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For Province P0060 - Province of Dorset.

1st

Oct. 2021

Dorset Freemason Major Stuart Syrad

Major Stuart Syrad, who has died aged 88, won the MC at Suez, piloted a hovercraft on the Amazon and commanded what is known today as the Special Boat Service.

In 1956, 23-year-old Lieutenant Syrad was second-in-command of X troop, 45 Commando, when the Suez Crisis broke out and Britain launched Operation Musketeer, part of the Anglo-French landings to recover the Canal from nationalisation by Egypt.

At dawn on November 6 1956, Syrad and his troop were landed by Sycamore helicopter next to the de Lesseps statue in Port Said, the first large-scale helicopter landing in history. But B troop and the headquarters troop were badly mauled in a blue-on-blue air strike, requiring hurried battlefield reorganisation.

Hastily regrouping, Syrad's men began three days of fierce close-quarters fighting, during which Syrad's signaller was killed. 'It should have been me, he was that close,' Syrad recalled.

Undeterred, Syrad was at the front of Z troop when they were clearing a seven-story concrete block of flats which was heavily defended by snipers, machine-gunners and grenadiers. As they reached the top, some 70 feet above street level, a marine was severely wounded and fell on to a balcony fully exposed to enemy fire from adjacent buildings.

Syrad immediately climbed on to the roof, crawled along a narrow parapet and jumped on to the balcony. Ignoring sniper and machine-gun fire attracted by his movements, he carried the wounded man to safety.

Then, in a series of well-planned section attacks, he finished the task of clearing the building. Throughout, Syrad displayed outstanding courage, fearlessness and aggression, and his bearing contributed largely to the overall success of the operation.

His brigadier, in endorsing the citation for Syrad's Military Cross, wrote: 'At all times during the battle he behaved with the utmost gallantry, and his example was an inspiration to his men.'

Stuart Lawrence Syrad was born on August 7 1933 in Twickenham, the third of four brothers, and educated at Hampton Grammar School, where he was boxing captain and a sea scout.

He was working in the export office of Royal Doulton when called up for National Service in 1952, and chose the Navy, but when offered two years as a steward or stoker, or as a marine, he decided that the Royal Marines had a nicer looking uniform.

He was quickly identified as officer material: he had no intention of a long-term military career, but found the Marines the ideal vehicle for his unconventional thinking and daring and his dislike of rigid authority. While still a national serviceman, Syrad joined No 2 Special Boat Section. Seeing service in Norway and Germany he was trained in demolishing the bridges over the Rhine, and was taught stay-behind techniques should the Soviets advance.

After he had qualified in diving, skiing, parachuting and canoeing, he became convinced that 'this is a good place to be'.

Ever the keen sportsman, he played Navy rugby, squash, cricket, skiing, hockey, and won the Devizes-to-Westminster canoe race three times, in 1954 and 1955, and setting a record in 1959.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Syrad commanded various Special Boat Sections in Malta and Singapore, conducted covert beach surveys around the world, participated in operations during the Indonesian Confrontation and a threatened Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1964, and helped to establish the SBS in Bahrain and Gibraltar.

In 1965 Syrad's career took an unexpected turn when he joined the Interservice Hovercraft Trials Unit, training as a pilot on the prototype SR.N1 hovercraft. Later he trialled the SR.N5 as a potential troop carrier on the rivers of Borneo during the Indonesian Confrontation, and in Thailand demonstrated its capability to US forces who were fighting in Vietnam.

Back in England, Syrad was involved in what must have been the first road traffic accident between a hovercraft and a motorcyclist, when the latter ignored a halt sign and ran into Syrad's craft as he was crossing from the sea over the road into the naval air station at Lee-on-Solent. The biker was fined £10.

In 1968 Syrad co-piloted an SR.N6 on an expedition to the Amazon basin, travelling 2,500 miles from Manaus on the Amazon river, up the Rio Negro, through the Casiquiare river and along the Orinoco to the sea, mapping what had been thought to be a non-existent waterway route, and then on to Port of Spain in Trinidad.

The expedition included scientists, reporters, Brazilian military officers and a BBC The World About Us film team. The successful journey was the subject of a documentary, The Last Great Journey on Earth, and a book of the same title by the producer Brian Branston. A sales tour of South America followed.

At Poole, between 1968 and 1972 Syrad commanded the Special Boat Company, as it was then known. In May 1972 it came into prominence when Syrad put together a team to parachute into the Atlantic Ocean after a bomb threat on board RMS Queen Elizabeth.

Syrad was appointed OBE in 1973; the Special Boat Company became the Special Boat Squadron in 1974 and the Special Boat Service in 1987. His last appointment was as second-in-command of 41 Commando Group in Malta, before retiring in 1979 having attained the rank of major (equivalent of lieutenant-colonel in the Army).

Syrad continued to travel the globe as a security consultant, was chairman of the Hovercraft Society, and was involved with the Hovercraft Museum for many years.

The charitable function of the Masons was one of the important elements in his life. He was almoner of Hampton School Lodge for 17 years, a member of Purbeck Lodge, and a frequent guest and diner among the many RM and military masons at the Amphibious Lodge, where he helped to raise and distribute charitable funds.

The Telegraph

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