b. 13/03/1909 Bridgwater, Somerset. d. 30/07/1944 Ripon, Yorkshire.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 26/08/1940 Croydon, Surrey.
Wallace Lancelot Andrews (1909-1944) was the eldest son and third child of William and Josephine Victoria Cecilia Andrews (nee Carey) of Taunton. His father was a grocer. He was born on the 13th March 1909 in Bridgwater, and he was privately tutored as a child by Mr Sharp, after which he became an articled pupil to a Taunton architect. Later he opened his own practice at King’s Square in Bridgwater moving in the late 1930s to a London firm.
Wallace remained there until he enlisted with the Royal Engineers in December 1939. He was granted an emergency commission on 14th January 1940 as a Second Lieutenant. His training took place at Chatham and Gravesend. He was trained as part of the Bomb Disposal Section. As soon as the Battle of Britain commenced, he and his section were heavily employed in defusing bombs and land mines.
He was promoted to Major and posted to Castle Donnington as an instructor. He had married Hilda Bryant in Taunton in 1928 and they moved to a nearby farm. By the end of 1940, he had been awarded the GC for his bomb disposal work, in particular at Croham Hurst Golf Course, Croydon on the 26th August. On that day, he was in charge of Nos 22 and 23 Bomb Disposal Sections. While trying to extract the fuse of a bomb in order to forward it to the DSR, some difficulty was experienced. After withdrawing it about an inch and a half the fuse dropped back into position actuated by what appeared to be magnetism or a spring. Removal was attempted several times without success. Andrews then placed his section under cover, and after tying a piece of cord to the ring of the fuse discharger, pulled, with the result that the bomb exploded. He was blown a considerable distance and two of the men received splinter wounds.
He was presented with his George Cross by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 23rd September 1940, the first officer to receive the award, on the day that the King broadcast on the radio the creation of the GC.
He was then posted to the Bomb Disposal Training Unit at Ripon in Yorkshire. He was the Chief Instructor at the Unit. In 1944, the Unit was the main place where Royal Navy and Army personnel were being trained for disarming beach defences in Normandy prior to D-Day.
Tragically, on the morning of 30th July 1944, Wallace collapsed and died of a heart attack whilst training using diving breathing apparatus on the River Ure. He was just 35 years old.
His body was returned to his native Somerset and he was buried in St Mary’s Cemetery in Taunton. He was survived by his wife and four daughters. Tragically, he died just two weeks before his promotion to Colonel. His medals including his GC were donated to the RE Museum by his widow.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL ENGINEERS MUSEUM, CHATHAM, KENT.
BURIAL PLACE: ST MARY’S CEMETERY, TAUNTON, SOMERSET.