131651 Rex John WHISTLER, Welsh Guards

Discussion in 'The Brigade of Guards' started by Owen, Apr 4, 2010.

  1. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  2. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Facsinating got it on my review list to research Whistler further, Sapper refered to him in one of his posts about the engraved glass at Moreton church in Dorset.
    He also left one or two paintings in billets his regiment occupied in the UK before he went off to war.
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  4. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    His grave at Banneville:

    Owen likes this.
  5. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Paul, is there anything about Laurence in the Rifle Brigade books you have?
  6. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Will have a look later in the week.
  7. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Rex Whistler also made many suggestions for the design of the Reconnaissance Corps Badge when he served in the 24th Independent Company of the Corps (formed from the 24th Guards Brigade, 1st Division).

    More informatuion in the Osprey Publication, The British Reconnaissance Corps in World war II.


  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Aye, RecceMitch quoted that here.
    56th Reconnaissance Corps
    Reconnaissance Corps Badge, PRO WO32_4720 | WW2Talk
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2019
  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  10. General Knowledge

    General Knowledge Well-Known Member

    Does anyone know the spot where he was actually killed? I know he was on Operation Goodwood and died 19th July 1944. A Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards and is buried in Banneville Le Campagne cemetery. We are going to visit this year, but wondered if there was any way of finding out where he actually died or was first buried.
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

  12. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    From the battalions war diary
  13. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    The CWGC link in Drew's first post displays burial Concentration records with map refs for field grave, see attachments

    Banneville, GSGS 4250, 1/50000, France, Sheet 7F/2
    Whistler's Grave ref given as 096671

    Attached Files:

    Drew5233 likes this.
  14. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    From Welsh Guards at War, Major LF Ellis, pages 176, 178:
    The 2nd Battalion meanwhile had been responsible for the left flank of the Division and after co-operating with a Grenadier battalion in the capture of Le Prieure Wood had been screening Emieville, which the enemy still held. Among the casualties in his their first day in battle was Lieutenant Rex Whistler, who was killed while commanding a troop of the 2nd Battalion's tanks. His death was an irreparable loss not only to the Regiment but to England, for in the hearts of his friends and in British art he occupied a unique place.

    The diary of No. 1 Squadron (Major A.A. Bushell) illustrates the kind of day they had: "18th July. Squadron moved on at 0900 hours .... Delay in getting through taped gap in minefield .... First heavy fire encountered on line Ste. Honourine-Escoville .... Squadron Sergeant-Major W.J. Rodd severely wounded in head .... Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Troops now engaged by anti-tank gunfire from Squadron objective, Le Prieure Wood, and No. 4 Troop with self-propelled guns went up to support them. Situation very confused as a tank unit of another division had attacked unsuccessfully and withdrew, leaving four tanks burning .... Attack organised in co-operation with a company of Grenadiers ..... Attack cleared orchard and houses but had to re-form and mop up again as men were holding out in dug-outs all round the banks of the orchard .... Captain Fisher's tank hit by mortar, caught fire but was extinguished and revered the next day. Nos. 4 and 5 Troops were pushed forward and encountered three Panther tanks late in the evening, but without conclusive results - one knocked out and the others withdrew .... harboured about 2100 hours."

    The 2nd Battalion sent squadrons daily to watch the country between Cagny and Emieville.
    "19th July. Three patrols under Lieutenant N.S. Kearsley, Sergeant E.F. Mabey and Lieutenant H.W.J.E. Peel to area of Emieville. Peel 'brewed up' one Tiger."
    4jonboy and CL1 like this.
  15. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    I'm sure this has been asked before, living near Battle where the family now reside, I collected info to assist George Kiloh who has already produced a book on the men of Battle in WW1 and working on a similar project for WW2..
    Part of what we have collated from various sources appears to better describe what happened than the War Diary..

    When war broke out, although he was 35, Whistler was eager to join the army. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant, Service No. 131651 in the Welsh Guards. His artistic talent, far from being a stumbling block to his military career, was greatly appreciated and he was able to find time to continue some of his work, including a self-portrait in uniform now in the National Army Museum. Following the D-Day landings, the Guards Armoured Brigade landed in Normandy. He commanded a troop of 3 Cromwell cruiser tanks in the Welsh Guards Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion (thanks, dbf, for this correction) engined with a variant of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine (the Meteor) which gave the Cromwell a top speed of over 50mph in early trials. He was the burial officer of his regiment, and his soldiers became somewhat suspicious of the 20 wooden crosses he carried on his tank. He decided that just because he was at war, did not mean he could not paint, so he also carried a bucket hanging off the side of his tank for his paintbrushes.

