Daily Archives: 17 January, 2010

Lance Bombardier Edward Wait MM

Lance Bombardier Edward Wait, 25 and from Southsea, was serving with 444 Field Battery in 64 Field Regiment Royal Artillery, a London-based Territorial Army unit. The Regiment was part of the 56th (London Division) during the war in Italy in 1943. As an Observation Post Assistant to the Battery Commander, Wait had an important role in keeping communications flowing between the Observation Post, the Guns and the Infantry that the Battery was commanding. Frequently in the Second World War the Royal Artillery were called upon to provide support to Infantry attacks, and the Artillery Signals network often provided a link not only for the Gunners but other units too.

The Reccomendation for his Military Medal takes up the story:

On the night of 29 October 1943 444 Field Battery RA were supporting the 7th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in the attack on the Tranzi feature 0492. Lance Bombardier Wait was performing the duties of O.P.A. to the Battery Commander’s party. In about the area 047916 the wireless set which was carried by a signaller got struck by a piece of shell which damaged the terminal wire and rendered the set unserviceable. At this particular moment, approximately 0230 hours, this set was the only means of communication to Brigade HQ as the Battalion set was disserviceable. To repair the wireless set was a delicate operation which entailed removing minute screws from the control panel. Lance Bombardier Wait worked coolly and patiently in the dark under heavy mortar and shelling and made good the repair in 15 minutes. The shelling was so intense that the Infantry were forced to take cover but Lance Bombardier Wait remained in the open with his set. Later on the set gave further trouble; infiltrating enemy made things very confused and Lance Bombardier Wait and one signaller got separated and lost touch with the rest of the party. He knew that the objective was a certain feature and through his determination to succeed at all costs he rejoined his Battery Commander on the feature at first light with his set through to the Battery. His complete disregard for personal safety was most noticeable, he is a young NCO and this was his first experience of an attack and his behaviour throughout was very fine indeed.

Lance Bombardier Wait’s Military Medal was announced in the London Gazette on 21 March 1944. He did not live to learn of the award, however. Wait was killed on 20 February 1944, during the amphibious assault in the Anzio Beachead. He is buried at Anzio War Cemetery.

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Vulcan needs £580k repairs to stay airworthy

Vulcan XH558 at Shoreham 2009

Vulcan XH558 at Shoreham 2009

The worlds only flying Vulcan Bomber is in desparate need of £580,000 worth of repairs, reports the Mail on Sunday.

In what is becoming an annual event, the Vulcan to the Sky Trust have launched an urgent appeal for the funds needed to keep Vulcan XH558 airworthy in time for this years airshow circuit. Reportedly it took a battering performing in poor weather conditions last year. Weak points on the wings on the wings require replacement steel and aluminium reinforcing plates, all onboard fire extinguishers have to be replaced as do the braking parachutes.

There are amibitious plans for the 2010 flying season, in what will be XH558’s 50th anniversary. The Trust also hopes to feature in a flypast over Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Having been lucky enough to see a Vulcan flying twice at airshows – Lee-on-Solent in the early 90’s and 2009 at Shoreham – this really is a special aircraft. Apart from its role delivering the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent for many years, and the famous Black Buck bombing raids in the Falklands War, there is something enigmatic about the delta winged airframe appearing over the horizon.

It really is quite sad that in a world where the country can find £50million for a Titian painting – just how many paintings does this country own anyway? – and millions for the Royal Opera House, we’re struggling to keep historic aircraft in the air. This news comes shortly after rumours that the RAF will offer up the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Red Arrows for the axe in the next Defence Review. Such historically important aircraft should be protected.

To Donate to keep Vulcan XH558 flying, visit the Vulcan to the Sky Trust’s website here

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Lance Corporal George Sullivan – the Portsmouth Chindit

A Chindit Mule Train moving through the Jungle

A Chindit Mule Train moving through the Jungle

Lance Corporal George Sullivan, 23 and from Cosham, died in Burma on 1 August 1943. He is buried in Rangoon War Cemetery in what is now known as Myanmar.

A member of the 13th Battalion of the Kings Regiment – a Regiment that normally recruited from the Liverpool area – he served on the first Chindit expedition, Operation Longcloth.

The Chindit Operations were the brainchild of Brigadier Orde Wingate, who had trialed forms of long range penetration warfare in East Africa. In Burma, he was given the 77th Indian Brigade to train as a force to fight behind Japanese lines. They were trained to be supplied by stores dropped by parachute, and to use a minimum of heavy equipment. The force was structured into a number of columns, instead of the usual Battalions.

Operation Longcloth was originally to have been part of a wider campaign in Burma. Despite the wider offensive being cancelled, Wingate was persuaded to take his men into the jungle anyway. Beginning their march into Burma on 8 February 1943, on 13 February they crossed the Chindwin River. They stayed in the Jungle until late March, when Wingate decided to withdraw. They had been fighting the Japanese continually, and had often had to leave their wounded behind. Much of their time was spent clearing paths through the dense jungle with kukris and machetes.

Of the 3,000 men who set off on the first Chindit expedition, 818 died. Those that returned had covered between 1,000 and 1,500 miles. Of those that returned only 600 were fit for further military service. It took many months for some of the survivors to return to British lines. Despite these huge losses, the principle of deep penetration warfare in the Jungle had been proven, and a much larger expedition was approved for 1944.

It is unclear how Lance Corporal Sullivan died. We know that he was a Prisoner of the Japanese, although POW records give no indication of when or where he was captured. However he met his fate, Lance Corporal Sullivan was part of one of the most legendary British units of the Second World War, and had taken part in a significant feat of arms.

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