March 31, 2018

28 Wilf Shaw 5 - RIP Tribute

28 Wilf Shaw 5 - RIP Tribute

A celebratory farewell to a WW2 hero


28 Wilf Shaw RIP Tribute - and celebration

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.

This is a special episode about Wilf. Listener tributes plus the best and funniest parts of his interviews. 

RIP Private Shaw W, 4753850

Called up on 13 June 1940, 6th Battalion, Green Howards

Born 6 Feb 1920, Died 21 March 2018, Aged 98

 

Wilf Shaw and the Latrine story - Drawn by listener and artist Faye Pineda

Below: Wilf in later years, relating the story of how his helmet saved his life.

Wilf WW2 veteran

 

Interested in Bill Cheall's book? Link here for more information.

Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg, hardback, paperback and Kindle etc.

Transcript

RIP Private Shaw W 
4753850
Called up on 13 June 1940
6th Battalion, Green Howards
Born 6 Feb 1920, Died 21 March 2018, Aged 98

 

 

A Tribute to the Late Wilf Shaw

 

I’m Paul Cheall, son of Bill Cheall whose WWII memoirs have been published by Pen and Sword – in FTFDTH. 

The aim of these podcasts is to give you the stories behind the story. You’ll hear memoirs and memories of veterans connected to Dad’s war in some way – and much more. 

 

This is an unplanned and sadly unexpected episode. I’m very sorry to say that Wilf Shaw passed away recently, at the age of 98. That’s the Wilf Shaw who has regaled and entertained us with so many tales of WWII.

So this is beyond doubt going to be the most difficult episode to the show that I’ve ever produced. And I just hope I can do Wilf justice.

I’m going to let his very good friend Lesley Littlewood explain the circumstances, just as she wrote in the WW2Talk.com forum:

“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have to report the passing of Wilf Shaw, aged 98, my dear friend and Veteran of 6th Green Howards. His family have told me he passed away very peacefully in the early hours of this morning, Wednesday 21st March 2018 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.

I visited him at home in Oldham just less than two weeks ago, and even though he was quite unwell, he still managed to have a cheerful smile and a warm welcome for me; as usual we chatted and laughed and tried to put the world 'to rights' and he never lost his sense of humour.

He first contacted me through the forum around the Autumn of 2012. I don't know why he messaged me in particular; maybe he had been browsing the forum as he was a lurker, not a poster; but probably wanted to make contact with someone whose father had served in WW2 also. We messaged and e-mailed regularly and finally met at his home in February 2013, just before his 93rd birthday.

Wilf was a true gentleman, with a very dry sense of humour and I always enjoyed the stories he told me; he could recall most things - names of men he served with and the places he visited. We didn't always talk about his war years, in fact we often discussed the latest news, and politics - he was an avid reader of books and newspapers and had always something to talk about, so I think in the 5 years I knew him we were never short of conversation.

Wilf was always very generous with his time. Regular forum members will recall our few meetings with Paul Cheall at the cafe in Debenhams in Manchester. He never seemed to tire of Paul's questions and queries about his time in the Green Howards and the stories Wilf told were always told with some little funny anecdotes which had Paul and I in stitches and I do often wonder what the staff in the cafe thought we were getting up to for the hours we sat in there!

There are so many things I could say but cannot put into words right now about the wonderful gentleman Wilf was, but I feel privileged to have met such a kind man and I am proud to have called him my friend.

RIP My old, soldier friend. I shall miss you very much

Lesley

 

I’d like to add my own personal comments to Lesley’s:

I too feel very sad at Wilf's passing. I was surprised to find, when I checked, that I've corresponded with Wilf since 2011 and met up with him several times in more recent years, sometimes with Lesley, who has been a stalwart friend to Wilf for a long period. In all those times Wilf has proved to be a fantastic raconteur, and he had an impressive recall of all his exploits – the dramatic, the tragic and the funny.

He 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 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 for my podcast 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.

Wilf once said that someone reckoned he was the last surviving Green Howard who fought in the second world war. Well, I recently heard from the Green Howards on this very point and Wilf was very nearly right because the information I’ve got from the Green Howards is as follows:

“We do know of another two veterans who are still living:  Ken Cooke from York and Ernie Jackson who is an in-pensioner at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.  There may be veterans we are not aware of.”

The Green Howards will be placing an obituary to Wilf in the GH magazine.

 

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! 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! You were always getting 28 days for something or another - you were a soldier.  They (whoever they were!) said you weren’t a soldier until you'd been wounded at least once - you qualified Wilf - twice over!"



