Trooper Wilfrid Waring Padgett, 10602230, 56th Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps.
Wilfred Waring Padgett was born in the early months of 1923, the son of Alverthorpe born rag grinder Jack Padgett (born 11th March 1899) and Minnie Waring (born 16th October 1900). The couple married at Holy Trinity Church, Ossett on the 5th February 1921, when Jack was living at 75, Wesley Street, Ossett and Minnie’s home was 3, Mitchell’s Yard, Wakefield Road, Ossett.
Jack was one of fifteen children, five of whom had died before April 1911, when the family lived at Pildacre Hill, Ossett. Wilfred had the following siblings: Roy, born in September 1921; Mabeth, born in October 1924; Annie, born in 1927 and Samuel, born in 1934.
In September 1939 Jack, his wife, Minnie were living with their children, including Roy & Mabeth, at 26, Springstone Avenue, Ossett. Jack was working as a rag grinder in a shoddy mill, his daughter, Mabeth, was a rag sorter and Roy worked as an assistant power hammer smith. Jack’s brother, Willie, a miner was living with the family and the Register includes three names, which are redacted. These were probably the couple’s other children, Samuel, Annie and Wilfred. All in all there were eight persons living in the 1939 Padgett household on Springstone Avenue.
The Reconnaissance Corps was charged with gathering 'vital tactical information in battle for infantry divisions' before battle commenced. 56th Reconnaissance Regiment (56 Recce) was the first to see action in the Reconnaissance role. The unit landed in Tunisia with 78th Division in November 1942 and served there until May 1943; in Sicily, July-August 1943; and in Italy, September 1943-May 1945.
It is likely that Wilfrid Padgett was fatally wounded when 56 Recce had led Eighth Army's advance on the Foggia Plain in October 1943 and then made for Termoli on the Adriatic coast, where it was hoped to outflank the Germans through a seaborne landing combined with an advance led by 56 Recce. However, Termoli was then attacked by 16 Panzer Division and, with torrential rain delaying the arrival of reinforcements and grounding Allied aircraft, an ad hoc group commanded by Lt. Col. Chavasse of 56 Recce was assigned to defend the perimeter. This force included commandos and a Special Raiding Squadron troop, as well as a squadron from 56 Recce and some infantry. Chavasse's small command held off the enemy long enough for reinforcements to arrive by both road and sea.
The "Ossett Observer" had this obituary for Wilfrid W. Padgett:1
"Local Casualties - Ossett Soldier Dies Of Wounds - Trooper Wilfrid Padgett - On Thursday last week, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Padgett, 41, Intake Lane, Ossett, received notification from the records office of his unit that their son, Trooper Wilfrid Waring Padgett (20), had been wounded, and the following day (Friday) came the sad news that he had died from his wounds in the Central Mediterranean theatre of war. He was a much respected young man, and the deepest sympathy is felt with his family in their sorrow.
Wilfrid who was single and lived at home with his parents, attended Holy Trinity School, and afterwards worked for Mr. Hutchinson in Langley's Mill Yard. He joined up in January 1942 and went to North Africa in November last year, serving with the Reconnaissance Regiment. He was an accomplished piano-accordian player and frequently entertained the troops in Ossett.
Although the fact was unknown to either at the time, he and his brother Roy went to North Africa about the same time. Hearing of this, Wilfrid spent a good deal of his leisure time in trying to locate his brother, and eventually, after a thirty mile journey, managed to find him. In a letter home, he expressed the great delight both felt at the meeting. We understand that they also met on a subsequent occasion. Roy was formerly a bus conductor, and both were members of the old Tramways Band.
The father, Mr. Jack Padgett, who works at Langley's, served in the last war, and his brother, Mr. Sam Padgett, who won the Military Medal and the Belgian Croix du Guerre was killed in action in 1918. The parents have now received a letter from Lieutenant C.L. Keats, from the Central Mediterranean, in which he writes: "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Padgett, will you kindly permit me to offer you the deepest condolences of myself and the boys in the troop, in fact the whole squadron, in your great loss, which must have been a terrific shock to you, as it was to us. Wilfrid stood very high in the estimation of these lads, and many an evening has he cheered them by his great gift for music and outstandingly happy character.
It may please you to know that Wilfrid had every possible attention, and was treated in hospital by very skilled medical officers. I was with him from the beginning until he was taken to the nearest hospital, and I can assure you no time was wasted. I tell you this, as I fully realise the worry caused to the mind reflecting on possible inefficiency. Wilfrid proved himself a real man and possessed a great deal of pluck. He was a great example, which, I know deeply impressed the remainder of the troop. I enclose a token from the men of the squadron in memory of their fallen comrade. As I am Wilfrid's officer, I should be grateful if you would permit me to visit you, and I should be proud to meet the parents of such a great boy"
Wilfrid Padgett died of wounds on the 17th October 1943, aged 23 years, and is buried at grave reference XIV. A. 2. in the Sangro River War Cemetery, Italy. The Sangro River War Cemetery lies in the Contrada Sentinelle in the Commune of Torino di Sangro, Province of Chieti.
On the 3rd September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. Allied objectives were to draw German troops from the Russian front and more particularly from France, where an offensive was planned for the following year.
Progress through southern Italy was rapid despite stiff resistance, but by the end of October, the Allies were facing the German winter defensive position known as the Gustav Line, which stretched from the river Garigliano in the west to the Sangro in the east. By 4 November, the Allied force that had fought its way up the Adriatic coast was preparing to attack the Sangro river positions. A bridgehead had been established by the 24th and by nightfall on the 30th, the whole ridge overlooking the river was in Allied hands.
The site of this cemetery was selected by the 5th Corps and into it were brought the graves of men who had died in the fierce fighting on the Adriatic sector of the front in November-December 1943, and during the static period that followed. In addition, the cemetery contains the graves of a number of escaped prisoners of war who died while trying to reach the Allied lines.
Sangro River War Cemetery contains 2,617 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.2
Above: The iconic vehicle of the Reconnaissance Corps, straight from the factory: the Humber LRC had a three-man crew and featured a small open-topped turret, a .55-inch Boys AT rifle, a Bren LMG and a smoke mortar, and carried a No.19 wireless set. The 26.88hp engine gave the 3.6-ton LRC a top speed of 61 mph, and its 18gal fuel tank a range of 175 miles.
1. "Ossett Observer", Saturday. 27th November 1943.