SAS legend and a gentle dad: tribute to Tommy Turtle

AN SAS hero who was remembered by his family for his caring nature but steel on the battlefield has died aged 70.

Thomas ‘Tommy’ Turtle spent 39 years in the military, 28 of those with the SAS in Herefordshire.

He came from a tough Irish upbringing and grew up during a time of depression.

After joining the Army at 16 he worked his way up through the the ranks ending his career as a major in the SAS.

His best friend joined the Royal Ulster Rifles, which then influenced Major Turtle to join the Royal Irish Rangers in 1968.

Nine years later he attended and passed the selection course and volunteered for service with the Special Air Service Regiment.

“There is no doubt that Tommy’s austere upbringing equipped him with the qualities of character needed not only to pass selection, but to survive and have a full, varied and fulfilling career as a highly respected professional soldier,” said his family at his funeral last week.

“There is no doubt that his experiences and anecdotes within the regiment are legendary, all of which bear testament to his character.

“His gift for the blarney was a signature that remained with him throughout his life. He will be sorely missed by all.”

As a corporal he was an SAS patrol commander at the outbreak of the Falklands War in 1982.

Initially engaged in the liberation of South Georgia, he was also deployed on numerous missions throughout West and East Falkland.

Near the end of his career Major Turtle’s skills and experience were needed by the SAS in Bosnia.

He was seated at the side of the US General ‘Buffalo’ Bill Nash at each of his evening briefs and would be consulted “about almost everything”.

Major Turtle was described as having a “varied and illustrious career”, including being mentioned in dispatches for gallant action in the face of the enemy and being awarded the British Empire Medal for meritorious military service worthy of recognition by the Crown.

“Tommy had a tremendous sense of humour and would often see the funny side of things when the chips were down,” his family said.

They recalled how he was one of only eight men to infiltrate the Argentine stronghold of Pebble Island.

It was achieved by paddling two-man canvas canoes across seven kilometres of open water at night, through a potentially severe tidal race that ran between the islands, and in to an unknown situation before gaining a foothold and reporting back.

“The tenacity shown by him and the other four crews to complete this task serves to illustrate the strength of character needed during those uncertain times,” the family said.

Tommy was father to two sons, Thomas and James.

Thomas described his dad as a “kind, modest and caring man of absolute integrity, and a gentle and fun dad.”

He said: “As a family we have been over-whelmed by the love, support and kind words that have been sent to us about dad.

“Warrior, courageous, tough, durable, tenacity, strength, humanity, charm and humour are all words that come up time and time again.

“A fondness for his Irish tone and his catchphrases also shines through – for his army colleagues his catchphrase was ‘fearsome’, for me and James at home it was “you would give an aspirin a headache”.

Thomas said his dad adored his wife, Sue, and grandchildren William, Matilda, Freddie and Archie.

Hereford Times