From The Daily Telegraph 5 January.
Major Sir Hereward Wake, 14th Bt, who has died aged 101, was a countryman and a soldier who was awarded a Military Cross in the North Africa Campaign.
Hereward Wake was born in London on October 7 1916. Better known as Toby, he was the eldest son of Major General Sir Hereward Wake Bt CB CMG DSO, the 13th baronet. Toby’s father was wounded by a bullet in the neck in the Boer War while serving on Lord Roberts’ staff, but survived to reach the rank of major general and was Colonel Commandant of 1 King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) from 1938 to 1946.
Young Toby was brought up in the belief that he was descended from Hereward the Wake, the leader of a resistance movement in the fens against William the Conqueror.
In 1937 he was commissioned as a regular officer into the KRRC. The first years of his service were spent with the 1st Bn in Burma and then in Egypt where the battalion was “motorised” under command of Lt Col “Strafer” Gott. In the Western Desert, he served with 9 KRRC and then with “D” Coy 1 KRRC as a company commander.
On the night of August 31 1942, Wake was serving with the 1 KRRC when Axis forces broke through the minefield at the village of Himeimat, Egypt, and threatened to cut off the withdrawal of Allied units on the high ground. Wake, then a captain, was ordered to counter-attack with his lightly armoured Bren-gun carriers.
He led them through the hills with great dash and charged the enemy, driving them before him and inflicting considerable casualties. His small force held the minefield until dawn and throughout the action he was under heavy fire from a 20-mm gun and a tank. He was awarded an Immediate MC. The citation stated that his boldness and leadership had averted a dangerous situation and had enabled the battalion to withdraw without loss.
In April 1943, while commanding “C” Company 1 KRRC during the battle for Tunis, he was shot in the shoulder at point blank range. He reckoned this was poor marksmanship but he had to be evacuated back to Britain. He spent the first night in the wing of a mental hospital in Preston, which was the only accommodation available. After recovering, he joined 2 KRRC and commanded a company in Normandy.
During a lull in hostilities, his men’s rations were running low and he went out into No-man’s-land to try to bag a few duck. A shell exploded close by, he suffered damage to his ears and, after a posting to 11 KRRC in Greece, in 1947 he was invalided out of the Army.
In 1958 the Ministry of Transport served a compulsory acquisition order for a proposed route of the M1, bisecting the estate and affecting five of the seven farms. The house and its woodland were great passions in his life and, in an effort to hide the road, diminish the noise and screen the ever expanding Northampton, he planted a quarter of a million trees – some of them rare species collected on his travels and destined for his arboretum.
The first known Wake was Geoffrey Wac, an 11th century Norman knight. The Baronetcy of Clevedon in Somerset was created in 1621 in the reign of James I. Courteenhall, the family seat near Northampton, was acquired during the Civil War.
Over the years, the Wakes produced some unusual characters. Drury Wake, a dispatch rider, rode from Constantinople across the Balkans in six days and nights on the eve of the Crimean War and permanently damaged his spine. During the Indian Mutiny, Herewald (sic), fearing that he might be murdered at any moment, wrote up his diary with the stump of a pencil on the wall of his bungalow.
Baldwin Wake, a bad sleeper, was in the habit of drinking his shampoo. It contained chloroform and one night he took too much and died from an overdose.
William, the 11th baronet, purchased a human skeleton but was unable to find the money to pay for it and was clapped in a debtor’s jail. He escaped by ordering a piano and then sending it back, having first concealed himself in the packing case.
Joan, the 13th baronet’s sister, single-handedly set up the Northamptonshire Records Society. She had some difficulty cataloguing historical documents because she was in the habit of applying liberal quantities of face powder while still wearing her spectacles.
Full obituary with photographs and portrait.
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The life and times of the Greatest Generation, the heroes (British and Allies) of WWII.