Lest We Forget
During mid June not long after the initial D Day landings in Normandy, France, Squadron Leader Paul Elwell from Highworth, who was the pilot of an RAF de Haviland Mosquito, was investigating flares and heavy flak east of the Cherbourg Peninsula when he noticed five German Fock Wulf 190's climbing steeply. He raced in and fought the planes until his ammunition was exhausted. He destroyed one Fock Wulf for certain and probably another before returning home safely. Paul Bingham Elwell was the second son of Edward Charles and Edith Monica Elwell. He was educated at All Hallows School, Dorset, after which he received an engineering training at the GWR works at Swindon. For a time worked for a motor company and when the Second World War broke out he was commissioned in the RAF. He served with 600 Squadron and ended the war with a DFC and the rank of Wing Commander. In 1946 he emigrated to Uganda, where he had the post of Manager Pilot to Caspair Air Charters Ltd of Entebbe. After ten years at his job he moved to Kenya where he joined his younger brother in business at Eldoret, of which in 1960 he was elected Mayor. However, he did not complete his term of office and the same year he returned to Entebbe to resume his former duties with Caspair. One of his first tasks was connected with the evacuation of Belgian refugees from the newly independent Congo and for this he was awarded the MBE.
On the 8th October 1962, when coming in to land at Entebbe Airport, he crashed and was killed. Paul Elwell's brother, Major Gerald Elwell, was a Bomb Disposal expert and during the Second World War he defused a German bomb at Botany, Highworth.
255227 Lieutenant William Henry WOODBRIDGE. 49th Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps. Royal Armoured Corps. Died of wounds, 22nd June 1944, age 28 years.
Lieutenant William (Bill) Woodbridge had joined the Army in 1940 and was in the Royal Armoured Corps and later in the 49th (West Riding) Reconnaissance Corps. He was commissioned in December 1942. The first Regiment of Reconnaissance Corps was established at the Rifle Depot in Winchester on the 1st February 1941. The Corps had been charged with gathering vital tactical information in battle for Infantry divisions. The standard reconnaissance battalion carried twice as much firepower as its infantry counterpart, it was designed to move quickly in armoured recce cars, universal carriers and trucks, and it was to send its information back by wireless. Those who served in the Regiment had to be intelligent, enterprising, brave, enduring and highly skilled. During the build up for the D Day landings in June 1944, Lt. Woodbridge and his crew with their Bren-gun carrier of 49 Recce was to be seen in and around the Highworth area during manoeuvres. During some of these Lt. Woodbridge acted as umpire.
The battle for Normandy started on the 6th June 1944. As the Allied forces consolidated the bridgehead, further formations arrived to strengthen 12(US) and 21(British) Army Groups. Among them was 49th (West Riding) Division, originally an assault division for Overlord until replaced by 50th Division. Nonetheless, 49th Division was an early arrival in France with elements of 49 Recce landing on the 13th June.
'A' Squadron was first ashore, followed four days later by RHQ,'B' Squadron and part of HQ Squadron. 49th (West Riding) Reconnaissance Regiment had been formed in September 1942 from independent reconnaissance squadrons. During the early stages of the invasion 49 Recce played their part in holding stretches of line as infantry with patrolling playing a lesser part. Based initially on Le Hamel, squadrons had to cover and patrol into a long cornfield stretching out some three kilometres from Le Hamel. When the 49th Division opened its attack on Fontenay and Rauray 49th Recce made several sweeps through the cornfield using its carriers and assault troops. The enemy suffered many casualties from the recce men who were subjected to heavy fire from 88mm guns on high ground east of Rauray. On the outskirts of Fontenay they were engaged by four Panther tanks, but these were quickly put out of action by the Recce gunners.
During a recce patrol in the hedgerow country of Northern France, Lt. Bill Woodbridge and his men were behind enemy lines accessing the strength of the Germans, and gathering other vital information which would assist the invasion forces. After stopping in fairly quiet country he jumped from his carrier to take a better look around. Suddenly a grenade exploded showering him in shrapnel, pieces of which struck him in the head wounding him badly. His men managed to get him into the carrier where he was rushed to a field hospital, attended to, and then shipped across the Channel to a hospital in Oxford, where he later died of his wounds on the 22nd June 1944. Bill Woodbridge was twenty-eight years old. He was buried in Oxford (Botley) Cemetery, North Hinksey, Oxfordshire, on Monday 26th June 1944 and on the same day a Memorial service was held in St Michaels church, Highworth.
Lieutenant William Henry Woodbridge was the son of Ernest and Sarah Ann Woodbridge of Highworth and the husband of Phyllis Betty the only daughter of Mr and Mrs Sturgess. They had been married in 1940 in Oxford. Bill Woodbridge had been educated at Highworth and Euclid Street school, Swindon.
Before the war he was on the staff of the Oriental Fibre Matting Company of Highworth. He was a keen sportsman having played football for Highworth Town Football Club, and Swindon Town Reserves. He was a playing member of Highworth Cricket Club and also had a trial for Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, which was interrupted by his war service.
Many people in Highworth and the surrounding area knew Bill Woodbridge as an outstanding sportsman especially at cricket. He was a good all-rounder and a great striker of the ball, scoring many runs including several centuries. Reg Sinfield the well known England and Gloucestershire County cricket all-rounder spoke very highly of his aptitude for the game.
5575659 Private Stanley George SMITH. lst Battalion The Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment. Formerly 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment. Killed in action 27th July 1944, age 23 years.
In June 1943, the 2nd Wilts embarked at E1 Shatt, on the Suez Canal for the assault on Sicily. They landed at Syracuss on July 10th and drove through feeble Italian defences before coming against hardening German resistance along the coastal road to Canatania. On July 18th the Wiltshires secured and held the vital only bridgehead enabling their brigade to cross the river. On August 12th Sicily was clear and invasion preparations against Italy began. In the New Year (1944) the Wiltshires joined 10 Corps in the 5th US Army.
During the whole of January the battalion was involved in some severe fighting. The objective of the 5th Army was to break through into the Liri valley, the route to Rome, which involved crossing the River Garigliano and circumventing or capturing Monti Cairo, crowned with its centuries-old monastery, Monte Cassino.