The stories behind the story
"I am Wilfred Shaw, Ex 6th Battalion Green Howards and served with them from late 1940 to June 1946 - Now 95 years of age (2015) and living in Oldham. It was after Dunkirk when I joined the Battalion, they were at Marston House, Frome, Somerset.
I sailed on the Mooltan to North Africa in June 1941 and served in N Africa at Gazala in May 1942, in a rifle Coy, where I was wounded in my left foot in the fighting around Tobruk and was in 15th Scottish General Hospital until just before El Alamein. I went into action there, this time as a signaller attached to a rifle Company, and was wounded again and had to spend another spell in the 106 South African field hospital.
I left hospital and went back into action at Wadi Akarit in Southern Tunisia until Rommel was driven out of North Africa. I then took part in the invasion of Sicily landing at Avola on the 10th of July 1943. After the conclusion of the Sicily campaign we returned to England (Riddlesworth, near Thetford in Norfolk) then up to Loch Fyne, Inverary, in Scotland to train for the invasion of Normandy.
I then moved down to Boscombe and got married to Dora my first wife who was also in the armed forces. I was married on 10 April 1944, Easter Monday. We married at the Register Office in Oldham, 10 days’ compassionate leave with my wife then back to Boscombe - never thought I would see my wife again, but I was remarkably lucky.
I took part in the Invasion of Normandy but didn't land D-Day - it was D2 when I landed and was signaller with Support Company along with Fred Zilken. I was signaller to the Anti Tank Platoon, and was in the fighting right up to the Arnhem operation then 50 Div were broken up and I was sent to Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland.
I came back to England and had a cushy job at Pickering in Yorkshire, on the switchboard with my old mate Fred Zilken. With 6 months left to serve I was sent to Cyprus until demob, something I could have done without because I hadn't seen my wife and child since getting married on 10 April 1944, but ultimately it did finish and I got home to be demobbed on Thursday 13 June, both the day and the date exactly as it was when called up in 1940, 6 years to the day. That's the outline of things but, obviously a lot of unforgettable things happened during that time.
I recognised some of the names mentioned on your web site:
Jerry O’Grady was for quite a while my Sergeant Major down at Marston House Frome Somerset.
Arthur Harrington was in the same section as me up at Gazala in the Western Desert 1942, he was killed in action in Sicily July or August 1943.
Capt Carmichael was the officer in command of the anti tank platoon and I was the platoon signaller from D2 to after Arnhem.
No doubt I will come across others as I go through all the information.
I come from near Oldham. Most of the lads in the Battalion were from the North East, but not entirely. There were lads from South Yorkshire, Scots lads, Cockneys, Welsh, Irish - at various times I shared a dugout with a Welshman, a Scotsman, a lad from Gateshead and a Jew".
Buy Bill Cheall's published memoirs, which depict his Dunkirk exploits and much more Click for more information.
Episode 4 - First coffee
Useful WW2 Links
D-Day Hero CSM Stanley Hollis VC by Mike Morgan - An excellent book - see link above.
A rare and rewarding opportunity to hear 97 year old WW2 veteran Wilf Shaw's WW2 memories, sometimes tragic, often hilarious.
Paul Cheall has a coffee and chat with Wilf Shaw of 6th Battalion the Green Howards, 50th infantry division, in the British Army.
Wilf fought in many campaigns including fighting for Monty’s 8th army in Alamein, Wadi Akarit in Tunisia, Sicily and of course Normandy. He was wounded twice and still returned to battle!
Episode 22 - Second coffee
Wilf with some of his WWII comrades at Marston house
Left to right standing:
Tommy parker, I have good reason to believe is still alive and living in Middlesbrough locality.
Henry Jefferies, from Bethnall Green, was called up the same day as myself (June 13 1940), a good bit to tell you about him in due course.
Wilf Shaw from Oldham (Me!)
Larry Latham from Manchester - we left him behind in England - never found out what happened to him
Stan Palmer from Ripponden, near Halifax, Yorks was the one who lived nearest to me. I used to go over and see him quite often. He died a few years ago, succumbed to Alzheimers. I attended his funeral.
