Humphrey Reginald Woods DSO MC and Bar

67184, Lieutenant Colonel, 2nd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps.

Killed In Action on the 14th July 1944 aged 28.

Humphrey was born on the 15th September 1915 the only son of Lieutenant-Colonel Reginald Humphrey Woods, DSO, MC and Mrs Ivy Woods. From his earliest days he was destined for service in the Regiment. He was educated at Winchester and Sandhurst and joined the 2nd Battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps at Aldershot in January 1936. He sailed with the 1st Battalion to Burma in September 1936 and entered, with zest, into the life of an officer and a gentleman in a British colony.

At the outbreak of war the Regiment moved to the Middle East and, in June 1940, " D" company, with whom he served the whole time he was in the Middle East, took part in the assault on Fort Capuzzo. It was here that he was wounded for the first time. As he led his carrier platoon up to the walls of the fort a mine exploded and he was injured as a result. Humphrey served with distinction in the desert helping and was awarded a Military Cross on 1st April 1941, whilst an Acting Captain. The London Gazette stated that the award was made for "Distinguished service in the Middle East between August 1939 & November 1940".

He was wounded for a second time at the Battle of Sidi Rezegh, where Rifleman John Beeley won his Victoria Cross.

After attaining the rank of Major he left the battalion for short while in May 1942 to train a battalion of Sherwood Foresters in the ways of the desert.  On returning to his former unit he found in to be sadly depleted with many of his old comrades having been lost in the ill-fated Battle of Knightsbridge. However, he led his men through many sorties and between June and July 1942 when the battalion was in action at the Battle of Gazala. Humphrey was continually at the forefront of any action the Battalion were involved in and this eventually led to the award of a Bar to his Military Cross.

The 23rd of October 1942 saw the opening of the First Battle of El Alamein and it was here that Humphrey Woods was to win his DSO. On the 24th October " D" company were assisting the 44th Reconnaissance Regiment in clearing up between two minefields and consolidating their position. It was found, although under heavy shellfire, that a number of Reconnaissance personnel had been captured by an isolated detachment of enemy troops. Humphrey, led a dashing rush upon the enemy. With his much-depleted company he destroyed two medium guns, five anti-tank guns, four heavy machine guns, killed 15 enemy troops, captured 75 and with his Bren gun carriers rescued the men of the Reconnaissance Regiment. The whole action took just fifteen minutes and was awarded an immediate Distinguished Service Order.

Humphrey was given command of the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry on the 26th July 1943. He joined them in Sicily where they were involved in heavy fighting. In particular his battalion led the advance for ten days from Catania to Messina against hard fighting German rear guards. He returned home with his battalion in December 1943 to prepare his men for the invasion of France.

On the 6th June 1944 Humphrey, true to form, was leading his battalion on the assault of the Normandy beaches. All the objectives they were given were captured and then the Battalion was engaged in seven days of bitter and continuous fighting. Then on the 14th June 1944, near Tilly-Sur- Seulles, Humphrey went into action for the last time. Two companies were given several objectives to capture. As " A" company moved up in two waves it was met by heavy machine gun fire that killed or wounded most of the officers and sent the men diving for cover. " B" company, who were following closely behind, found themselves in the same position.

The original battlefield grave of Lieutenant-Colonel Humprey Woods DSO, MC & Bar. (Source: Paul Reed)

Humphrey leapt out of his carrier and was seen dashing about urging his men forward. They managed to move forward and penetrate the first objective, owed mainly to Humphrey's fine example. He repeated his efforts with “B” Company and also moved them to their first objective. He then returned to his carrier and sat down to speak to HQ on his radio set. As he did so the German defence opened up with mortar fire. As the first salvo landed a young officer, who was in the carrier, looked round to see Humphrey looking at him and smiling, he suddenly slumped over to his left, lasting only a few seconds longer. His parents had moved to Woodfield House, Rectory Lane in the spring of 1943 and Humphrey had very little opportunity to become acquainted with the town.

He was originally buried where he fell but was later re-interned in the Bayeux War Cemetery, France. (15.F.26)


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