Guardsman Thomas William WYNN (2660995)

4th Coy., 5th Bn., Coldstream Guards

Born: Abt March 1920, Glenridding, Westmorland
Died: 31 July 1944, St Martin des Besaces, France (Age 24) 

 

Thomas William Wynn was born in Glenridding around March 1920 and was baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 11th April 1920. He was the eldest son of John William Wynn, a miner, and his wife Elizabeth Jane (nee Richardson). The Wynn family had been in Glenridding since at least 1856 and some descendants still live here. Thomas would have attended Patterdale School. After leaving school he took up farm work in the Melmerby and Ullswater areas before moving back to Glenridding where he worked at the Greenside mine for a short time.

At the outbreak of war, Thomas enlisted in the 5th Battalion of the Coldstream Guards. Unlike some other Coldstream Battalions, who had converted to Armour, the 5th remained an Infantry Battalion. They did not see active service until June 1944 and the Battalion's war diaries show a life of continuous training and exercises in many parts of Britain - they must have been one of the best trained units in the Army.

On the 30th April 1944, the 5th Battalion finally moved from Scarborough to Eastbourne as a part of the build up for the 'D' Day offensive. Much of May was spent on waterproofing equipment and the, surprisingly, last minute task of teaching non-swimmers to swim! On the 28th May, the Battalion was placed at '6 hours notice'. However, the 5th Battalion did not take part in the 'D' Day landings on the 6th June but were held in reserve. They eventually boarded the troop ship 'Empire Gladstone' on the 18th June and after several delays finally anchored 5 miles off 'Gold Beach' at 10pm on the 24th June. American landing craft arrived the next morning to take the vehicles and men to the beach. Three days later, the 5th Battalion were taking up defensive positions at Saint Manvieu (about 2 miles west of Caen, which was in German hands) and facing the 12th SS Panzer Division (Hitler Youth).

During the next month, the Battalion slowly fought it's way South West and took part in 'Operation Goodwood' on the 18th July 1944, an action that was preceded by a 2,000 bomber airstrike. By the 31st July 1944 the 5th Battalion were in a position just North East of Caumont L'Evente. During that day they began to move southwards but after passing through Saint Martin des Besaces they encountered a hill that was strongly held by the Germans. The Commanding Officer decided that a Battalion attack would be necessary - it would be supported by a Squadron of tanks and Artillery fire if necessary. The attack went in a2130 hours and met with no opposition going up the hill but as the leading Companies came up to the crest of the hill they encountered enemy fire in very close hedged country. No.3 Company were held up by Machine Gun and rifle fire from the area of an Orchard, whilst No.4 Company also under fire had difficulty finding exactly where they were in the darkness and very thick bocage, so they dug in for the night. The Battalion lost 10 men in the action, including Guardsman Wynn of No.4 Company, and 22 more were wounded.

Guardsman Wynn was held in high esteem by the officers and men of his company and this expressed in a touching letter sent to his parents by his platoon officer:

'Tommy was one of my friends - perhaps the grandest fellow we had in the platoon - and his loss is deeply felt by all of us here. His cheerfulness, good nature and firmness of character always were outstanding wherever he was, at work, in the field or in our leisure hours. He died as he would have wished, while in offensive action against the enemy. He continued to fire his gun until he himself was hit - an inspiration to all of us ........ Tom was buried in a peaceful apple orchard and later the grave was revisited and a memorial service held'

The Medal Records for WW2 servicemen are contained within their service records, which have not yet been made publicly available. However, having served for almost five years, including five weeks in France, before he was killed, Guardsman Wynn qualified for, and would have been posthumously awarded, at least the following medals1:
        
        1939-1945 Star 
        1939-1945 British War Medal

Guardsman Thomas Wynn is remembered and commemorated on: 

The Patterdale War Memorial
The St Charles de Percy War Cemetery, Calvados, France (Plot I, Row C, Grave 14)
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial Certificate


What became of his family?

