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Wakem WA 7917957

09/11/2017 - I woken up late today, late even for me, so late I missed lunch! I needed a cuppa so headed straight for the kitchen and noticed that Denise our postlady had been and there was a suspiciously good looking bit of mail on the mat. Forgetting about the tea I was going to make I headed back to the office, post in hand. Opening the A5 letter revealed a boots photograph envelope, inside that was a letter from Sue & Paul Wakem and some photographs of photographs. Wakems dog-tag was returned fairly recently and I seem to have forgotten to mention it on here, so that reminds me to do another list of all those returned. One of the more amazing things we realised the other day, our database has many automatic calculations that work out which unit issued the serial number. Of course not all are complicated and one simply counts up how many status's are set to 'RETURNED/HOME'. Which as I said before is over 50, what I didn't realise is that its only counting people, not dog-tags. So how many dog-tags we have returned is 86!

However, as usual I am getting side tracked! At the start Waken was just a name and serial number like all the others, then first off all FWR came up with a result. 
 

First Name: W A

Surname: Wakem

Date of Action: 08/06/1942

Fate: Wounded

Incident Details: Reported to War Office Casualty Section for the 24 hours ending at 09:00.

Incident Date: 04/07/1942

Information: Casualty List No.867.

Rank: Trooper

Service Number: 7917957

Duty Location: Middle East – Western Desert

Service: British Army

Regiment: 4th Hussars

Secondary Unit: Royal Armoured Corps

So we already had an idea of an early war soldier that was involved in Africa/Italy campaigns, Katey somehow worked her magic in tracking down the family. There was a short delay in getting the address of where to send the dog-tag to as they were away for a break. When they were back, Sue and Paul confirmed that they were the children of William Audrey Waken and that he had served during WW2. They also gave the story of what the wounded report was that we found on FWR. ​
His tank was strafed by a German plane while in the Western Desert June 1942. When the plane attacked everyone in the plane was killed, all except William, somehow he survived, although he was wounded in the encounter. I have gone through the records for the 4th Hussars around that time and they are barely on the battlefield early June, they just seem to be moving about, lots of dates even specifically say no action. There is certainly no mention of deaths or attacks by aircraft on the 8th June. Then I kept reading, on the 12th the is a report that matches what we know about this action although it does have a nasty twist! I am fairly certain that the date given is an error and the actually incident was on the 12th.

"At EL DUDA the Sqn was machine gunned by one of our own fighters, resulting in the death of Sgt Shill, LCpl Duckering and LCpl Leigh. One OR was wounded. The deceased were buried at approx 428412."
I did think for a second that the date may have been recorded in some sort of cover up, but why? After all at the time these records were only for military eyes and nobody could have ever imagined at the time that a group like ours would start digging about in the archives trying to piece all this together.
Above - Cpl Wakem and an unknown member of the Royal Air Force.
Left - Cpl Wakem in desert OD uniform.
I wrote back to Sue and Paul updating them with the new information and what I believe to have happened. I also then thought about the unknown RAF guy in the photograph above, a weird coincidence. I have asked if they know who is is, or if there is any notations on the reverse of the original photographs. I also asked if there are any notes on some of the other photographs, specifically one of about 15 soldiers all around a tank. Although the photograph is really out of focus and that's why its no appearing here on the website. I am hoping there are and that the names that are in the war diary match some of the ones that could be on the reverse. I will let you know when I know!
 

