The Unknown Warriors

Famous Fighters

 

Many well known personalities of the post war period fought for or served their country during World War Two. Here is some very well known names and their perhaps less well known war service information.

 

Allo Allo Cast - For writer David Croft see below in Dads Army. Carmen Silvera (Edith Artois) (1922-2002) was evacuated to Canada and by total luck was at the last minute before sailing removed from a ship that was torpedoed killing 350 children. Kenneth Connor (Alfonse the undertaker) (1916-1993) served as an infantry gunner in the Middlesex Regiment. Richard Marner (Colonel Kurt Von Strohm) (1921-2003) joined the RAF and served with the Air Training Corp in Southern Africa.   VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

 

The Cast & Writers of Dad's Army - As actors in Dad's Army they were portrayed as a group of bungling no-hopers that might struggle to say boo to a goose never mind fight off invading Germans. However, in real life they had risked all for their country during WW2. Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring) (1915-1982) was a sergeant major in the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry and served in the Middle East. John Le Mesurier (Sergeant Arthur Wilson) (1912-1983) served in India as a Captain in the Royal Tank Regiment. Arnold Ridley (Private Charles Godfrey) (1896-1984) in WW1 had been a Private in the Somerset Light Infantry and sustained serious injuries at the Somme. In 1939 he rejoined the Army as a major and was part of the B.E.F at Dunkirk in 1940. John Laurie (Private James Frazer) (1897-1980) served in the Hon. Artillery Company in WW1 and was the only cast member to have served in the real Home Guard during WW2. Clive Dunn (Corporal Jack Jones) (1920 - ) spent four years as a POW in Germany and worked in slave labour camps in Austria. Bill Pertwee (ARP Warden Hodges) (1926- ) made parts for Spitfire cannons as a teenager and lost his older brother who was killed when the RAF Whitley Bomber he was piloting crashed near Dortmund in Germany. Edward Sinclair (Church Verger - Maurice Yeatman) (1914-1977) was in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire light Infantry. The co-writers also both served during WW2. David Croft (1922- ) rose to the rank of major and served in North Africa, Singapore and India and his writing partner Jimmy Perry drew on his memories as a teenager in Watford Home Guard, at 18 he was sent to Burma as part of the Royal Artillery. (1923 - ) VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Her Majesty The Queen - Stayed in Britain for the duration of the conflict with her family, after they declined a chance to be evacuated to Canada, and towards the end of the war joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, as No. 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor. She trained as a driver and mechanic, drove a military truck, and rose to the rank of Junior Commander.  On VE Day the Queen and her sister, Margaret, anonymously mingled with celebrating crowds and later said " I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief." VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Richard Attenborough (Sir) (1923 - ) Film director that won two Academy Awards for his film, Ghandi. He joined the RAF during WWII and served in the film unit. He went on several bombing raids over Europe and filmed from action from the rear gunners position.

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Matt Busby (Sir) (1909-1994) Lost his father and several uncles in WW1. He had been playing for Liverpool football club before WW2 began. When war was declared, he joined the Liverpool Kings Regiment and then rose to the rank of Sergeant Major in the Army Physical Training Corp. In 1945 he became manager of Manchester United. Old Trafford was still a bomb site, after taking direct hits by the Luftwaffe in March 1941. He became a legend at the club, surviving the tragic Munich air disaster, which killed many of the 'Busby Babes', his teams won the European Cup, the FA Cup and League a number of times before his retirement in 1969. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Harry Carpenter - (1926-2010) Famous BBC Boxing commentator who for decades commentated on some of the worlds biggest fights. During WW2 he served in the Royal Navy aboard destroyers as a telegraphist from 1941. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Barbara Cartland - (Dame) (1901-2000) Author of 723 romance novels and one of the worlds most prolific writers lost her father in WW1. In WW2 she lost her two brothers, killed within a day of each other at Dunkirk. One of her brothers that was killed, Ronald, was the sitting M.P for Kings Norton. She served as Chief Lady Officer to the Services in Bedfordshire and an Honorary Junior Commander in the ATS. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Agatha Christie - (Dame) (1890-1976) most famous for her many detective novels and characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, trained as a Red Cross Nurse during WW1 and tended troops coming back from the trenches. She then trained as a pharmacy assistant at the hospital in Devon. During WW2, she worked in Blitz hit London as a pharmacy assistant at University College Hospital, where she acquired a good knowledge of poisons which featured in many of her novels. She is the worlds biggest selling author with 4 billion books sold, second only to the bible!

