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Captain John Henry Cullinane in World War II

Captain John Henry Cullinane

- A Secret Secret Agent?

The following chronology of Captain John Henry Cullinane's (P/251260) World War II Military Service was compiled by his daughter Eileen Hughes, and is derived from conversations between JHC and various members of his family and friends and extracts from books.

The following links will take you to the individuals mentioned in this article.

John Henry Cullinane


A Welsh Guard At War 1933-1940
Dunkirk June 1940
A Secret Secret Agent? 1940-1946
A Soldier In Civvy Street 1946-

John Henry Cullinane

A Welsh Guard At War 1933-1940

  • 20/07/1933 Enlisted into the Welsh Guards Regular Army and posted to 1st Battalion (Age 17)
  • 16/06/1937 Released to Reserve. (Age 21) Police Constable until call-up.
  • 15/06/1939 Called up for Service. (Age 23)
  • 02/09/1939 Mobilized and posted to 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. (Age 24)
  • Extracts from Source 1 "Welsh Guards at War":

  • 22/04/1939 "The 1st Battalion was ordered to reinforce the Garrison at Gibraltar and embarked on the 22nd April." This accounts for his service in Gibraltar.
    07/11/1939 "1st Battalion transferred from Gibraltar to France, sailing for Marseilles on the 7th November and spending a night in Paris before going to the front"
  • 07/11/1939 Appointed Lance Corporal (Age 24)
  • 05/04/1940 Promoted Corporal (Age 25)
  • 10/04/1940 Married Alice Margaret Powell in St Patrick's Church Newport, Mon. Honeymoon in Abergavenny at the Angel Hotel. The two photos here were taken at time of honeymoon on the bank of the River Usk.

Alice Margaret Cullinane (nee Powell)

Dunkirk June 1940

I don't know how much leave he had to get married but from conversations with relatives he apparently said he went back to France and was in the Arras area.

On one of his visits home Mum gave him a china black cat (pictured right), which he kept in his kit, along with a favourite pipe. Both of these came off Dunkirk beach with him.

The 1st Battalion Welsh Guards marched in to Arras on the 17th May 1940 and held this position until the 24th of May 1940 when they were ordered to withdraw eventually reaching Dunkirk. A full account of how this was achieved can be found in Source 1 (p89).

We know that Dad came off Dunkirk beach but he never said much to me about it.

We also know that the ship that picked him up was the HMS Anthony. This ship rescued 3107 troops. See (Hence John's son's second name).

JHC's Cat

John Cullinane & Family c1944

Alice and John Cullinane

A Secret Secret Agent? 1940-1946

  • 03/12/1940 Posted to Staff Officer Cadet Training Unit Sandhurst. (Age 26). Awarded the "Belt of Honour" for being the best officer candidate within his troop.
  • 15/02/1941 John Anthony born.
  • 01/06/1941 Promoted Sergeant.
  • 09/12/1941 Posted to 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. (Age 27)
  • 09/07/1942 Margaret Alice born.
  • 10/07/1942 Posted to 161 Officer Cadet Training Unit.
  • 05/11/1942 Appointed to an Emergency Commission in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers as a Lieutenant and posted to 9th Battalion. (Age 28)
  • 29/03/1943 Attached to Advanced Handling and Fieldcraft School.
  • 20/08/1943 MOD records show Posted to Signal Training School HQ but I believe the "Signal" reference to be incorrect as STS means Special Training School. Papers found in brown box confirm that he was on the payroll of STS HQ on 1st March 1944 and possibly before.

His service records show that he was at the following STS Houses;

  • STS 2 Box Hill near Bath.
  • STS17 Brickendonbury
  • STS 34 The Drokes situated on the west side of the Beaulieu river.
  • STS 41 Gumley Hall, Market Harborough
  • STS 42 Roughwood Park, Chalfont St. Giles Bucks.
  • STS 51 Ringway.

We know from converstions with him that he also knew Beaulieu in the New forest and Arisaig in Scotland. Mum told us that he parachuted into France before the D Day landings.

