The Man Behind the Medals
In this blog series, SOFO Museum's Research volunteers look at the stories behind some of the medal sets in the museum's collection, from those that can be seen on a visit in our dedicated Medals display to some of those that are still tucked away in the archive.
While medals will tell you a little bit about a soldier's service, it's only with further research that their full story can be revealed! SOFO's Research volunteers respond to enquiries we receive through our Research Service, helping people find out more about their relatives who served in the county regiments, and raising funds to support the museum in the process. Using a combination of the museum's records and those available elsewhere, they piece together stories like this one.
Private 5374551 Louis Norman Wallington MM
Louis Norman Wallington was born on the 26th Sept 1902 in High Wycombe, the son of Ralph & Mary Ann Wallington. The Wallingtons were a large family, with six boys and 3 girls and numerous uncles, aunts and cousins nearby. After school, Louis trained as a chairmaker, as his father and grandfather were before him, with his brothers all also working in the furniture trade centred on High Wycombe.
However, on the 16th Sept 1919 Louis joined the army, being attested into the 2nd Battalion Ox & Bucks Light Infantry. The 2nd was serving in Ireland at that time during the Troubles, but after a brief stay in Lichfield in 1920, were posted to India in March 1922. Private Wallington would have served at Rawalpindi and at Kudana in the monsoon season. 1925 saw the Battalion serving on the North West Frontier, but Pte Wallington’s service was complete and he was transferred to the Army Reserve on the 14th Feb 1925 and discharged in 1931, having married Marie Raes in High Wycombe a few months earlier.
The Register of 1939 records Louis as working as a chairmaker in High Wycombe again, but the outbreak of war saw him re-enlist into the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, being assigned to the 6th Battalion. The 6th was formed in July 1940 and spent 1940/41 training in and then defending the Hampshire coast and especially the Isle of Wight. In June 1942 however, the 6th were posted abroad, to India and then on to Burma as part of the new 25th Indian Division, with a year of jungle training before taking part in the Arakan offensive in March 1944. By September 1944, the 25th Div were pushing down the peninsula, with the 6th OBLI mounting a series of seaborne landings to outflank the Japanese enemy. These operations always meant the initial beachhead was vulnerable to counterattack, and part of the 6th (known as Bolster Force) was at the advanced supply camp at Ponra Village on the night of 13th/14th September when such attack was made.
About 18.00 on the 13th, the base came under heavy artillery fire with some 90 shells landing in about 20 mins. Pte Wallington was a signaller but not in the Command Post during the barrage, but when he rushed back to the post he found the duty officer & signaller dead. Despite the post being close to the petrol & ammo dump, Wallington found and repaired multiple breaks in the phone line, checked the radio and then contacted Force HQ to report the situation. He then dealt with several confused non-combatants and assisted an officer in restoring order.
Over the next three nights, repeated Japanese attacks were beaten off, with wave after wave of attackers broken up by artillery & mortar fire – called in from the Command Post. For his bravery & effective efforts he was recommended for and awarded the Military Medal. He was was recommended for the award by Major Roger Northcote-Green, in charge of the the Bolster Force, who also won a Military Cross for his own part in the action.
Louis Wallington’s brother Donald – a trooper in the 7th Hussars – had been killed in North Africa in 1941, but Louis survived the war, returning to High Wycombe and the furniture industry. He died there in 1981.