Lieutenant Wilks was a mathematics teacher before being
called up as one of the oldest conscripts in the 2nd World War, he was
also rumoured to be the smallest officer in the Royal Navy. As a seaman
he saw service on North Atlantic Convoys and a Malta Convoy. After
officer training, he amongst other raw officers brought flotillas of
Landing Craft across the Atlantic from the shipyards on the East Coast
of the US, without escort protection, training up their crews from
scratch! Successful landings followed, first on the North African Coast,
Sicily and Salerno then Tank Landings in an LCT on
For ‘Operation Infatuate’ Landings, only experienced Officers, Sailors, Marines and Soldiers were required for this last, extremely difficult and operationally essential landing in Europe. This had to be during daylight hours because of the prevailing tidal conditions. The officers commanding the assault and landing craft knew each other well and all had high regard for each other and their crews. They knew that success was not guaranteed, but heavy casualties were. Their tremendous professionalism, dedication to duty and heroism under extreme fighting conditions is not duly recognized. When the odds were stacked against them, all the crews of the ‘Operation Infatuate’ assault craft did not let the side down and ensured the success of the ‘Landings’. They all answered ‘The Call’.
For Lieutenant Wilks this last effort was too much, after hospital treatment he returned to civilian life as a mathematics teacher, eventually as Deputy Head Master at a Secondary Modern School in Worcestershire. He was awarded The Distinguished Service Cross, which he seldom wore, mainly to Flotilla Reunions at the RNVR Club. His ashes were scattered at sea in The Isles of Scilly where he had many happy holidays with family and friends.
< Lt Wilks report to the Admiralty >
After capturing the port of Antwerp, a crucial supply line for the Allied forces in North-West Europe opened up. Yet the Germans were still in control of Walcheren, blocking the river Scheldt. And so, on the 1st of November 1944 and as a part of the Scheldt Campaign, 'Operation Infatuate 2' started at Westkapelle with an amphibious assault.
This amphibious assault at Westkapelle – the last such enterprise in the European War – was difficult and dramatic. Especially hard hit was the Support Squadron Eastern Flank. Twenty of its twenty-seven vessels sunk or were put out of action and their complements of about one thousand men suffered 192 killed or missing, 126 severely wounded and many others slightly wounded.
< Crewlist LCF 38 : Casualties and survivors .. >
< Message from the operations commander aboard of the Kingsmill to all stations after the Westkapelle attack >
< Signal from Admiralty to operations commander after beachhead assault at Westkapelle November 1 >
I can only speak about my father’s vessel and her crew, but I am sure that others were the same. LCF 38 as lead attack vessel in that sector, charged in with a thousand horse power thundering in her engine room and all guns blazing, keeping accurate fire with some shells penetrating gun slits. These men were not just doing their job they were warriors of the highest order in the full knowledge that for the objective to succeed it could result in the total loss of the ship and all hands. The document I find particularly moving is the high praise of the actions of the close support flotilla especially the LCF, LCG, and LCS.
Knowing my father and his crew were real warriors in the thick of it, and the recognition they got, makes me intensely proud.
My father spoke only occasionally of his war experiences, in part he could not because of the official secrets act, also as Commanding officer in many other successfully actions in the Mediterranean I know the affect of seeing his comrades come to such violent ends was with him till he died.
I understand so much more about him now
Walcheren is now being accepted as possibly the hardest fought Naval and combined OPs attack of the Second World War.