Capt Jaki Knox (Retd) & Mr Terence Nelson
The Royal Ulster Rifles Museum, Belfast
The fact that Tony Blake’s death was thought certain did not detract from the shock when it was officially announced that he had been killed in action on the night of 3-4 January 1951 during the battle fought by 1st Battalion, The Royal Ulster Rifles in Korea. At the time of his death he was in temporary command of the Battalion and had gone forward to the scene of the battle where two companies of the Battalion were surrounded. He was last seen directing the remaining troops and transport out of the battle area.
Tony had a great zest for life, more perhaps than many other men. He had a great love for the Regiment and all things Irish but his interests and activities extended to many spheres and many countries. Above all things he was intensely interested in people and human relationships. Wherever he found himself he took pains to travel and to mix with the people of the country but it is a pity that there are not more records of his wanderings.
Medal Awards from left to right: 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, Korea UK, Korea UN, Czechoslovakia Cross, Polish Cross, American Distinguished Service Cross
Tony who was born on 1 December 1911, and came from Co. Wicklow, joined the Royal Ulster Rifles from Sandhurst in 1931 at Belfast. Most of his pre-war years were spent with the 1st Battalion in Egypt, Hong Kong, Shanghai and India. In 1938 and 1939 he took a course in Russia and at the time of the German attack on Poland was finishing this course in Warsaw. He escaped, after adventures and hardships, through Romania.
During the war Tony served very little with the Regiment but held many important Staff Appointments. Until the end of 1941 he moved frequently. He was an instructor at an Officer Cadet Training Unit, Intelligence Officer at the War Office and in the Middle East and served with the Russian Liaison Group. In 1942 he was attached to a Polish Brigade. In 1943 he took part in the air landings at Arnhem and in 1944 went out to the Far East and India where he served with an Indian Division.
At the end of the war he became Second-in-Command to 1st Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in India where he did excellent work during a difficult period. In 1948/49 he became PA to General Sir James Steele during his tour as C-in-C and High Commissioner in Austria and remained with General Steele when he became Adjutant General at the War Office.
As a graduate of the Staff College and Joint Service Staff College, and with his linguistic accomplishments and wide staff experience there is no doubt that Tony would have gone far in the Army had he not been killed in the Korean War. He was a great loss not only to the Regiment but also to the Army
Major Blake’s Medal dispaly is exhibited at the Soldiers & Chiefs Exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks, Dublin