I want to celebrate Wilf in this episode as well as mourn him. There have been comments and tributes coming in from all over the place and I’m posting them all in the show notes. I’m going to read a few out now, followed by a number of the best clips from my interviews with Wilf. I know everyone listening to this news will be sad but I also know that Wilf wouldn’t have wanted that to last long, so I’m going to try and end on a positive note to reflect the attitude to life that Wilf always seemed to display himself.

 

 

Steve Mac (WW2Talk.com forum)

Very sad news, Lesley. I know that especially you and Paul Cheall knew Wilf well. 

It’s always difficult to know what to say about WWII veterans you meet, whether in person or just on this forum, who pass. They are in fact just ordinary people who lived in extraordinary times and did extraordinary things.

Our lives today would all be the less without them and their deeds. All of them are or were modest.

I guess it’s just a case of chin up, pick up yer kit and march on... that’s what Wilf did. He missed 50 Div’s BEF sojourn at Dunkirk, but was with them through the Western Desert campaign - the Gazala Gallop, El Alamein, Mareth, Wadi Akarit, then to Sicily, and then D-Day on Gold Beach through to Operation Market Garden and The Island.

Paul’s father was also with the BEF and then with 50 Div all the way through. No British Infantry Division did more for this country than 50 Div. It’s hard to feel ‘worthy’ in contrast with the soft lives we have now.

But Wilf and all the guys who served in WWII earned that for us. I will never forget them.

RIP Wilf Shaw, 6th Bn Green Howards, 69th Infantry Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division, Great Britain.

Best, Steve

 

Very sorry to hear that Wilf has gone. I didn't know that he had gone all the way from Gazala to the Island, but as a historian of Fifty Division who knows the casualties suffered along the way I can't imagine that many in the 50th could have matched that. And to think that he not only survived all that but lived on for another seventy plus years...that's truly extraordinary. Some blokes are born blessed, it seems.

Allan Converse

 

 

As a veteran Wilf lived to be a grand old age and was able to recount and pass on his personal experience of serving his country.

At one time it was common to meet and work with many who had military service during the critical times for the country...those numbers are dwindling from a time when the British Isles were threatened to be overrun by the New Order......June 1940 a time when Britain alone was a free nation in Europe....future uncertain and it must have featured largely in the minds of all who served or were conscripted. 

Wilf represented those young men and women who were called to arms to serve in what was a largely a civilian army.

Wilf's photographs indicate a man who appears to be jovial character and at ease with the passage of time...it must have been a pleasure to know him.

Rest in Peace Wilf 

Harry Ree

 

All the above tributes were from the WW2Talk forum. Here are a few more from Facebook and Twitter:

 

Well I guess we can't trespass forever. I wish Wilf could have tested that theory. Loved his stories. Greg Weydert, Illinois USA

 

A life well lived! Thanks for sharing his stories with us Paul, RIP Wilf. Kevin Scotland. UK.

 

RIP. Truly enjoyed your talks with him. Ruud, Netherlands

 

I am truly sorry to hear this. Wilf lived an incredible life and was one heck of a storyteller. I will miss him. Thanks for helping Wilf get his stories out there, Paul.  Faye Pineda

 

May he rest in peace. I loved listening to his stories and anecdotes. Thank you Paul for bringing his life's story to so many of us.  Eamon Walsh

 

Sorry to hear the sad news Paul. He was a lovely man and if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have found that photo of my Dad on the internet.  Theresa Stoker

 

 

Email:

A sad, sad day and I will miss him so much, been gutted today. Lesley Littlewood

 

Ok – that’s the sad part of this episode over with. I’d somehow like to move onto a celebration of Wilf himself. There have been some fantastic stories of Wilf’s war coming out of this podcast and I want to share the best of him with you. And I’m going to go big with the music too, because I love the music I chose for the show, that’s why I chose it, so I hope you’ll enjoy it with me at various points.

 

When I first heard from Wilf in 2011, this is how he described himself:

“I’m Wilfred Shaw, Ex 6th Battalion Green Howards and served with them from late 1940 to June 1946). 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 - I 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.

 

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.

 

Well Wilf I’ll say a lot of unforgettable things happened! Let’s just review a few of them …

 

These are in no particular order but they are certainly the ones which made the most impression on me at the time:

 

 

 

This bit of feedback, I’m repeating from a previous episode because it’s so relevant to Wilf. It came from Faye Pineda from USA on Facebook

“I’ve been listening to your podcast for a few months now and I absolutely love it. It is so exciting and humbling to listen to the stories of such brave souls. I can’t get enough of Wilf Shaw. He's always got a joke.” Well Faye if we wanted a prelude to one of the funniest stories Wilf ever told then that’s it, and now I’m going to give you the latrine story. Wilf’s on guard in the desert and playing around with his rifle trying out what he calls first and second pressure on the trigger – I’ll let Wilf tell you what happened next …

 

 

 

 

And this is probably my very favourite even though it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the war:

Pies

I’ve found it quite interesting to review all Wilf’s clips and quips because it’s made me recall something my Dad once said about the war, that there were long periods of boredom interspersed with short periods of deadly fighting and I think to some extent that’s reflected in Wilf’s stories because whilst there are plenty of scary episodes, it’s obvious that Wilf and no doubt his comrades regularly sought relief from the violence in humour and all those funny incidents are clearly engrained on Wilf’s memory with the same xxx as any of the violent ones.

