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Captain J R S Wace
Late Grenadier Guards
by his son Hugh Wace

Rodney Wace, who has died aged 97, was born on 28th June 1923 at the home of his grandparents in Shalford near Guildford. His father E W C Wace was a highly decorated officer in the CID section of the Indian Police retiring as Inspector General. Aged 8 he returned to England from India and was educated at Windlesham House, Marlborough College and Oriel College Oxford. He described his days at Oxford as hedonistic since he and his contemporaries anticipated military service before facing examinations.

Through the introduction of a relative Mervyn Cornish, who had served in the First War with Duff Cooper, he was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards in December 1942. He was stationed with the Training Battalion at Windsor Castle where he and brother officers were made welcome by the Royal Family.

His first foreign posting with the 6th Battalion was to North Africa to replace the many casualties suffered at Mareth. Recently he took the family to Libya and showed us the house in the main square in Tripoli where on 19th May 1943, Churchill and other Allied leaders had observed the Victory Parade from the balcony. He and the majority of the soldiers in the parade had been drafted in after the main engagements in North Africa and had yet to see action.

Military life took a dramatic turn in September 1943 when the Battalion embarked in flat bottomed craft for the landings at Salerno where Kesselring and his Panzers waited in readiness. He missed the first landing due to hepatitis. He had vivid memories of the crossing in particular the breakfast served by a Canadian cook of waffles and bacon covered by maple syrup which did not go down well. Another was his brother officer, Humphrey Lyttelton, playing Alexander’s Ragtime Band and When  The Saints Go Marching In on his trumpet before the landing. Many years later I met Humphrey and asked if he remembered my father. He shook my hand and said how much he enjoyed his company which was just as well as on the troop ship from the UK to Africa they were four in their two-man cabin.

After an uncomfortable time in a foxhole at Salerno the battalion sought to remove the Germans from their well defended positions on the Gustave line. The regimental history records how the Battalion successfully surprised a German position and my father turned an abandoned Spandau on the retreating enemy. He was surprised how much faster the Spandau fired than the Bren and was soon out of ammunition. Earlier an attack had been on a mountain which they believed Germans were defending. The march to the top was unopposed and resting at the top they heard what they thought was hail on the surrounding rocks. The hail turned out to be bullets fired by the watching enemy on a neighbouring promontory.

Six weeks after landing in Italy he had reached Monte Camino which they were ordered to attack without air cover with the certain prospect of suffering severe casualties. The climb up what has been described as ‘the bare arse mountain’ took place at night and in the morning the defending Germans were able to repulse the attack. My father was wounded by a mortar bomb with shrapnel in his chest and hand. He recalled having no idea where to find medical help and was incredibly lucky to be picked up by a soldier who knew where to find the casualty clearing station.

He was invalided back to North Africa were the occupant of the next hospital bed was a First War veteran Colonel Tim Mills who lived in a village near to his grandparents. When eventually my father returned to England, he was offered a lift from Guildford rail station by Tim’s wife who invited him round for a drink the following Sunday. There he met their daughter, Heather, a nurse from St Thomas’s Hospital whom he married on 8th January 1947.

On return from Africa some months were spent in convalescent homes. One, Botley Park, remained what was then called a lunatic asylum.  He recalled the inmates as harmless and enjoying saluting the wounded soldiers. The door of his ward bore the initials MLG which stood for Male Lower Grade. No PC euphemisms then. Before being posted to India as ADC to Sir Bertram Glancy, the Governor of the Punjab, he was based at Wellington Barracks.  He was reading the paper in the bar on 18th June 1944 when a V bomb landed on the Guards’ Chapel. He also recalled how the officers who had served in the First War would appear at the bar at 11am to order their first gin and ginger beer.

After the war he became a successful underwriter with Janson Green retiring in 1983. He was a well-liked and clever businessman who held several non-executive directorships in his retirement. He was the Chairman for many years of both the Dunsfold British Legion and the Parish Council. He had a long and happy retirement enjoying the company of many close friends, fishing for Trout and Salmon and shooting on the Downs of West Sussex. He was very proud of his grandson Ollie, who is a serving Grenadier and was the Ensign on the Trooping of the Colour in 2014. He remained in touch with a number of Grenadiers in particular Major James Whatman MC known to the family as Uncle Gin. Until the end he detested the sight of the baseball cap which he thought reminiscent of the German Africa Corps Field Cap.

He had a very happy marriage to Heather for over 60 years. She died in 2012 and they are survived by their three sons, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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