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Tommy Cooper - (1921-1984) Comedian. He was called up in 1940 and served as a trooper in the Royal Horse Guards and was part of the Desert Rats in the North Africa campaign. It was in Egypt entertaining troops as part of NAAFI, where he acquired his trademark 'Fez' hat, after taking it from a waiter to much hilarity from the audience.

VIE W YOUTUBE CLIP

Roald Dahl - (1916-1990) Famous childrens author that wrote the Twits, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory etc. Joined the RAF in Nairobi and out of the 20 men he trained with was one of 3 survivors of the war. Crashed in a Gladiator bi-plane in North Africa and smashed his nose, fractured his skull and was blind for many weeks. Returned to active service and flew Hurricanes at the Battle of Athens. Ended the war at a rank of wing commander and served with Mi6 in the USA after being invalided out of the air force after re-occuring headaches caused from his head injuries. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Bill Deedes - (1913-2007) A journalist with the Morning Post before the war, he served as an officer in the 2nd Battalion of The Queen's Westminsters, one of the territorial units of the King's Royal Rifle Corps and won a Military Cross in Holland in 1945. He was a minister in Harold McMillans government and was also editor of the Daily Telegraph from 1974-86 and continued to write for the paper until his nineties. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Ian Fleming - (1908-1964) Creator of James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was prior to WW2 a journalist for Reuters. He was made a lieutenant in the Naval Intelligence Division, rising to the rank of commander and worked with 30 Assault Unit who were teams of trained Commandos, specialising in targeting enemy headquarters, to secure documentation and items of equipment with an intelligence value. His codename was 17F.

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HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh - (1921- ) Served in the Royal Navy aboard HMS RAMILLIES in the Indian Ocean, then aboard HMS VALIANT where he was in charge of the searchlight control during the night action off Cape Matapan and was mentioned in despatches. His next ship was HMS WALLACE which took part in East Coast Convoys then the Allied landings at Sicily. Aboard HMS WHELP he was in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Alec Guiness (1914 - 2000) - Actor who starred in films such as Bridge Over the River Kwai andStar Wars (Obi Wan Kanobi), He was in the Royal Naval Reserve during WWII and commanded a landing craft during the invasion of Sicily and Elba.

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Alfred Hitchcock - (1899 - 1980) One of Britain's most famous film directors he spent most of the war making films in Hollywood, but during an extended stay in Britain he made two films for the Ministry of Information, both were in French and made for Free French Forces. In 1945 he acted as an adviser /editor for a British Army film about the Holocaust.

Hattie Jacques - (1922-1980) Famous for her role as 'matron' in the Carry on films, it could be said this was art imitating life, as during WW2 she was a Red Cross nurse in London. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Vivien Leigh - (1913 -1967) Played Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind and was awarded an Oscar. During the war she was touring North Africa in 1943 to entertain the troops when she came down with a fever and was diagnosed with T.B

Desmond Llewelyn - (1918-1999) Played 'Q' in 17 James Bond films. He was commissioned into the Royal Welch Fusiliers and taken prisoner in May 1940 as part of the B.E.F. He spent the next 5 years as a P.O.W at Oflag IX-A/Z near Hesse in Germany.

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Dan Maskell (1908-1992) was the BBC 'voice of tennis' and commentated on many finals between the likes of Borg, Navratilova, Becker, McEnroe etc. In wartime he was a rehabillitation officer in the RAF. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Spike Milligan - (1918-2002) Born in India during the Raj and brought up in Poona and then Rangoon in Burma, whilst his father served in the British colonial army. During WW2 he served in the Royal Artillery as a gunner, in North Africa and Sicily, and was wounded by a mortar, suffering from shellshock and a damaged leg. In peacetime he became a leading comedian and writer, including the amusing book Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall.  VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP & ANOTHER

Patrick Moore - (Sir)(1923- 2013) has been presenting Sky at Night since 1957 and is in the Guiness Book of Records for being one of the worlds longest running TV presenters. He has been knighted for his work in Astronomy and is probably one of the most recognisable people in the UK. During the war he served in RAF Bomber Command as a navigator, from 1940 to 1945, after lying about his age to get in the RAF. His Fiancee was a nurse killed in the Blitz after the ambulance she was travelling in was bombed. He said later "There was no one else for me... second best is no good for me...I would have liked a wife and family, but it was not to be." VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