Wilf, if you’re listening, here’s a medley of some of your best bits:

 

Fantastic Wilf - I’m rapidly running out of comments and thank yous so I’m going to crack on now not with a war story, but a true sporting story. By now you’ll have realised what a great sense of humour Wilf had. His favourite football or soccer team was Oldham Athletic (nicknamed the Latics) who are in Lancashire, England,

and as any soccer fan will know, if there is any team that you’re entitled to ridicule more than the opposition, it’s your own team! Wilf was no different and this story relates to someone arriving late at the Latics stadium for the start of the game. It’s mid winter, cold, raining, and Oldham are propping up the bottom of the league table with not very good prospects of staying up …

 

 

Closing …

I’m going to close now. Wilf you did us all proud in so many ways and you’re going to be sorely missed. But you’ve left a lasting legacy that people will be listening to for a long time.

And I’ll mention that Lesley and I have one more meeting we recorded with Wilf that’s never been heard, so at some point in the not too distant future I’ll be rolling that out as well. I cannot wait to listen to it myself because right now I’ve completely forgotten what we talked about!

Once more from Fred Zilken:

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!  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 have been going now! 

Fred Zilken

Goodbye, my old chum and, in your own words, "keep trespassing" wherever you may be.

 

Listener I’m now going to play what is normally my show intro, called Our Mighty Hearts because Wilf surely demonstrated what a mighty heart he had in his long but all-to-short life. And for those of you who like my normal outro music, In Victory, stay listening because what the heck, I’m going to play that aswell.

Mighty hearts


RIP Private Shaw W 
4753850
Called up on 13 June 1940
6th Battalion, Green Howards
Born 6 Feb 1920, Died 21 March 2018, Aged 98

 

 

 

 

Wilf Shaw

"Still Trespassing" in Wilf's own words.

Wilf was in 6th Green Howards Battalion, British Army. He had a very full war and fought as a signaller with the Green Howards, 50th infantry division. 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.

Obituary:
I’m very sorry to say that Wilf Shaw passed away recently, at the age of 98. That’s the Wilf Shaw who has regaled and entertained us with so many tales of WWII.
So this is beyond doubt going to be the most difficult episode to the show that I’ve ever produced. And I just hope I can do Wilf justice.
I’m going to let his very good friend Lesley Littlewood explain the circumstances, just as she wrote in the WW2Talk.com forum:
Paul

“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have to report the passing of Wilf Shaw, aged 98, my dear friend and Veteran of 6th Green Howards. His family have told me he passed away very peacefully in the early hours of this morning, Wednesday 21st March 2018 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.

I visited him at home in Oldham just less than two weeks ago, and even though he was quite unwell, he still managed to have a cheerful smile and a warm welcome for me; as usual we chatted and laughed and tried to put the world 'to rights' and he never lost his sense of humour.

He first contacted me through the forum around the Autumn of 2012. I don't know why he messaged me in particular; maybe he had been browsing the forum as he was a lurker, not a poster; but probably wanted to make contact with someone whose father had served in WW2 also. We messaged and e-mailed regularly and finally met at his home in February 2013, just before his 93rd birthday.

Wilf was a true gentleman, with a very dry sense of humour and I always enjoyed the stories he told me; he could recall most things - names of men he served with and the places he visited. We didn't always talk about his war years, in fact we often discussed the latest news, and politics - he was an avid reader of books and newspapers and had always something to talk about, so I think in the 5 years I knew him we were never short of conversation.

Wilf was always very generous with his time. Regular forum members will recall our few meetings with Paul Cheall at the cafe in Debenhams in Manchester. He never seemed to tire of Paul's questions and queries about his time in the Green Howards and the stories Wilf told were always told with some little funny anecdotes which had Paul and I in stitches and I do often wonder what the staff in the cafe thought we were getting up to for the hours we sat in there!

There are so many things I could say but cannot put into words right now about the wonderful gentleman Wilf was, but I feel privileged to have met such a kind man and I am proud to have called him my friend.

RIP My old, soldier friend. I shall miss you very much
Lesley