Driver James Wallis T5259533 R.A.S.C. – By Bradley Wallis

Sherman tanks, carriers and infantry during Operation 'Charnwood', 9 July 1944. Wikipedia
Sherman tanks, carriers and infantry during Operation 'Charnwood', 9 July 1944. Wikipedia

Sherman tanks, carriers and infantry during Operation 'Charnwood', 9 July 1944. Wikipedia
Sherman tanks, carriers and infantry during Operation ‘Charnwood’, 9 July 1944. Wikipedia

My father James Wallis was born in 1911 in Lambeth London. He grew up through the Great War and eventually found himself in the newspaper industry when it came to bread winning.

In 1933 he married my mother, Rose Elizabeth, and my sister June came along in 1942.  At the age of 28 he found his world in turmoil with the outbreak of WW2. At that time he was over age for conscription so in 1941 still waiting for the call, he volunteered for military service and was enlisted on 31st March of that year. He was absorbed into L.T.C. Worcestershire Regiment (L.T.C. Land Transport Corps). 24th June he was transferred into the South Stafford Regiment (later on D-Day to be part of the 59th Division). Two years to the day from enlisting, James was transferred into the R.A.S.C. his chosen Regiment. He was attached to 2 coy No.3 Training Battalion and passed both driving tests in 1943, HV petrol and staff cars, his record states “competent Group 1 Vehicles,” gaining a letter T to his army number and becoming Driver. Two months later passing his motorcycle test he was trained as dispatch rider. Also his record has him with, 52/43 701 Transport Coy on entering RASC and 62/43. 239 Transport Coy. RASC on leaving Training, that’s my best bet as some material in the records is just entries, the reader is left to their conclusions.

When he was finally sent to war, he embarked for Normandy 13.6.44 and disembarked 16.6.44 N.W.E.? As in 59th division, 2nd Army, part of 21 Army Group. I have no details from here until 7.7.44. But part of the job of 21 Army Group was to draw fire away from the US 1st Army under General Omar Bradley which was building ready to breakout to the west. Later to form a pincer movement with 21st army group joining up at Falaise, and encircling German forces.

The 21st was also tasked to take the city of Caen in Operation Charnwood. A joint Anglo-Canadian offensive designed to prevent German armour from interfering in the lightly screened American sector. British Army 1 corps was sent to attack German forces occupying Caen for this purpose and I believe (as I had to research for this information and it’s not in James record) my father must have been amongst them in the build-up the day before. Now also in the area was the 12th SS panzer Division HitlerJugend and 16thLuftwaffe Field division, attached to them was the 1stPanzer Grenadiers. They had NebelWerfer rocket/mortars to whom I attach blame for the following;

Driver James Wallis T5259533 R.A.S.C. 701 Infantry Division. Photo courtesy of Bradly Wallis
Driver James Wallis T5259533 R.A.S.C.  Photo courtesy of Bradly Wallis

My father was very reticent about talking of his experiences but he did once confide in me how he became wounded. He was in a road convoy preceding the battle for Caen which was to start on 8.7.44. Taken from his army record this was 7.7.44, He told me they had a very young and inexperienced officer leading them and unwittingly he led them into an ambush. They were apparently travelling down a narrow lane when they came under German mortar attack. The order to take cover was given but as dad and some of his close friends attempted to take cover up and over a hill to the side of them, they were hit by a rocket/mortar bomb which killed 5 of my father’s mates and the blast splattered dad’s back and legs with shrapnel. He said to me he thought he was dying too. He was repatriated to the UK by aircraft and ended up in hospital in Scotland.  Once fit and retrained he was sent to Austria and mentioned his truck broke down in Graz, where a kind Austrian family billeted him for a week until his vehicle was recovered.  He left the army in 1946 but never forgot his mates, when Remembrance Day came on TV he would sit next to the screen but was silent, you couldn’t speak to him. He made some remarks which are best not printed.

Now a twist of sorts to finish this article. General Omar Bradley, was a household name in Britain during the war, and my parents said my sister chose it for me! Without people like General Bradley, my Father and the other millions involved succeeding, I wouldn’t have written this….

Sadly we lost our hero in 1984

By Bradley Wallis

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