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July 9, 2016

4 Wilf Shaw 1 - WW2 army veteran interview

N Africa, Sicily, and D-Day. Wilf awarded the WWII French Legion D'Honneur.

The memories of a Legion D'Honneur veteran

A 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!

More great unpublished history! .

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Recorded April 2016 in Manchester, UK


Useful WW2 Links



D-Day Hero CSM Stanley Hollis VC by Mike Morgan - An excellent book.




Harry Free's memoir of Aske Hall, Richmond. Yorkshire England


Wikpedia and the Falaise Pocket



Second World War

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

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


Wilf relates the story of how he survived Alamein. It wasn't so funny at the time!


Legion d'honneur French Normandy medal awarded to Wilf in 2015


Above: 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 (Ginger) 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"

Show transcript:


Wilf's Biography:

"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".




Wilf Shaw Profile Photo

Wilf Shaw

"Still Trespassing" in Wilf's own words.

The late Wilf Shaw 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.

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 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