Tough G 14330981

While we wait to hear back from Sue and Paul, I will update you a little again as its been months since I last updated this. The main reason this doesn't get updated is usually because we're all hard at work cleaning, sorting, filing and researching more dog-tags! The most exciting thing is when I sit and punch tag after tag into FWR, I was sat doing this yesterday and the bulk of hits are always wounded reports. So when G Tough 14330981 came up as wounded, it was just another one of hundreds of these reports. There were two files, the first was a correction report, correcting a date from the 19th June 1944 to the 6th June 1944, but gave little other details. If this was Italy or Africa then it wouldn't be very exciting, but it it was NW'Europe then its a very significant date. I opened the 2nd file and sure enough it was for NW'Europe. Excellent, so a D-Day casualty. Then I saw the unit! 7th Battalion Parachute Regiment! WOW!!! I thought that there must be some interesting details on what this unit was doing, but first I thought I would chance my luck and see if there was anything about G Tough online... fingers crossed and with one Google search there he was, not a photograph of him, but a detailed written event of how he was wounded and what happened from that point on wards! This is taken from http://www.pegasusarchive.org.
 

"Arrived at DZ approx 01.00 hrs - Heavy flak. Plane low and landed almost immediately. Unloaded kitbag with Bren Gun etc. Immediately met Officer from Canadian Para Regiment - how he was there I do not know. We conversed and then headed for the Bridge (PEGASUS) walking for approx. 10 min. There we met up with Major Steele-Baume {Second-in-Command, 7th Parachute Battalion}, the R.S.M., and two others from the 7th. Batt. The Major turned over the body of a German lying by the sentry box and said "This is your first dead German." I presume he had been killed by a member of the Ox & Bucks.

 

I was designated (by whom I can't remember) to go up this path along with another para. We parted company about a 100yds. on. I carried on to a farm, which had a large archway at the far end. Opposite the farm was a small bank, then a field then small wood from where some Germans were moving about. I placed my Bren gun by the opening to the field and kept behind the bank. On looking round four figures emerged, the farmer his wife and two children all wearing long flannel night gowns and pointed hats attached to which were tassels. (light relief). Waved to them to go back, which they did. I then opened fire into the wood as there was quite a bit of movement, then a quiet period. I must have moved as the Germans opened fire at the opening, ricochets, stones, grit, and pieces of shrapnel entered my right hand making it useless. A bullet passed through my front patch pocket, going through my army issue prayer book and pay book. I still have these. At the same time the straps on my back pack were shorn off. I looked around and coming through the archway were three of the regiment (I presume). Indicated to them to go back just as the Germans opened fire. Nobody was hit as far as I could see but did not see them again. All quiet for some time.

 

Wondering what I should do next as there was no sign of anyone from the Batt. Heard a noise beside me, on turning round there was a German with a revolver, pointing straight at me. I had been lying face down, on turning instinctively put up my knees to protect myself. A bullet entered my right leg just below the knee, travelled up lodging in my femur. The force of it turned me face down. The Jerry kicked me, I feigned dead he then moved up the track and disappeared. Some time later someone applied a bandage pad to my leg wound and hand. He then disappeared and I was alone again. Presumed the Germans had left the wood as there was no more firing.

 

Decided to hobble back to the bridge, crossed over and the first person I met was Lt. Rodgers {Commanding Officer, Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Tank Platoon, 7th Parachute Battalion}. Gave details of what had happened, handed over ammunition, grenades etc. Lay down at the side of the road for quite some time, eventually getting a lift in a vehicle, taken to the barn of a chateau, that was full of wounded personnel. It was constantly being mortared. I was desperately needing the toilet - the other wounded were doing it where they lay, but I was determined to go outside. Found a make shift affair made from branches of trees over a very deep hole. Sitting there looking across to the wood saw civilians sheltering from the mortar fire and they were looking at me! Decided not to go back to the barn again, crawled back to the bridge. Snipers still firing as I crossed over. Lay down beside the bridge, saw gliders coming in, jeeps, guns and paras being dropped. Vague recollections of Lord Lovat's piper playing as he came across the bridge. Cannot say in which order these events took place.

 

Was finally picked up and taken to the beaches. Taken by boat (think it was tank landing craft) to Southampton docks, taken to hospital operated on to remove bullet. Subsequently transferred to Dudley Road Hospital, Birmingham, treated, developed septicaemia and was there for the next ten months. Had army medical, downgraded to C1, transferred back to RAC, to various Regiments. Finished my army career as Post Corporal with the Royal Dragoons in Germany. Released July 1947. The above story is as near to the facts as I can recall.

