The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. T Y Wallace
Thomas Young Wallace was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 6th October 1916, the son of William Francis Wallace and Ruth Agnes Wallace.
His father came to South Africa from Ireland with the Irish Yeomanry to serve in the Boer War with the British forces. He was seriously wounded on two occasions and remained in South Africa after the war. He was Commanding Officer of the South African Motor Despatch Riders in East Africa in WW1 and was once again seriously wounded. He served once again in WW2.
TY Wallace was educated at Jeppe High School for Boys, a public high school located in Kensington, a suburb of Johannesburg.
Wallace arrived in London aboard the ss Umvoti on 10th June 1939 and joined the RAF on a short service commission on 10th July 1939.
Above image courtesy of Jane Wallace (niece).
He first went to 7 E&RFTS Desford on 24th July before going on to 3 Initial Training Wing, Torquay, Devon on 23rd October 1939.
He was back flying at 6 FTS Little Rissington on 6th November 1939.
With his training completed, he was posted to 610 Squadron at Gravesend on 19th June 1940.
His commission was terminated on 1st July after he was court-martialled for being absent without leave for two days in June. He became a Sergeant-Pilot and and was posted to 111 Squadron at Croydon from No.1 Recruit Centre, Uxbridge on 17th July.
He claimed two Me110s destroyed and two others damaged on 15th August, a Me109 destroyed and probably a Do17 on the 16th, a Do17 destroyed and two others damaged on the 18th, a Me109 damaged on the 24th, a Do17 shared on the 26th, a Me110 destroyed, a Do17 probably destroyed and a Me110 damaged on the 31st and a Me109 destroyed and three others damaged on 4th September.
Wallaces's Hurricane, P3025, was severely damaged by a Me109 over the Channel on 7th September. He glided back to the English coast and baled out south of Ashford, slightly wounded.
The Hurricane, P3025, crashed on Gammons Farm, Newchurch.
After hospital treatment he was sent to Dunblane Army Convalescent Home in Scotland on 13th September 1940.
Wallace was awarded the DFM (gazetted 25th October 1940), the citation read:
This airman has displayed conspicuous courage and fighting ability since his arrival in the squadron (111) on the 17th July 1940, and has in 3 weeks succeeded in destroying 7 enemy aircraft and probably a further 4. On one occasion, he became separated from the squadron and single-handed pursued a formation of enemy bombers back to the French coast. In mid-channel, he was attacked by 6 enemy fighters and, although his aeroplane was badly damaged in the resulting battle, he succeeded in shooting down one enemy fighter and badly damaging another.
Back with 111 Squadron, Wallace damaged a He111 on 3rd November but was then posted on 22nd November to the CFS Upavon for an instructors' course. After a further posting to Netheravon on 29th December 1940 he was sent to instruct in Canada.
He is recorded as being at 31 Air Navigation School, Port Albert, Ontario on 22nd March 1942 but his movements after that are confused, one report claims he spent four months in hospital after a serious air crash.
Commissioned from Warrant Officer in March 1943, he returned to England in June 1943 and was posted to No. 1 Squadron, operating Typhoons from Lympne, to familiarise himself with the aircraft.
Wallace was then sent to the Air Controllers training school at Woodlands Manor near Bentley Priory (Fighter Command HQ) on 12th January 1944 to qualify as a Fighter Controller.
This was interrupted by a staff duty posting to 13 Group HQ at Blakelaw near Newcastle from 16th February 1944 to 31st March 1944.
He was involved in preparations for D-Day at 10 Group Middle Wallop starting on 1st April 1944, then Pear Tree Point, South Devon on 4th May 1944 and then 84 Group Support Unit, Aston Down on 23rd June 1944 to 8th August 1944.
There was a return to flying at last when he was appointed Flight Commander with 609 Squadron, operating Typhoons on the continent, on 9th August 1944. He took over as CO on 16th September 1944, now a Squadron Leader.
The squadron was continually in action and on the move:
July-September 1944: B.7 Martragny
September 1944: B.23 Morainville
September 1944: B.35 Baromesnil
September-October 1944: B.53 Merville
October-November 1944: B.67 Ursel
November-December 1944: B.77 Gilze-Rijen.
