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Percival Wallace, born 8th April 1895

Percy was the oldest child of Frank & Rhoda. He served an apprenticeship with Bristol Wagon Works and was a blacksmith in Frenchay for a time.

In the Great War, he served in HMS Zeelander. Percy trained as a signaller whilst in the Navy and was seconded to the Coastguard Station at St Alban’s Head, near Worth Matraver, Swanage, Dorset.

It was there that he met Dora and they were married at the end of the war.

They lived in Frenchay for a short time, in the row of Cottages to the side of the old Chapel off Frenchay Hill.

They later moved back to Worth Matravers and Percy began a new life as a Coastguard.

After Percy died, the villagers of Worth Matravers commissioned a small garden of remembrance to be built in the middle of the village. It stands inside a small copse of withy bushes (withys are used in the making of Lobster pots).

There is a plaque to the memory of Percy Wallace inside the small church at St Alban’s Head.

Percy Wallace, Coastguard.

Coastguard at St Alban’s Head, Dorset.

 

During his time in the Coastguards he was awarded the British Empire Medal, a Queen’s Commendation, a Royal Humane Society Medal & Carnegie Awards for bravery in saving lives from the sea and the cliffs.

He was also, in his spare time, a lobster/crab fisherman and worked in a small two-man quarry, quarrying Purbeck marble. He was also chairman of Worth Matravers Village Council for many years.

 

A religious man, the sight of the convoys of ships steaming across to France on D-Day had a profound effect on him. His thoughts from what he saw from the Coastguard Lookout are recorded in the book,

 "The Dawn of D-Day", by David Howarth...

Extract from the book...

In 1940, for week after week, not a single ship had been sighted from the hut, and the only entries in the coastguard log were of German aircraft patrolling the English Channel unmolested. Since those days, Percy Wallace had seen increasing drama as the Channel, from being a German preserve, became a battlefield. He saw the first coastal convoys, attacks by E-boats, sinking ships, crashing aircraft, deaths and rescues. And all through those years he had the sense of standing on the very edge of the world; for the known, orderly, civilized world ended within gunshot of the cliffs of England.

This feeling of an un-crossable frontier made the sight which Percy saw on the fifth of June, 1944, more wonderful. For several weeks, the harbour at Portland, seventeen miles to the westward, had been filling with ships. In the past week, when he looked through glasses, the whole of its area had seemed black. Then it had begun to overflow, and all seventeen-mile sweep of Weymouth Bay had begun to fill. A screen of destroyers had been thrown across the bay. The destroyers turned close in below his hut, and steamed in a straight line, back and forth, all night and day, across the mouth of the bay to Portland Bill; and inside the screen, even more ships had anchored. Then, on the day before, between the squalls of rain, he had seen still hundreds more come in: these were the landing craft and escorts which had come up from Cornwall and Devon, and then, on Eisenhower’s order, turned back to shelter.

And that morning, the fleet had sailed. He could not possibly count the ships, or even guess the numbers; in fact, much more than a thousand ships were before his eyes. Close under the cliffs, he looked down on landing craft, and could see the troops on board. Beyond them, line after line of tank landing craft passed by, escorted by motor launches. There were armed trawlers and ocean tugs, and far out and ahead were echelons of minesweepers. Hundreds of ships were flying barrage balloons. Destroyers and frigates took up their stations at sea; French, British and American cruisers; tank landing ships, and infantry transports carrying small landing craft in divits; and on the horizon, coming up from the west beyond Portland, battleships and heavy cruisers. Fighter planes wove patterns overhead. Then, in the east, more landing craft and escorts emerged from Poole, and in the far distance another separate fleet steamed out of the Solent and turned south in a silhouette against the white cliffs of the Isle of Wight. Percy stood on the head of the cliff, entranced and exalted by a pageant of splendour which nobody had ever seen before, and nobody, it is certain, will ever see again. Before evening, the last of the ships had gone, hull down on the southern horizon, and once more the sea was empty.

Percy was on his way home when dusk fell and the sound in the sky began. At home, his wife was listening. "This is it," he said to her, "A lot of men are going to die tonight. We should pray for them." They knelt by the side of their bed.