Alan Warren was one of the Corp's great characters with an original outlook and forceful in every thing he did. He was affectionately known as "Cockie" although it must be admitted that the less efficient subalterns were on their best behaviour when he was around.
In April 1925 he joined the F.A.A being one of some 19 Officers who volunteered under AF.O. 1058/24. Having qualified in Fleet Spotters he served in 441 Flight in Hermes and Eagle and was in the Fighter/Seaplane Flight at Kai Tak airfield at Hong Kong in 1926 during the trouble between North and South China. This unit was under "Wings" Day, at that time a Lieutenant RM. Other RM Pilots in Eagle at the time were Cathcart - Jones, Wildman - Lushington and Teek (and possibly Ellison).
On return to Corps Duty he qualified as an Adjutant and was appointed to Chathm in 1930. After this he was the first Royal Marine to graduate from Staff College and qualified psc (m) after which he was Assistant Military Instructor at Deal. When the war came, he was serving with Military Intelligence and volunteered to go into occupied France after Dunkirk to look for any stragglers. The submarine which was to take him off failed to appear so he stole a dinghy and rowed it back to England.
In Malaya he organised a bombing school, inserted parties, led by Spenser Chapman, behind the lines and then frequently visited them in his motor launch. Another legend, Angus Rose, who led a guerrilla band, said of him, ”He was incredibly ubiquitous, a master of time and space. He was fearless, but too intelligent to be foolhardy. In manner he was upright, downright and straightforward and in appearance he was hard, handsome and immaculate.” Spenser Chapman, recalling a mission behind the enemy lines with Warren, said: “It was an ideal way of going to war, in a jeep piled high with tommy guns, plastic explosives, and I felt so like a crusader that when we passed a wayside Chinese temple I almost suggested we should have our tommy guns blessed.”
Warren took on mammoth tasks including organising the evacuation of Penang Island and the destruction of military stores in the face of the oncoming Japanese. Earlier he had organised an escape route across Sumatra, along which thousands of troops fled when Singapore fell. The route went overland to Padang on the west coast and thence by sea either to Australia or Colombo. When he arrived in Padang to make his own escape, he was shocked that no senior officer was prepared to stay to look after the troops, whose immoral behaviour towards the citizens of Sumatra was alienating the Dutch government. He gave up his place in the boat and issued an order that he would personally shoot any serviceman disobeying him.
When the Japanese came, although there was a price on his head, he officially surrendered the British army to them. In the three and a half years that followed, he commanded British slave camps on the Burma-Siam railway. Had the Kemptai discovered his identity he would have been shot. There had been a price on his head since the early days in Malaya, but they were no match for Warren and they never did discover his involvement as S.O.I. or in the guerilla set up. For his work in organising the withdrawal under heavy attack he was awarded the D.S.C.
As a prisoner of war Alan Warren was sent to work on the infamous Death Rail way but before being captured he had organised various guerilla units in addition to making a very hairy voyage in a commandeered 100 ton boat to Sumatra. For a long time he was a wanted man by the Japanese
He returned to the Corps on 29 October 1945 and held several senior appointment including CO of 42 Cdo, AAG to CGRM and representative of CCO in USA. He returned to the UK in July 1952 and retired in 1953 as a Colonel.
After retirement he returned to the USA where he became a successful school teacher as Head of English Language and Literature at Flint Hill School, Fairfax Virginia. He was an immensely popular teacher and a statue was errected at the school in his memory after he died.
He returned to UK in 1975 and died of cancer in Lymington on Christmas Day 1977. Ian Skidmore wrote a book praising Col. Warren in 1981 - 'Marines Don't Hold Their Horses'.
Skidmore reports that the Colonel's last words were: "Have you been offered something to drink?"