Harry Willans DSO MC

Major-General, Artists Rifles.

Killed on the 5th February 1943 aged 50.

Major-General Harry Willans DSO MC

Harry was born in 1892 the son of James & Henrietta Willans and lived at Benington Croft with his wife Dorothy. He was later educated at Aldenham College.

In 1914 he was serving in the Artists Rifles, the forerunner to the SAS, and was one of the first fifty to be picked to serve as a Subaltern to a Regular unit.

He went on to serve with the Bedfordshire Regiment. In November 1940 he was appointed to the newly created post of Director General of Army Welfare & Education.

He was killed in a flying accident on 5th February 1943. Harry is buried in the Tobruk War Cemetery, Libya. (10.B.3)

Henry James Wilson

110612, Private, 19th Battalion. Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry).

Died on the 16th October 1918 aged 23.

Private Henry James Wilson

Henry was the son of Martha & Henry Wilson of 4 Albert Street and was employed in Stevenage as a Policeman. He joined the Hertfordshire Yeomanry in May 1915 as Private 2425.

He arrived in Egypt on the 16th November 1915 and was later transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. Henry died of Enteritis on the 16th October 1918 aged 23. His parents later lived at Bragbury End and thus his name is recorded on both the Stevenage and Aston war memorials and both of these show Henry as serving in the Hertfordshire Yeomanry, which was his original unit.

Henry is buried in the Beirut War Cemetery, Lebanon. (Grave 38.) 

Medal Entitlement: 1915 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal.

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 R H 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. 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 and 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 him win his first 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 DSO.

Humphrey was given command of the 9th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry on the 26th July 1943. He joined them in Sicily where they were involved in heavy fighting. In particular his battalion lead 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. 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 is buried in the Bayeux War Cemetery, France. (15.F.26)

Dennis Roy Worsdale

1864592, Flight Sergeant (Wireless Operator), 500 Squadron. Royal Air Force (VR)

Killed In Action on the 16th April 1945 aged 20.

Flight Sergeant Dennis Roy Worsdale

Dennis was the son of James & Lizzie Worsdale who lived at 57 Ellis Avenue. He was educated at the Letchmore School and volunteered for the RAF in 1943 and trained as a Wireless Operator.

He joined his Squadron in the autumn of 1943 and began performing operational flight bases in Egypt and Italy. On a day in which should have begun a weeks leave in the newly liberated city of Rome the Baltimore aircraft in which he was flying failed to return from a reconnaissance mission. In a quirk of fate his crew had replaced the one scheduled for the operation.

At the end of April 1945, a few weeks before the end of the war, his Squadron Commander wrote to his mother saying, " There is some hope that he is a POW as the flight was not unduly dangerous and was unlikely to be disastrous for any of the men" . He could not have been more wrong. The cause of the loss is unknown.

Dennis is buried in the British War Cemetery in Padua, Italy. (4.F.8)

Crew of BALTIMORE FW799 -U

Number

Rank

Name

Age

158734

F/O

Lawrence Michael MATTHEWS

21

162218

F/O

Douglas Eric PALMER

22

1864592

F/SGT

Dennis Roy WORSDALE

20

591964

F/SGT

Roger Henry NELSON

21

Ronald Wright

1576483, Bombardier, 126 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. (9th Middlesex Regiment). Royal Artillery.

Died 17th December 1945 aged 28.

The grave of Bombardier Ronald Wright in the Munster Heath War Cemetery, Germany.

Ronald was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, on the 28th June 1917, the son of John & Florence Wright. The family later lived at 114 Letchmore Road, Stevenage. He was a member of the St. Johns Ambulance Brigade and worked as a wood machinist prior to joining the Army.

He married Eileen Hepworth in 1943 and at the time of his death she was living in Lupset, Yorkshire.

Ronald died on the 17th December 1945 as a consequence of uraemia, caused by chronic kidney disease.

He is buried in the Munster Heath War Cemetery, Germany. (1. A. 21.)

Headstone Inscription: "Sweet Is The Memory, Silently Kept, Of One We Loved And Will Never Forget"

Ronald George Wright

203281, Private, 6th Battalion, Kings Own Scottish Borderers.

Private Ronald George Wright

Killed In Action on the 26th July 1918 aged 19.

George lived at 36 Basils Road, Stevenage and had previously been employed at ESA.

On the 26th July 1918 the Battalion were in the front line at Meteren. The Germans  made a determined raid on the British positions but had been driven off. Heavy shelling also took place and Ronald Wright and several comrades were killed when a shell fell into their trench. He was buried the next day with two of his comrades, Lance Corporal Lennox Blyth Fenton aged 31, and Private Arthur Whiteley aged 30.

Ronald and his comrades are buried in the La Kreule Military Cemetery, France. (3.B.1.)