Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1943, Lieutenant Willward Alexander Sandys-Clarke VC, 1st Battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was killed in action at Guiriat El Atach in Tunisia.
He was the fifth person in his family to be awarded the Victoria Cross, being related through his mother to Lord Roberts of Kandahar and his son Frederick, and General Walter Congreve and his son William, and he was the third to be awarded it posthumously. His award was for “his gallant example and magnificent leadership,” and the citation includes these words: “His quick grasp of the situation and his brilliant leadership undoubtedly restored the situation, whilst his outstanding personal bravery and tenacious devotion to duty were an inspiration to his company, and were beyond praise.”
On the day of his death he was a platoon commander in B Company with the 1st Loyals at Guiriat El Atach. He was the sole remaining officer after his company had almost been wiped out by an enemy attack. He was wounded in the neck and head but continued on, convinced he could retake his company’s objective. He gathered together an improvised platoon of twenty men (many of them also wounded) and made good progress until twice coming under machine-gun fire. He ordered his men to give him cover, as each time he tackled the machine-gun posts single-handed with his revolver, knocking out the gun, the crews being captured or killed. As he led his men on, they came under sniper fire, during which time he was shot and killed outright. He is buried in the Massicault War Cemetery in Tunisia.
Willward, from Southport in Lancashire, was 23 years old and married – his son was born two days after his wife received the telegram notifying her of his death.