Born: 4th November 1922, Victoria House, Needham Market, Suffolk.
Died: 12th October 1944; age: 21; drowned when a dinghy overturned in heavy seas off Albania.
Residence: 109, Richmond Park Road, Bournemouth, Dorset.
Rank: Sergeant: Service Number: 7948572.
Regiment: Royal Tank Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, 2nd attached Force 399, Special Operations Executive.
Relatives Notified & Address: Son of Charles P.F. Button & Mary F. Button, of Needham Market, Suffolk.
Father: Charles Philipps Fanshawe Button, born June 1885, Needham Market, Suffolk.
Mother: Mary Florence Button (nee Dolphin), born February 1893, Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa.
Probate to Philip Arthur Button, a Captain H.M. Army. Harold’s brother.
UNEARTHING CHURCHILL’S SECRET ARMY – The Official List of SOE Casualties and Their Stories. By Martin Mace & John Grehan.
Photograph courtesy of Martin Mace & Historic Military Press
Text courtesy of www.pen-and-sword.co.uk.
Sergeant Harold Button was parachuted to Biza, Albania at 22:00hrs on the 15th October 1943. He was the wireless operator of a three man force 399 team; which was to undertake liaison with the local Resistance fighters. In the summer of 1944, the Germans began their withdrawal from Albania. It was decided to withdraw the SOE Mission.
On the night of the 12th/13th October 1944 Harold, in company with forty other men of various nationalities, was on the seashore of the Albanian coast awaiting arrival of MTB’s to evacuate them (Operation Elbert). Two seaman reached the shore dragging a waterlogged assault craft. They explained that owing to heavy surf, which was breaking about 80 yards from the shore, great difficulty was experienced in getting the boats ashore and several had sunk.
In view of the urgency for evacuation it was necessary to start embarking, which continued for the next two hours until only Harold with his W/T equipment and five others remained. Harold and two Russians boarded their boat next it seen disappearing into the darkness apparently in good order.
Five minutes later cries for help were heard by those remaining on the shore so they waded out up to their necks through the surf and met the two seaman in charge of Harold’s boat who explained that the boat had become waterlogged and sunk. Every effort was made to find them and the naval officer in charge sent other boats to search but no trace was found. It was not possible to use searchlights owing to the close proximity of the enemy.
Neither Harold nor the two Russians with him in the boat could swim – the latter had not seen the sea before in their lives. There had been ‘great panic’ on the boat as it took on water. The two sailors crewing it were in a poor state when they got back to the shore, having almost been pulled down themselves by their terrified passengers.
Eventually one of the Russians was found clinging to the boat, but Harold, who was heavily dressed and had a haversack on his back, and the other Russian disappeared.
Other members of the SOE’s Albania mission participated in the search for Harold’s body. At the time he drowned he had been carrying code books which, if they fell into the hands of the German’s, might compromise others. The German’s did in fact find the body.