  • 07/09/1944 Appointed Captain. (Age 29)
  • 09/04/1945 He took over command of STS 47 Anderson Manor Dorset.
  • From 05/11/1942 to 16/06/1945 what he actually did is very vague. An indication can be found in Source 2 a book called "Beaulieu: The Finishing School For Secret Agents" (chapter IV pg. 46) This states that the Small Scale Raiding Force had its HQ at Anderson Manor. We also know from things Dad mentioned that he was at Arisaig. (Source 2 pg. 14) SOE School known as the MI (Military Intelligence) Wing and Beaulieu the finishing school for secret agents.
  • 16/06/1945 Posted to 21 Holding Battalion. Newtown Camp, Newtown, Montgomery.
  • 22/06/1945 Eileen Elizabeth born.
  • 10/09/1945 Posted to 38 Reinforcement Holding Unit. (Age 30)
  • 08/09/1945 Embarked UK
  • 09/09/1945 Disembarked North West Europe. Based at Ludenscheid
  • 18/09/1945 Posted to 11th Battalion Royal Scot's Fusiliers. The only information I have about this time is from Dad. He said he was involved in interviewing refugees in order to find out if they should be sent back to Russia or remain in Germany. See also Source 3 page 85 for another possible reason for being in Germany.
  • 11/01/1946 Release orders received at Ludenscheid.
  • Ordered to report to 49 Div. Transit Camp on 19th Jan. 1946 for transport to UK via. 122 Transit Camp Munster and via Tournai to UK for release.
  • 03/04/1946 Released from Military Service.

Overseas Service MOD record:

  • Gibraltar 02/09/1939 to 06/11/1939
  • France 07/11/1939 to 31/05/1940
  • North West Europe 08/09/1945 to 23/01/1946

A Soldier In Civvy Street 1946-

As far as War Service is concerned that was the end of it. He now began a fight to get a job to keep his family, a wife and 3 children at this time. Amongst the papers in the brown box are letters saying he had not been successful for jobs. One from the Chief Constable saying he was now too old to be a PC. The Tax Office was also checking on income during his war service. So along with thousands of other soldiers he had come back to the country, he had fought 7 years for, to find that those who stayed safely at home, for whatever reason, were not prepared to employ him. This seems to be something that historians overlook.

It is not clear how long he was without a job but he must have been very disillusioned. His generation had been born during the 1st World War lived through the depression of the nineteen thirties and fought in the 2nd World War. Not a great time to be growing up.

After release from full time service he was appointed to a TA commission in the rank of Captain. (In the picture to the right he is 2nd from left back row).

I worked with a member of the TA in the Welsh Water Authority. He remembers an incident with JHC when they were doing one of their compulsory hikes across the Brecon Beacons when a mist came down. Despite the mist they kept going along the track. JHC suddenly told them all to stop and sit down where they were. After some time when the mist cleared... they saw that they were just a few feet from the edge of a cliff!

Captain John H Cullinane and Unit


With thanks to John's daughters, Margaret Hill for making initial contact, and Eileen Hughes for the text and pictures published above.


  • Source 1 - Welsh Guards at War by Major L. F. Ellis 1946 I found an order form for this book in the brown box. Dad had completed the form (in 1947) but had not posted it. I searched on the Amazon antique book site and found a copy and bought it. When it arrived it had come from the antique bookshop in Tintern.
  • Source 2 - Beaulieu: The Finishing School For Secret Agents. By Cyril Cunningham 1998 ISBN 0-85052-598-5
  • Source 3 - A Life in Secrets: The Story of Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE By Sarah Helm

Other books for reference:

  • SOE 1940 to 1946 by M.R.D. Foot. 1984 ISBN 0-7126-6585-4
  • Behind The Lines by Russell Miller. 2002 ISBN 0-7126-6736-9
  • Secret Agent by David Stafford. 2000 ISBN 0 563 53734 5
  • The Women Who Lived For Danger by Marcus Binney 2002 ISBN 0 340 81839 5

All photographs displayed on this webpage are reproduced with kind permission of the author Eileen Hughes.

7th November 2010