L to R seated:
Laurie Abnett, London area, also left in England, never heard anything about him since.
James (Jimmy) Wilson Billinge, St Helens, Lancs - Killed in action on the 6th of April 1943 at the Wadi Akarit.
Morris Hancock - Taken prisoner near Mersa Matruh in the retreat to the El Alamein line from Gazala 1942.
Bill Wright, Worsborough Bridge, Barnsley - came through it all.
One lad not shown - Maurice Sutherland who, after the war, was knighted Sir Maurice Sutherland - all bloody good lads, "Bless em all"
Wilf demonstrates how a real WWII helmet saved his life during the podcast coffee! We had some great fun doing these photos.
Youtube version (audio) of Episode 4, including slide show of Wilf's extensive photo collection.
Bill's WWII Army mirror which he placed over his heart
The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, President Mitterand at Bayeux on the 50th Anniversary of D-Day
Cpl Stewart (Blackie) with us in B Coy at Qassasin Camp, Egypt
Grub up! WW2 in the desert at Qassasin Camp, Egypt.
D-Day Hero CSM Stanley Hollis VC by Mike Morgan - An excellent book. Use this link to buy and I will get a small commission. You will NOT pay more for the book!
Episode 23 - Third coffee
A very rare photo of (back centre) Major Claude MacDonald Hull of WW2 fame sent to me by Wilf Shaw. Hull was one of my Dad Bill Cheall's highly-regarded senior officers so I was really chuffed when Wilf sent me this WW2 photo - the only one I have ever seen of Hull. There isn't even one in his book!
The photo includes Capt C M Hull (later Major), Sergeant Frank Burns (right) (killed on D-Day), Cpl Laidler (left) (believed survived the war) and Fred Cooper (front)
Man from Alamein by Claude Hull, based on his North Africa experiences - in theory fiction but well known to be the truth.
Wilf wearing the gold ring his mother bought for his 21st birthday present. Listen to episode 4 for the amazing story behind this! WWII.
Episode 26 - The Zilken Letters
It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of WWII veteran Wilf Shaw in hospital on 21 March 2018. His family advise that he passed away very peacefully in the early hours in hospital. He had enjoyed exceptional health for his age until a few weeks ago, when the breathing difficulties he had had trouble with during the past eighteen months worsened quite dramatically. See below to hear a special episode in tribute to Wilf and re-visit his fantastic contributions to this podcast and WW2.
Wilf had a very full war and fought as a signaller with 6th Battalion the Green Howards, 50th infantry division, in the British Army. He fought in many campaigns including fighting for Monty’s 8th army in Alamein, Wadi Akarit in Tunisia, Sicily and of course Normandy. He was wounded twice and still returned to battle! In recent years Wilf was awarded the Legion D'honneur by the people of France for his services in WWII Normandy in 1944.
I bless the day I met Wilf and am thankful that I could chat with him as much as I did, for talking to Wilf was the next best thing to speaking to my own late Dad, also of the 6 Green Howards, and who fought in most of the same battles as Wilf. Thanks to the inspiration I received from Dad and Wilf, I've been privileged to receive several other war memoirs which I've been able to cover in my podcast, including the letters of Fred Zilken, a best pal of Wilf's.
Meanwhile, I can think of no better tribute to pay to Wilf than to cite the words of Fred Zilken in one of his letters to Wilf, in which he said, "You were never in a panic, Wilf. I remember when you came over to the Mortars you were composed and didn’t give a damn about enemy shells or mortars! You were always a rebel, Wilf, and it was those types of blokes who won this bloody war for us - if it had been for me, the war would still have been going on now!"
Goodbye, my old chum and, in your own words, "keep trespassing" wherever you may be. You'll be sadly missed.
RIP Private Shaw W
Called up on 13 June 1940
6th Battalion, Green Howards
Born 6 Feb 1920, Died 21 March 2018, Aged 98
Episode 28 - Tribute to Wilf Shaw RIP