Stanley Henry Welch

1291444, Flight Sergeant (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner), 103 Squadron. Royal Air Force (VR).

Killed In Action on the 26th July 1943 aged 21.

Flight Sergeant Stanley Henry Welch

Stanley Welch was the eldest son of Bertie & Dorothy Welch of 23 Whitesmead Road, Stevenage. After leaving school he was employed by Stevenage Gas Works as a Fitter and during his spare time was a euphonium player in the local Salvation Army band.

Stanley joined the RAF in January 1940 and was trained as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.

On completion of his training he was posted to 103 Squadron where he was to fly a total of 29 operational missions. Stanley’s aircraft took off from Elsham Wolds on the 25th July 1943 to attack Essen. Twenty-Six aircraft were to be lost on this raid, which was observed by Brigadier-General Anderson of the 8th United States Army Air Force. Despite this the raid was deemed to be a success with the Krupps works receiving the most damaging raid of the war.

It is not known what brought the aircraft down but it crashed at the town of Borbeck between Oberhausen and Essen. All the crew perished and were initially buried at the Nordfriedhof cemetery in Dusseldorf.  After the war they were moved to the Reichswald Forest Cemetery where they now lie. Stanley is buried in Plot 6. Row F. Grave 1.

Headstone Inscription: "Father, In Thy Gracious Keeping Leave We Now Thy Servant Sleeping"

Crew of LANCASTER Mk.III  JA855  PM-L

Number

Rank

Name

Age

J/16328

F/LT

Harold Frederick EWER  DFC  RCAF

25

149140

P/O

Derek WILLIAMS  DFM

n/a

1291444

SGT

Stanley Henry WELCH

21

576865

SGT

Jack William George WILSON

18

1049564

SGT

Stanley ROBSON  DFM

23

R/83848

SGT

James Richard FITCH  RCAF

22

1379544

F/SGT

Francis Ernest JUGGINS

31

William Charles Welch

921149, Gunner, 97th (Kent Yeomanry) Field Regiment. Royal Artillery.

Died on the 13th September 1942 aged 28.

William was born on the 19th December 1913, the son of William & Dora Welch. He was the husband of Olive Welch.

He joined the Hertfordshire Yeomanry on the 28th April 1939 but after the outbreak of war was transferred to the Kent Yeomanry. William served in the UK until the 27th August 1941 when he was posted with his unit to Iraq,

On the 29th June 1942 he was taken prisoner by the Italians. He died of organic nephritis three months later in an Italian field hospital in Benghazi.

He is buried in the Benghazi War Cemetery, Libya. (7.C.7)

 

Fredrick Cyril Westwood

31896, Private, 5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.

Died At Sea 30th December 1917 aged 20.

The Chatby Memorial, Egypt

Fred was the son of E & A Westwood of 26 High Street. He was educated at Alleynes school and his father was a local butcher who later employed Fred as a slaughterman.

On 30th December 1917 the German submarine UC-34 torpedoed the troopship Aragon off Alexandria. HMS Attack and the Armed Trawler Points Castle rescued soldiers from the sinking troopship, but HMS Attack either struck a mine or received another torpedo as she pulled men from the water. Ten sailors from HMS Attack died and 600 lives were lost on the Aragon.

Frederick has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Chatby Memorial, Egypt.

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal.

 

Horace Wheatley

G/13508 , Private, 7th Battalion, Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment.

Missing in Action on the 8th November 1916.

Thiepval Memorial, Somme.

Horace was born in St.Albans, Hertfordshire. It is uncertain when he moved to Stevenage but his son, William, was born in the town in 1907. Horace was an Estate Gamekeeper and was working the Kimpton area by 1911, and eventually moved to Godstone, Surrey,where he enlisted in the Army.

