|Obituary Lieutenant-Colonel Ken Scott, Telegraph 28.2.08
Auch Brücken haben
ihr Schicksal II
Auch Brücken haben ihr Schicksal
Lieutenant-Colonel Ken Scott
Lieutenant-Colonel Ken Scott, who has died aged 89, was awarded the first of his two MCs for his part in an SOE operation to sabotage the Asopos viaduct in Greece in 1943.
After the German invasion of Greece in 1941, the enemy lines of communication became a prime target. The Asopos viaduct, situated approximately 12 miles south of Lamia on the railway line between Salonika and Athens, was at the lower end of a precipitous gorge.
The approaches were heavily wired and mined, and guarded by about 50 men equipped with searchlights and machine guns. The destruction of the viaduct, however, became a priority with the military planners, since it would cut the railway supply line through Greece to Rommel's army in North Africa for several months.
On May 11 1943 Scott, then a captain, and two fellow SOE Sapper officers were dropped 100 miles north of Athens into German-occupied Greece. After a careful reconnaissance in which Lt Don Stott, a New Zealand commando, played a leading role, it was decided that the only method that offered a chance of success was to descend the seemingly impassable gorge at night from a direction which would be least expected; to scale the 200ft cliffs up to the abutments, and climb up to the main structure to set the charges before making an escape back up the gorge.
On May 23, as one of a team of seven under the command of Lt-Col Gordon-Creed, Scott set off down the gorge with stores and explosives. After three days and nights they had battled about halfway down when they were confronted with a particularly difficult waterfall. Having run out of rope, they hid the explosives and returned to base.
On June 20, re-supplied with ropes, Scott and three comrades - Gordon-Creed, Stott and Captain McIntyre - reached the viaduct in daylight. By good fortune the Germans were working on the arch, and there was scaffolding and a ladder leading to a series of platforms.
By moonlight the four men carried the charges to the bottom of the ladder. While their comrades kept guard, Scott and McIntyre climbed to the top platform and hauled up the explosives. They could hear the Germans patrolling above their heads for the whole of the hour and a half that it took to fix and connect the charges to the main girders.
While the two men were spreadeagled on one of the main girders, a searchlight sweeping slowly over the whole structure caught them in its beam and they expected the machine guns to open up. At one point, a sentry got too close and had to be killed.
The sappers set the fuses with a 90-minute delay and descended. At about 2.15am a deafening roar came up the gorge. The central span had collapsed, pulling down two cantilevered spans. The German authorities, convinced that there had been treachery, shot the guard commander and many of the garrison.
Kenneth Farish Scott was born at Stockton-on-Tees on December 21 1918 and was educated at Stockton Grammar School. He went to France in 1939 as part of the BEF and was commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers early in 1941.
After postings to Libya, Syria and Egypt he served with SOE Force 133 in Greece. For 12 months after the destruction of the Asopos viaduct he lived the life of an outlaw, hiding in copses and hedgerows, while leading a party of Greek guerrillas engaged in sabotage. He was awarded a Bar to his MC.
Scott subsequently served with SOE Force 136 in south Siam. He was demobilised in 1946 and joined Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, the consulting engineers. In his 25 years as a partner he managed and directed many major development projects, including international airports at Baghdad, Tripoli and Bahrain. He retired in 1984.
Ken Scott, who died on Christmas Day, married, in 1945, Betty Barrowcliff, who died on Christmas Day 2004; he is survived by their son and daughter.