Sergeant 'Tug' Wilson WW2 Hero - 2nd/7th Middlesex Regiment
|The following is a little known story of the
heroic action of a former son of Tottenham who had lived in Cunningham Road, Broad lane,
Tottenham. Prior to the war Robert Wilson had worked at the local 'Gestetners' factory.
Robert Wilson was of one of the many Tottenham boys who went off to fight in the Second
World War. Sergeant Robert "Tug" Wilson was also one of many soldiers from the
Tottenham area who served in my dad´s battalion, the 2nd/7th Middlesex. "Tug"
lived with his wife Jessie and two young children in Cunningham Road.
When his unit was sent abroad in May 1943 to fight in the Italian campaign, few would have realised that Sergeant Wilson was never to see Tottenham again. He was killed on the Anzio Beachhead, Italy, on the 19th February 1944 in a brave bid to rescue from captivity the soldiers from another neighbouring Middlesex platoon who were being led away to captivity. It was one of the few stories my dad told me about, as he was there at the time, urging his sergeant not to leave the trench.
John Mc Loughlin
Sergeant Walker´s (8 Platoon) memories, 26th October 1988
& 23rd August 1998
So our platoon was cut off, the Germans isolated us. Jerry kept firing across our position. And we just fired back. But at this stage we hadn't got much ammunition left. We'd only about a couple of belts to each gun, if that by the end. Maybe one belt, some hadn't got any belts, any ammunition. So we just sat and stood fast, with whatever ammunition we had, a rifle, or whatever guns we had.
Sergeant Walker from Knutsford, Cheshire
|Jerry was behind us and in front of us. We knew he
was behind us but we didn´t know what was happening. But anyway, we held our position
against the attack, but we thought we'd be taken prisoner. We thought they'd just send a
platoon, a few squads and round us up, and back as prisoners. There was about a dozen of
us in this dugout, it was quite a deep dugout. There was a Jerry machine gun nest less
than 100 yards away and they kept firing at us. You see, the Jerries used to creep up at
night and let fly with their machine gun. They also had a 2-inch mortar, and they´d come
up to within fifty yards, put two or three in, and then bugger off. That´s why you had to
have a top on your dugout.
Tug Wilson was restless, still thinking about his brother, who´d been killed by the Japs earlier in the war. I suppose this might have had something to do with the state of his mind during this German attack. So this Jerry machine gun kept firing at us, and Tug says to me "I'll go and get that bastard!" "Don't be soft! Stop where you are," I said, "they'll cut you to bloody ribbons out there!" Anyway, all of a sudden he made a dive and Wally Dennison and I grabbed his foot and pulled him back. I said Don´t be so bloody stupid! Stop where you are. You´re alright here." So we quietened him down a bit for about half an hour or so. But then he suddenly grabbed this bloody rifle off a bloke that was next to him. And before we knew it, he was halfway over. I caught hold of his lanyard, you know grabbing whatever I could to stop him as he went over the side, but it just came off in my hand. Wally (Hammon) grabbed his foot, but Tug just kicked it free and he was away. That was the last time we saw him alive.
He must have been cut down by the Jerry Spandau. We found his grave in the Factory after the breakout. His identity disc and helmet on the grave.
Jerry must have buried him. I´ve still got Tug Wilson´s lanyard upstairs.
Paddy McLoughlin´s (8 Platoon) memory
October 1981, 20th April 1982 and other times in the 198082 period
There were about four or five of us left in this trench.
The Germans had gone to the left and right of us and got behind us. We were cut off. And
the Germans had broken through the platoon near us, 7 Platoon. There was no communication
between our platoon and the next. This sergeant, I can´t remember his name, was all for
going out to see what had happened, to try and contact another unit of ours. Don´t
be a c*#t, I shouted, Jerry´ll have you! But I couldn´t persuade
him and he left the trench. His body was found later (not true, it was his grave),
confirming our fears
'Tug' Wilson - Tunis Summer 1943
|Letter written 12th March 1945 by Major E. M. Bruce
(Company Commander) to Sergeant Tug Wilson´s widow
Dear Mrs Wilson,
As regards his personal things, I have made exhaustive enquiries without avail. You see, first he had all his things of intrinsic and sentimental value on him and when he made his very brave dash forward to endeavour to rescue some of our men who had been captured, that was the last we saw or heard of him. The trench positions which he had occupied with his platoon were badly damaged by shellfire and we lost a certain amount of personal and platoon kit and I am afraid some of his must have been lost with it. I can assure you that every bit of personal belongings which one could get hold of was always sent to the War Office for onward transmission; but the war at that particular time on the beachhead had reached a peak of intensity and was very critical with the inevitable amount of confusion which exists even in the best regulated battles.
written by Sergeant Ernie Eden to Sergeant Wilson´s widow, 20th March 1945
(Sergeant Eden was in Tug Wilson´s 8 Platoon)
On this morning we had been heavily attacked by
`Jerry´. On the left of us one of our other platoons had been overrun and captured and we
were watching them being taken away, some of our boys wounded, some even on stretchers.
Well, Bob nearly went crazy with temper and said he was going out to get them in, and I
can assure you, our efforts to stop him were in vain. I ordered my two guns to put down
covering fire for him, and when he was about a hundred yards away from them, we had to
stop firing because `Jerry´ had put up his Red Cross flags, against which we are not
allowed to fire (Geneva Con Act). Bob still continued to walk towards them but came to a
gully and disappeared from my view, but I am certain at that time he had not been hurt. My
reason for saying this is that I got permission from my officer to go
Sergeant Ernie Eden
|We all realize what a good pal we´ve lost. Bob always
did his job, was a real good pal, a brave chap under fire and one of the finest men I´ve
the Army. Sergeant Ernie Eden, 20th March 1945
REGIMENTAL CAP BADGES OF THE 'MIDDLESEX' REGIMENT
The Family Of Sergeant Robert Tug Wilson
|Footnote from John McLoughlin :
The platoon to the left of my dad´s and Sgt.
Wilson´s platoon was 7 Platoon. Most of them were captured, several killed and wounded.
The battle for Anzio was one of the bloodiest battles fought in WW2. 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. 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. Initial attempts to breach the western end of the line were unsuccessful. Operations in January 1944 landed troops behind the German lines at Anzio, but defences were well organised and a breakthrough was not actually achieved until May. The war cemetery at Anzio contains nearly 1100 commonwealth soldiers of the Second World War including that of Sergeant Robert William 'Tug' Wilson.
From an article prepared by John McLoughlin - January 2010
John has also placed a more detailed account of the conflict on YouTube where there is a small section devoted to the heroic action of Sgt Robert Tug Wilson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0cwF9Ik06U