The Battalion and had moved into the trenches from Albert on the night of 3rd November 1916, in order to relieve the men of the 10th Essex Regiment. They were situated in Regina & Hessian trench where they remained through the next few days. Life in the trenches at this time was desperately uncomfortable. The cold and wet of the winter months and the continual shelling by German artillery made every day a miserable event. The Battalion provided working parties to work on trench defences but the wet conditions seriously hampered their efforts. On the 6th November the Battalion moved from the frontline trenches to the nearby support trenches. Here they prepared to be relieved by the 7th Royal Kent Regiment and on the 8th November the relief began. This movement of troops became a target for the German artillery who began to shell the area very heavily, resulting in many casualties. It was during this relief that Horace Wheatley was killed.

He has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial. Somme, France. (Pier and Face 5 D and 6 D.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal.

Kenneth Walter Wilderspin

2659833, Guardsman, 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards.

Missing In Action on the 16th March 1943 aged 21.

Guardsman Kenneth Walter Wilderspin

Kenneth was born on the 15th June 1922, the son of Edgar & Lilian Wilderspin who lived at 120 Haycroft Road. He joined the Coldstream Guards in December 1939, when he was only 17. He increased his age at the time of his recruitment and this resulted in an incorrect age being shown for him at the time of his death. Ken had been in North Africa for 12 months before being reported Missing.

On the 16th March 1943, his Battalion were involved in a disastrous night attack on German positions in the Wadi Remli in Tunisia. The assault began at 19.30pm and was immediately met by considerable enemy mortar and small arms fire. No.1 Company soon became separated from the others and, after passing it’s objective, became cut-off when the German troops advanced. The enemy troops then pressed home their advantage and soon reached the Battalion HQ, which was forced to make a hasty retreat back across the Mareth to Medenine road from where they had started their attack.

It is not known what happened to Kenneth during the heavy and confused fighting and as a result he has no known grave.

His name is recorded on the Medjez-El-Bab Memorial, Tunisia. (Face 13)

 

 

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.

Peter David Wood

571965, Leading Aircraftsman, 30 Maintenance Unit. Royal Air Force.

Killed 12/04/41 aged 19.

Peter was the son of William & Martha Wood. He joined the RAF and was training to be a Fitter at the Bristol Aero Works. On the last day of his fitting training at the works he was on Fire watch when a very heavy air raid took place on the plant.

Following the raid it was discovered that someone was trapped in the wreckage of a building and Peter went to their aid. As he made a rescue bid the building collapsed on him killing him instantly. His brother, William, was serving with the Australian Artillery and died whilst a Japanese prisoner of war in Burma.

Peter is buried in Benington churchyard.

Headstone Inscription: "Also In Memory Of W.J.B. Wood, Gunner A.I.F. Died In Burma 5th Oct. 1943 Both Were Valiant"

William John Belcher Wood

QX11071, Gunner, 2/10 Field Regiment. Royal Australian Artillery.

Died on the 5th October 1943 aged 31.

William was born on the 31st March 1912, the son of William & Martha Wood. His brother, Peter was killed on active service on the 12th April 1941. William was the first boy from Benington school to achieve a scholarship to Alleynes grammar school. Whilst at Alleynes he gained the captaincy of the cricket XI and had won himself a place in the football XI.  After leaving school he went to work for F Bracey a well known agricultural engineer and, at that time, a county councillor.

In 1929 William left the shores of England to become a dairy farmer in Australia. Later he was employed in the lumber trade and, on one occasion, single handed, performed the task of felling, squaring, ripping, sinking and erecting the timber for a ninety post stockade. All this was achieved in just one day, a truly amazing feat.

At the outbreak of war William tried to enlist for air crew duties but was prevented from doing so by the loss of a finger. This, in fact, he had shot off himself after being bitten by a snake. Eventually, on the 4th July 1940 he was accepted into the Artillery and served with the 2/10 Field Regiment as a Gunner. In 1941 William was posted to Malaya and served with his unit until it’s capture at Singapore in February 1942. He endured the hardships of captivity for over 20 months, then, in October 1943 he contracted dysentery and died.

William is buried in the Thanbyuzayat war cemetery, Burma. (A1.A.1.)

Headstone Inscription: "He Also Was Valiant"

 

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)