176745 Walter James Latimer WILLSON, DSO, 5 Grenadier Guards

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    Willson, Walter James Latimer
    Rank: Lieutenant
    Service No: 176745
    Regiment: 5 Battalion Grenadier Guards
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: Italy
    Award: Distinguished Service Order
    Date of Announcement in London Gazette: 07 December 1944
    Date 1944
    Catalogue reference WO 373/8

    24th Guards Brigade, 6th S.A. Armoured Division, 13 Corps
    176745 War Substantive Lieutenant, Acting Captain Walter James Latimer WILLSON, 5th Battalion GRENADIER GUARDS

    On 25th July the Battalion attacked and captured the last of the high mountain ridges between the 6th S.A. Armoured Division and FLORENCE.

    After a strenuous day's fighting the Company which this Officer was commanding occupied the last of the five big features (Point 643) on this ridge - some 2,000 yards ahead of the next Company in rear - with only an hour and a half of daylight for consolidation.

    The importance of this ridge to the operations of the Division can hardly be exaggerated as its occupation denied most valuable Observation Posts to the enemy.

    At 0430 hours the next morning the enemy sent in a strong patrol to test the position which withdrew after it was engaged by the Company.

    At 0515 hours enemy infantry attacked in strength, (prisoners say with 200 men) and with great determination succeeding in establishing spandau posts within 50 yards of the position.

    Captain WILLSON, with imperturbable courage walked about his position under heavy small arms and grenade fire moving bren gunners in … positions from which they could best engage the enemy and encourage his men to hold on.

    His only other Officer was wounded and his Company reduced by casualties to about 50. He himself was knocked out by shell blast but soon recovered to carry on his task.

    For an hour fierce hand to hand fighting took place both sides using grenades and Tommy guns with Captain WILLSON continuously in the forefront of the battle. His spectacular courage and ceaseless fighting with his own weapons was an inspiration to his whole Company.

    When ammunition was running short he personally threw smoke grenades at the nearest enemy - some 30 yards away - in the hopes that they would think he was about to attack. His ruse was successful and soon afterwards, when all grenades and nearly all Tommy Gun ammunition had been expended, the enemy withdrew leaving a number of dead and wounded. 40 rifles, 7 spandaus and much equipment was subsequently collected.

    Throughout that day this Company's position was shelled and mortared quite continuously and most accurately and it suffered a number of casualties. Captain WILLSON was invariably the first to tend the wounded and by his quite wonderful example of courage, cheerfulness and devotion to duty maintained the morale of his Company at a very high level.

    It was almost entirely due to Captain WILLSON that this vital position was retained.

    Signed G.C. GORDON-LENNOX, D.S.O., Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding 5th Battalion GRENADIER GUARDS

    Granted an Immediate D.S.O.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019

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