 300 or so Germans killed and 200 captured was the number of defenders taken from other duties to secure the rear area. A number of Allied airmen, who were being hidden by civilians in the area, were also returned to friendly lines.

    A book written in Italian “Il bracciale di sterline” by Matteo Incerti & Valentina Ruozi (Aliberti April 2011) details the operation.

    The commander of the operation, Roy Farran, published his account in the book “Operation Tombola” (Special Forces Library, Arms and Armour Press, 1986). The BBC series “Secret War” narrated by Alisdair Simpson (Acorn Media) focuses on the exploits of Roy Farran and Michael Lees in the episode “SAS Italian Job”.


  6. Hugh McGlade is listed with the SOS personnel who carried out Operation Tombola behind enemy lines in Italy in March 1945. A force made up of the SOS operatives, local partisans and Russian derserters, successfully attacked 2 villas housing the HQ of a German Army Corps. It is possible that Hughie acquired his trophy there.


    • Kevin, Hughies son has the watch and on several occasions has tried to get it repaired but has not been successful .


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