Lest We Forget Continued (page 25)
During this time Stanley Smith had been in some severe fighting with the Wiltshires. It is believed that during this time Stanley was wounded, and after a period of recuperation he was then transferred to the lst Royal West Kents, and was with them during the Battle for Monte Cassino. The battalion were then involved in the advance to Florence. After reaching the Chianti Hills, a stretch of mountainous country about twelve miles south of Florence, the lst Battalion was ordered forward from Monte San Savino. On July 24th, and the 26th they were shelled as they were dismounting from their lorries in the village of Lucolena. Leaving the lorries at Lucolena, the 1st Battalion advanced on foot through the tiny village of Dudda. Demolitions and snipers made progress very slow. Eventually they climbed the terraces of the hill and occupied the fort, which was nicknamed “Leicester”, which was their objective.
The next stage was the capture of Point 706, known as “Conn”. Delayed only by mines, the leading troops were carried forward by tanks on July 27th and reached Point 706. From there they were directed on Point 770, with Monte Scalari (Point 778) as the ultimate objective. Almost immediately the leading companies were met by fierce mortar and machine-gun fire from the hills in the area. After some severe action the objective was finally taken after dark. It was a tough battle in which thirty-two members of the battalion were killed and seventy-nine were wounded.
It was during this battle that Private Stanley Smith was killed in action by machine-gun fire. He was twenty-three years of age and is buried in Florence War Cemetery, which is three miles east of the city, which is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. The cemetery lies on a bend of the River Arno on the main road from Florence to Arezzo. A wide avenue through groups of olive trees, cherries, Indian lilac, pear and other trees leads between the plots of graves to the Stone of Remembrance near the river.
Stanley Smith was the son of William John and Elizabeth Maud Smith of 8 Cherry Orchard, Highworth. He was educated at Highworth School.
Before the war Stanley worked for W.J.Bedwin and son, of Devizes Road, Swindon, who were High Class Grocers and Provision Dealers. He cycled to and from work every day from Highworth to Swindon. When his younger sister Phyllis left school during the war, she followed in her brothers footsteps in the grocery trade. She worked at Mr Philip Silks grocery shop in Westrop, Highworth, were she had taken over the job from Jesse Cheesley who had left to join the Army. The Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment lost 1,677 members of the Regiment in the Second World War, 1939-45. Their names are inscribed in a Book of Remembrance, which rests on a lectern in All Saints Church, Maidstone. A page of this book is turned every week.
14416229 Private Peter Oliver William ELY. 7th Battalion (LI) The Parachute Regiment, Army Air Corps. Died on 10tt August 1944, age 19 years.
He is officially classified as, “Missing in action.” Private Peter Ely had joined the lst Battalion Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry at Cowley Barracks, in 1942. On the 8th November 1942 the 7th Battalion Light Infantry Parachute Regiment was formed from 450 volunteers from the 10th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, and the balance from other Light Infantry units. Peter Ely was one of those who volunteered for the 7th Para Battalion. The battalion carried out their original parachute training at Ringway, Manchester and were then stationed at Bulford, in Wiltshire.
Bill Elvin, ex 7th Battalion Parachute Regiment who lives in Ipswich, Suffolk, and was dropped by parachute in Normandy during the early hours of D Day, has kindly given the following information concerning Peter Ely, and the subsequent actions of the 7th Paras at that time.
On the 5th June 1944 the 7th Battalion travelled from a concentration area to RAF Fairford, in Gloucestershire, arriving early evening to fit chutes and kit up, blacken faces etc. Their task was to relieve the glider units that had made the coup de main glider assault on the two bridges near Benouville. Herbie Woolford of Highworth who was serving with the RAF at Fairford at that time saw Peter Ely before take off, and shook hands and wished him luck.
The battalion enplaned in Stirling bombers, twenty men to a plane, and took off at dusk landing by parachute round about lam in Normandy. Unfortunately on arrival over Normandy many of the 7th Battalion were scattered over a wide area. One reason for the wide dispersal of the sticks of parachutists had been the effect of flak on inexperienced pilots. Many had to take violent evasion action when the flak neared their aircraft, thus leading to the sticks being scattered, or dropped in the wrong place. In spite of all this all their tasks were carried out. The bridges over the Orne River and Caen Canal were taken by the coup de main party and later reinforced by the 7th Paras and held until the Airborne element was relieved by the sea-borne forces. Through June and July the 7th Parachute Battalion were engaged in holding the Bridge Head. On the 12th July at 0830 hours, the battalion was relieved by 8th Parachute Battalion and moved to a rest area north of Amfreville.
On 21st July, 1530 hours, 7th Battalion (LI) moved into the old positions in the Bois de Bavent sector, south east of Le Menil. 6th Airborne Division was now protecting the left flank of 8 Corps advancing east of Caen, on Troarn-Bourgebus-Cormelles. Between 21st and 29th July, 7th Battalion (LI) maintained its positions under heavy shelling and mortaring. On 30th July at 1015 hours it was relieved by 13th Parachute Battalion, and moved to rest area north west of Amfreville. During the early part of August the drive against the Falaise- Argentan pocket was in progress. On 1st August 7th Battalion (LI) moved into Divisional reserve at Le Bas de Ranville. On 7th August it took up a new position in the Hauger area. Here, under heavy shell and mortar fire, it was engaged in patrolling.
On the 10th August there were three fatal casualties, Private Peter Ely, Private A.L.Burden, both commemorated on the Bayeux Memorial, and Private J.D.Webster buried at Ranville. They were probably part of a patrol that was ambushed or blown up by a shell or mine in the Breville area. On the 11th August, at 0330 hours, a patrol was machine gunned at close range. Lieutenant Howard and four other ranks were missing.
The Bayeux War Memorial in France, (on which Peter Ely is commemorated) are engraved the names of 1,808 of the Commonwealth Forces who fell in the Battle of Normandy and the subsequent advance to the Sein, and have no known grave. The memorial stands opposite the Bayeux War cemetery on the side of the ring road around the city of Bayeux 100 metres to the east of the junction with route D5 (the road to Littry). The Battle of Normandy museum lies 200 metres east of the memorial.
Peter Ely was well known and well liked by local people, and had something of a reputation of being a poacher and countryside lover. He also played football and was a good amateur boxer especially while serving in the army. He was educated at Highworth and Kingsdown schools and before joining the army he had served with the local Home Guard.
5511983 Sergeant John ELY.
John Ely, (who was Peters older brother) volunteered for the army in January 1941, and joined the Hampshire Regiment. Like Peter he was also stationed at Cowley Barracks. Afterwards he joined the Wiltshire Regiment at Dover Court near Harwich.
After serving in Ireland he went to India with his Regiment. He was then transferred to the South Wales Borders, (Animal Transport) British 36th Division.
After being involved in some action against the Japanese in Burma, John went back to India and was transferred to the 26th Indian Division. He was in Bangalore when the Atom Bomb was dropped. He then came home on leave for one month, afterwards returning to Sumatra where there was still some discontent among some of the islanders over the amount of independence granted to the island. At that time it was a very insecure place to be. After a while John was discharged from the army but rejoined and served with the Royal Army Service Corps (Animal Transport).
During the early 1950’s he served in Egypt during the start of the Suez crisis and also in Kenya when a secret society called the Mau Mau were raging a reign of terror across the country. He finished his army career in 1954,with the rank of sergeant.
John Ely was educated at Highworth school, and played football for Westrop Rovers FC. He is well known among Highworth people for his knowledge of the surrounding countryside, and is a keen follower of the local Fox Hunt. Before retiring in 1988 he worked for Highworth Town Council.