On this day in 1942

Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed

Guernsey-born Herbert Wallace Le Patourel was in Tunisia, commanding Z Company, when his men came under bombardment. Le Patourel took it upon himself to neutralise the threat to his troops.

He led a handful of volunteers to high ground where German forces had dug themselves in and took out one of the enemy gunners. But it wasn’t a mission without its own cost. All of Le Patourel’s comrades were killed, leaving him alone in enemy territory. Many men would have turned and run to safety in such a position, but not Le Patourel. He carried on, alone, and nobody heard from him again.

A posthumous award

Assumed to have been killed in action at the age of just 26, Herbert Le Patourel was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross on 9 March 1943. The award is only ever given to Commonwealth soldiers who have shown conspicuous bravery. Yet stories of Le Patourel’s demise were both premature and exaggerated. Although he had been just as brave as everyone had assumed, he had actually been taken prisoner, not killed, and sent to a military hospital in Naples, Italy.

He was repatriated from there in 1943 (Italy had surrendered to Allied forces in September 1943) and received his Victoria Cross at a ceremony in Cairo before resuming his duties. He served out the remainder of the war in north-western Europe and visited Guernsey for the island’s liberation (9 May).

As peace decended once more, he took a job at the staff college in Quetta, after which he moved to Avon, England, where he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant.

He died on 4 September 1979, aged 63; 37 years after it had initially been reported that he’d been killed in action. A blue plaque was unveiled at his childhood home in Guernsey, Villa Magnol in Fosse Andre, in 2015.

 

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Other events that happened in December

French fishing boats prepare to invade 1st
Two cargo ships collide on their way to Guernsey 2nd
Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed 3rd
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall 4th
Guernsey steamship SS Rossgull is wrecked 5th
The Guernsey Tapestry is completed 6th
Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway 7th
Naftel’s paintings go on display 8th
Guernsey and Jersey newspapers agree to merge 9th
Sark holds its first election 10th
Beau Sejour opens for business 11th
Victor Hugo flees France and Napoleon 12th
Explorer Edmund Kennedy is speared to death 13th
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Herm bribery case comes to court 14th
Alderney’s evacuees return to their island 15th
Guillaume de Beauvoir appointed dean of English Church in Geneva 16th
Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey 17th
Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet 18th
Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation 19th
Channel Islands Securities Exchange founded 20th
G-COBO has a bumpy flight 21st
Guernsey struck by an earthquake 22nd
William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou 23rd
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies 24th
Asterix is discovered in St Peter Port harbour 25th
Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms 26th
The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation 27th
Operation Hardtack targets the Channel Islands 28th
Ebenezer Le Page author GB Edwards dies 29th
Castle Cornet is struck by lightning 30th
Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest 31st