    In July 1944 he was with the Guards Armoured Division in Normandy as the invasion force was poised to break out of the salient east of Caen. On the 18 July, after crossing a railway line his tank drove over some fallen telegraph wires beside the railway, which became entangled in its tracks. He and the crew got out to untangle the wire when a German machine gunner opened fire on them, preventing them from getting back into their tank. Whistler then ran 60 yards to another tank to instruct its commander, Sergeant Lewis Sherlock, to return fire. As he climbed down from Sherlock's tank a mortar bomb exploded beside him, throwing him into the air, killing him instantly. The other two tanks of his troop completed their task, before returning to lay out his corpse beside a nearby hedge, and remove his personal belongings. Whistler's neck had been broken, but without a mark on his body. They were then called away as infantry support, and when Sherlock obtained permission to locate and bury Whistler, he found that this had already been done by an officer of the Rifle Brigade, in which Whistler's younger brother Laurence (an acclaimed glass engraver and poet) was serving. Among the many works of art produced by Rex Whistler during his time in the forces was a fine pencil portrait of Sergeant Sherlock.

    Whistler, like many other artists in war, seems to have predicted his own death. He had remarked to a friend that he wanted to be buried where he fell, not in a military cemetery. His body now lies in Banneville la Campagne War Cemetery. A memorial glass engraving by Laurence Whistler (the Rex prism) is to be found in the Morning Chapel at Salisbury Cathedral. Laurence also wrote a biography of his brother The Laughter and the Urn (1985). The family have long connections to Battle, being related to the Websters of Battle Abbey as well as to “Mad Jack” Fuller.

    as evidenced by
    WHISTLER, RALFE ALLEN FULLER. Rank: Captain. Date of Death: 28/04/1917. Age: 21.
    Regiment/Service: Highland Light Infantry 2nd Bn.
    Grave Reference: VI. D. 7. Cemetery: AUBIGNY COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION.
    Additional Information: Son of Maj. and Mrs. Fuller Whistler, of Caldbec House, Battle, Sussex.

    I noted that a Captain J S Gwatkin was commanding "A" Echelon. Was he another son of Sir Frederick Gwatkin, whose two sons are shown as having died the same day in Burma?

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  16. General Knowledge

    General Knowledge Well-Known Member

    Thank you so much everyone,especially the war diaries, that is so helpful. I will now go off and study them.
    As a side note if anyone is near Salisbury Museum on Saturday 26th August between 1-3, we have talking objects, where we have some original paintings from when Rex Whistler he was 12,(the munitions factory one)16 and 20 years old plus his war sketch book (only open on one page, too fragile to touch) plus letters and photos. You can actually get up close, by the way I am one of the ones doing the talking! It is in the Rex Whistler corridor where we have some of his paintings from Daye/Wilton House etc.
    Drew5233 likes this.
  17. General Knowledge

    General Knowledge Well-Known Member

    I thought that would capture you attention, seriously my geography skills were so bad as a child I couldn't find my way to the geography class!
    You were kind enough to help me previously with the exact place Rex Whistler was buried before he was buried in Banneville by sending me the grave concentration report, with the map references,but help I don't know what to do with them!
    Demouville GSGS.4250 1/50,000 France 7F/2 (MR) 096671.

  18. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Demouville is located about halfway between Caen and Banneville War Cemetery, I assume you have found this from the CWGC site:

    I can’t find a full size copy of the map GSGS4250 7F-2 on the web but they are available:

    However WW2 map references can be converted by using the ‘Co-ordinates Translator’ site. In this case you need the ‘French Lambert Zone 1’ and the map reference vU096671.

    This will give you a map of the position and you can also get the latitude longitude to use on web based maps:

    Note: the next door map 7F-1 can be seen here:

    This is an interesting site for geography lovers!
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2017
  19. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  20. Richard Lewis

    Richard Lewis Member

    From GSGS 4249, 1:100,000, Sheet 7F Caen—Falaise, 1943.


    This shows the railway that has been mentioned. Although it no longer exists, the route it took is clear on modern satellite views as a line of trees.
    Owen likes this.

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