Major Tony Hibbert commanded ‘T’ Force during ‘Operation Eclipse’ – an operation to ensure that the Red Army did not capture Denmark as it advanced west. The operation was successful and Hibbert was awarded the Great Seal of Kiel in May 2010 in recognition of what he and his men achieved.
Tony Hibbert was awarded a commission in the Royal Artillery in 1938 and he fought in the Battle of France and was one of the many men who were evacuated form Dunkirk in 1940. Hibbert joined No 2 (Parachute) Commando in October 1940 and fought in the North African and Italian campaigns.
Hibbert fought in the failed Arnhem campaign in 1944 where he was captured. He escaped within days of his capture. However, his war was seemingly cut short when he broke both his legs when he fell off a jeep bonnet as it was being driven.
Towards the very end of World War Two in Europe, Hibbert had made a full recovery and was put in charge of ‘T’ Force for ‘Operation Eclipse’. His 500 men had to capture and take charge of Kiel as well as secure known scientific installations between the Danish border and Kiel. His 500 soldiers were from the King’s Regiment and 30 Assault Unit, Royal Navy. However, Hibbert also had to escort 50 scientists whose task was to examine the sites captured by ‘T’ Force.
Hibbert found that the German soldiers in Kiel were in no mood to fight and he immediately set about setting up a command post in the city. He selected the headquarters of the Kriegsmarine. Hibbert ordered that all German troops had to hand in their rifles and return to barracks. He also ordered that all keys to military installations had to be handed in and that no documents should be destroyed. Hibbert allowed German police in Kiel to keep their pistols because he feared mob rule as many thousands of forced labourers were released and he feared that they would seek revenge against those who had made their lives a living hell. What Hibbert needed was a stable city – hence his decision to keep German police armed.
His part in Operation Eclipse was a total success – except for his arrest! Hibbert was arrested for disobeying orders prior to his advance on to Kiel. Hibbert wanted to start his part in the operation at 03.00 on May 5th but he was told by the region’s corps commander, General Barker, that he had to start at 08.00. Hibbert started at 03.00 so that he could move the fifty miles to Kiel using the cover of darkness.
Hibbert was held in custody until May 9th when he had an interview with General Barker that concluded with the General telling Hibbert “he was not a bloody commando”. Barker then put into motion a process that ended with Hibbert being Mentioned in Dispatches for the part he played in ‘Operation Eclipse’.
Tony Hibbert left the Army in 1948 and went into business.
In May 2010, he was invited back to Kiel to receive the Great Seal of Kiel.