Parents
His father John William Wynn was born at Rake, Glenridding around February 1888, the son of Samuel, a Carter, and his wife Mary (nee Milburn). He was baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 11th March 1888. John William married Elizabeth Jane Richardson in Penrith around November 1918. He died at the age of 67 in November 1955 at the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle. The family were living at High Rake, Glenridding at that time.
His mother Elizabeth Jane (nee Richardson) was born in Whitehaven on the 13th January 1898 and died, aged 73, in March 1971 at The Headlands, Glenridding. Both John and Elizabeth are buried in St Patrick's churchyard.

Siblings
William had two younger brothers and a sister, all born in Glenridding:
Frederick was born on the 18th May 1921 and baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 24th July 1921. Fred, as he was known, also joined the forces and served in India. He married Margaret Otway around November 1947, initially living at Middle Rake, Glenridding but had moved to The Headlands by 1971. They had three children, John Frederick, Jean Patricia and Sheena Mary. Frederick worked as a miner before becoming a Foreman with Northern Rock Drillers. Frederick died at the age of 51 in the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle on the 16th July 1972 and is buried in St Patrick's churchyard.
John Henry was born on the 15th February 1923 and baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 15th April 1923. Harry, as he was known, also joined the forces and served in France. He died aged 54 around November 1977 in the Penrith area.
Jean Mary was born on the 29th March 1925 and baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 10th May 1925. She did not marry and lived at The Headlands, Glenridding until she died at the age of 55 on the 14th May 1980. She is buried in St Patrick's churchyard.

Notes:

1. Medals

1939-1945 Star - This star was awarded for service in the Second World War between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945. Royal Navy personnel had to complete 6 months service afloat in active operational areas. Army personnel had to complete 6 months service in an operational command. Airborne troops qualified if they had participated in any airborne operations and had completed 2 months service in a fully operational unit. RAF personnel had to participate in operations against the enemy providing that 2 months service had been completed in an operational unit. Non-aircrew personnel had to complete 6 months service in an area of operational army command. Merchant Navy qualified if they completed 6 months service, and at least 1 voyage was made through an operational area. Members of fighter aircraft crews who took part in the Battle of Britain (10 July to 31 October 1940) were awarded the "Battle of Britain" bar to this medal.

The criteria is 180 days’ service, although some special criteria apply when, at certain specified times, just 1 days’ service is required. These were actions for which a more specific campaign medal was not issued. Examples are: France or Belgium: 10 May to 19 June 1940, St.Nazaire 22-28 March 1942, Dieppe: 19 August 1942, Iraq: 10 April to 25 May 1941 and Burma (Enemy Invasion): 22 February 1942 to 15 May 1942.

Also recipients were awarded this star if their service period was terminated by their death or disability due to service. Also the award of a gallantry medal or Mention in Despatches also produced the award of this medal, regardless of their service duration.

1939-1945 British War Medal  - The War Medal 1939–1945 was a British decoration awarded to all full time service personnel of the Armed Forces wherever their service during the war was rendered. Operational and non-operational service counted provided personnel had completed 28 days service between 3rd September 1939 and the 2nd September 1945. In the Merchant Navy there was the requirement that 28 days should be served at sea.

Personnel who were eligible for a campaign star yet who had their service cut short by death, wounds or capture by the enemy, still qualified for this medal. Eligible personnel who had been mentioned in dispatches during the War were entitled to wear a bronze oak leaf emblem on the ribbon. Those War Medals issued to UK personnel were not officially inscribed. However, those issued to Australian and South African personnel were officially inscribed. It is sometimes described as the "Victory Medal" for World War II, although that is not its correct name.

2. The St Charles de Percy War Cemetery

The Allied offensive in north-western Europe began with the Normandy landings of 6 June 1944. St Charles de Percy War Cemetery is the southernmost of the Normandy cemeteries. The majority of those buried here died in late July and early August 1944 in the major thrust made from Caumont l'Evente towards Vire, to drive a wedge between the German 7th Army and Panzer Group West. The cemetery contains 809 Second World War burials. More Details

War Diary: 5th Battalion COLDSTREAM GUARDS, Jan - Dec 1944