David Niven - (1910-1983) Academy Award winning actor appearing in films such as The Guns of Navarone, Around the World In 80 Days, and The Pink Panther. He put his acting career on hold and served in the Commandos taking part in the Normandy Landings. He is quoted as saying to his men in the thick of action "It's all very well for you chaps, but I'll have to do this all over again in Hollywood with Errol Flynn!" VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Laurence Olivier - (1907 - 1989) Considered one of the greatest actors of all time, he was a Lieutenant in the RN Reserve Fleet Air Arm, and although he clocked up 200 flying hours was not called up to serve as a pilot. Toured with ENSA near the end of the war to entertain troops.

George Orwell (Real name - Eric Arthur Blair) - (1903-1950) Author of 1984 and Animal Farm, he was born in India during the British Raj, then spent some time as a colonial policeman. During the war he was in the Home Guard in London and put two men from his unit in hospital after mishandling a mortar.  After his home was ruined by a V1 bomb he rescued his favourite books and carted them off in a wheelbarrow. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

John Pertwee (1919 - 1996) - Played the role of Dr Who between 1970 and 1974 and also Worzel Gummidge. He was a sailor in the war years and spent some time working in Naval Intelligence. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Ronald Searle - (1920- ) A famous artist, cartoonist and creator of St Trinians. In 1942 he was taken prisoner by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore. He recorded life in the POW camps including Changi in a collection of drawings and kept them under the mattresses of prisoners dying of Cholera, so the Japanese prison guards would not find them. They can now be viewed in the Imperial War Museum, London. After the war he moved to France and has since been awarded their highest honour, the Legion d'Honeur. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Ian Smith - (1919-2007) Prime Minister of Rhodesia until Zimbabwe independence. Served with distinction as a fighter pilot in the RAF. His Hurricane crashed on take off in Egypt and he buckled his back, broke his leg, jaw and shoulder and required 6 months plastic surgery for facial injuries. After recovery he flew spitfires over Italy. In the Po Valley while strafing German forces he was shot down and parachuted safely. He was given refuge by resistance groups. After 5 months assisting them he and three other servicemen hiked to Allied lines over the Maritime Alps, a journey that took 23 days.

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Peter O'Sullivan - (Sir) (1918- ) Known as the 'voice of horse racing' and for years was the main commentator for the Grand National. In his early years he suffered from severe asthma and illness and was graded unfit for military service. However, he became a driver for stretcher bearer parties dodging falling bombs and destruction throughout the Blitz and became known for his 'devil may care' attitude. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Eric Sykes - (1923- 2012 ) Popular post war comedian and comedy writer, one of his best known creations was 'The Plank' a wordless, slapstick routine. He was a wireless operator with the rank of Leading Aircraftman in the RAF during the war. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Denis Thatcher - (1915-2003) (Sir, MBE) Became the first male consort to the Prime Minister of the UK, when Margaret Thatcher won the general election of 1979. He was a an officer in the Royal Artillery and took part in the invasion of Sicily and later Italy. He was twice mentioned in dispatches. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Alan Whicker - (1921- ) Famed for his travel documentaries 'Whickers World' and his smooth debonair style, he cut his teeth in broadcasting in the thick of action. He was part of the Army Film & Photo Unit during WW2 and travelled right up through Italy and spent many weeks trapped in Anzio. In recent years he filmed an excellent TV documentary called 'Whickers War', where he retraced his wartime footsteps, recalling memories as he travelled. Such was his fame in the 1980's he even became part of Cockney rhyming slang, "Keep your Alans on!" as in Alan Whickers / Knickers. Here he is in an amusing un-pc 80's Barclaycard ad. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Kenneth Wolstenholme - (1920-2002) Will forever be remembered for his words "Some people are on the pitch... they think it's all over... it is now!"  Football commentator who covered the 1966 World Cup win by England at Wembley. During the war he was a pilot in RAF Bomber Command and flew 100 missions over Germany, including some as part of the night Pathfinder squadron. He was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) and Bar. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Kenneth Williams - (1926-1988) Another famous Carry On actor, and comedian known for his witty raconteur.  At 18 he signed up and was in Bombay as part of the Royal Engineers survey section when he made his first appearance on stage as part of the Combined Services Entertainment. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

 

Find out what famous British sportsmen did during the war HERE

Find out what famous Americans did during the war HERE