 

My thanks to George and Graeme Tough, and to Michael Pine-Coffin for this story."

...well I didn't expect all of that! I emailed the website admin and explained I had his dog-tag and wanted to get it back to the family. He tried emailing them but the emails bounce back for some reason and its very possible that George has passed away and Graeme has now retired or also passed away as were having problems tracking either down. Although this is one dog-tag that if it doesn't ever leave this house, I won't be overly upset. If I have to keep it and frame it along with a parachute cap badge I happily will do.

Niblock WL 7901534

I'm really slacking on keeping this website up to date and from my posts it would seem that every dog-tag on here is special; that every family has photos to share. There are lots of dog-tags returned o family that either don't have any photographs of that relative or they simply don't want to share them. However, I got an email a few days ago from Barry Niblock and I assumed that Katey had contacted him, typical of me to add confusion straight into a conversation. He had somehow found us and was asking about his Dads dog-tag, I confirmed we did indeed have it and would love to get it to him, all I needed was an address to send it too. Now, I get to this point to often and I find as soon as you ask for an address people then stop replying. Fearing a scam or something, Barry however emailed back with his address and photographs and some information on his fathers wartime experiences. FANTASTIC! A win for all parties.

William Niblock in the drivers position of his cruiser tank. Presumably early as they introduced in 1939 for a cavalry type role and phased out at the beginning of 1943.
These were first used in N'Africa in June 41 with a 2 pound gun, but this proved really under armed and was later replaced with a 6 pound gun. Very few were used after N'Africa.

Above is a telegram that William or Les as he signed off sent home to his mother to verify that he was in good health. The photo above right shows the came cruiser tank (probably taken the same day) with all the crew this time. Les clearly showing the typical field state of the driver, wearing as little as possible, his position when the tank was used was by the far the hottest, most other positions could get some air, stick bodies out of hatches or depending what was going on, get out and sit on the deck/turret. When speaking to veterans who were drivers, was they all complained about the combined heat from the engine and the weather. Lots would drive in nothing more than shorts or even underwear! Very evident from this photograph where all the crew is wearing trousers and a shirt, except for Les. Also notice his dust googles worn round his neck, essential for the driver.

As we can see from his serial number 7901534 that it is a low RAC number, the RTR numbers stop at 7891687, after that point it was transformed into the Royal Armoured Corps. RAC was formed on the 4th April 1939. So we can much assume he signed up right at the start of WW2 or possibly just before. From there he would have done basic training and gone down to Bovington, home of Royal Armoured Corps and trained as a driver. He was in France and was evacuated from Dunkirk and brought back to the UK. He would have been re-organised, re-equipped and then like most others were shipped out to North Africa. He fought at El Alamein and during the Battle of Bardier he lost the tops of his fingers! Oddly though I can find not wounded report for this event. This didn't take him out of action and he continued, he went on to invade France (no idea of the date) and fought through Europe and into Germany until peace was declared. He passed away in 2001 aged 82 and as Barry said "so not a bad innings". 

This tag is actually going in the post at the same time I am writing this, my lovely wife has taken  my post with her and my daughter to parents evening and the postbox is on route. Barry the dog-tag will be with you very shortly. Enjoy. 

Gascoigne WU 4756831

Although details are scarce on this trooper at the moment, all three of his dog-tags were found and are now in the hands of the Royal Mail until they get to his granddaughter. William Ulric Gascoigne was raised in Yorkshire, and he didn't move very far before enlisting during WW2 as its an original Yorks & Lancs regiment serial number that he was issued. As for where he served and what he did is unknown at present. All we know is that he ended up serving with the RAC. Hopefully his family will be able to shed some light on this soon.