Above: Wallace is standing immediately in front of the lower propeller blade. The mascot was known as 'Wing Commander Billy de Goat'.
Above images courtesy of Chris Goss.
SAPA-Reuter issued this report on 24th September 1944:
WITH THE TACTICAL AIR FORCE, BELGIUM, Sunday.
A Johannesburg pilot, Squadron-Leader TY Wallace, led an attack yesterday by a West Riding squadron which paved the way for a new advance in Holland. On the previous day Squadron-Leader Wallace had been in the front line with the Canadians to study the reasons why the advance there was being held up. The attack which he planned as a result worked out magnificently.
Rocket-firing Typhoons arrived over the area, and a pre-arranged smoke signal was fired off. As they went in the pilots could see Allied armour waiting to go forward as soon as attacks were made against the German positions which had been dug-in on higher points besides the road.
The Squadron-leader's first rocket set fire to a house which the Germans were using for an observation post, and, after the first section had poured in many rockets and all the cannon shells it had, the second section followed in.
Then the Typhoons reformed, and the pilots watched the Canadian troops going forward without opposition.
On a similar operation on 11th November 1944 Wallace was shot down aged 28 by flak in Typhoon MN205 over Dunkirk and reported 'Missing'.
His older brother Lt. Hugh Hart Wallace was killed on 11th May 1944 when Baltimore V FW335 of 13 Squadron crashed onto a beach near Termoli in Italy after hitting the sea during an air test.
Also lost were:
Lt. WR Moore SAAF
F/O GL King RCAF
F/O FC Bowring RCAF
All lie in Sangro River War Cemetery.
Another brother, Derrick, served as an officer in the Royal Navy and survived the war.
Thomas and Hugh are commemorated on Jeppe School War Memorial (below).
Immediately after the end of the war, his widowed mother travelled to the Calais/Dunkirk area to try and trace his loss. This would have been an expensive and complex undertaking as all travel would have been by ship.
She is believed to have made four visits prior to 1952. At some time that year Wallace's aircraft, his body still aboard, was discovered in shifting sands somewhere on the coast. The details are still unclear though at time of writing (October 2023) the local French newspaper is searching its archives.
He was buried at Pihen-les-Guines, south of Calais. His mother could not travel in time for the funeral but visited the grave later.
In October 1955 a memorial to the 18000 airmen lost serving with Yorkshire-based RAF squadrons (including 609 West Riding Squadron) was unveiled by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in York Minster. It took the form of an astronomical clock (below).
A lottery of next-of-kin was held to choose two relatives to accompany the Duke, Ruth Wallace was one of those selected.
The Natal Daily News reported on 22nd November 1955:
UNVEILING CEREMONY AT YORK MINSTER
A SOUTH AFRICAN woman, Mrs Ruth Wallace, of Kensington, Johannesburg, was chosen by ballot to have the honour to represent the relatives of 18,000 airmen who lost their lives on active service, at a memorial service and unveiling ceremony in York Minster recently. She arrived in the mail ship, the Edinburgh Castle, in Durban today.
Mrs. Wallace stood next to the Duke of Edinburgh during the ceremony, which was attended by 4,500 people. On either side of her stood two Marshals of the RAF, Sir Arthur Harris and Viscount Portal. Others present included Lord Tedder and the High Commissioners of South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and Ambassadors for the United States, France, Norway, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands.
It was an impressive ceremony, "the greatest moment in my life," commented Mrs Wallace. The memorial was in the form of an astronomical clock in the chantry of York Minster
Immediately after the ceremony Mrs Wallace attended a reception given by the Duke of Edinburgh at Duncombe Place, where she met him personally. "He was very natural and immediately put you at your ease," said Mrs Wallace. "He asked me if I was nervous in York Minster in front of all those people."
Mrs Wallace is to receive a memento of this very special occasion in the form of a tape recording of the memorial service from Lord Deremore, the chairman of the Memorial Committee.