Farewell for Sheffield D-Day hero who joined Navy at 16 - after telling parents he was going shopping

Wallace Kitchin
Wallace Kitchin
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Tributes have been paid to a Sheffield World War II hero who joined the Navy at 16 – after telling his parents he was going shopping.

Wallace Kitchin signed up in 1942 after lying about his age to recruiting officers.

Wallace Kitchin, second from right, with other members of The Royal British Legion Frechville branch at the Crystal Peaks Armistice Day Parade  in 2009.

Wallace Kitchin, second from right, with other members of The Royal British Legion Frechville branch at the Crystal Peaks Armistice Day Parade in 2009.

Wallace, who has died at the age of 88, went on to play a key role in the D-Day landings.

He first served at sea on HMS Melbreak and then in submarine HMS Sturdy before joining the Navy Special Services.

He parachuted in behind enemy lines with four comrades in Normandy three days before D-Day.

Wallace, who was still a teenager, and the rest of the group had the special mission of getting to the cliffs above Omaha beach where they helped direct shell-fire.

Wallace Kitchin

Wallace Kitchin

He was a radio operator whose role was to relay messages to the arriving landing forces.

One of the group was killed during the dangerous mission.

Wallace, who was born in Lincolnshire and grew up in Retford, returned to civilian life shortly after the war ended and went on to marry Jean Dawson, who he had met at a local dance.

The couple had six children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and were married for more than 60 years before Jean’s death in 2013.

Wallace Kitchin

Wallace Kitchin

The family moved to Sheffield 51 years ago because of Wallace’s work for BT, who he first worked for a telephonist before becoming a travelling rep.

They lived in the Gleadless Valley area and Wallace was a member of the Royal British Legion’s Frecheville branch and was also part of the Sheffield branch of the Normandy Veterans Association.

He took part in the annual Armistice Day parades at Crystal Peaks and had also been invited to garden parties at Buckingham Palace for Normandy veterans.

Wallace also returned to Normandy to attend D-Day anniversary commemoration events.

HMS Melbreak

HMS Melbreak

Hiss son Ian, who has also served in the Navy, said his father had not spoken about his wartime experiences for decades but opened up about what he went through in later life.

“He never said a word about the war until about maybe 20 years ago. At the 50-year commemoration he started talking about it,” he said.

“He said things I had never heard before. One of his colleagues had been shot after they were parachuted in and the rest had to keep going. He was such a young age but it was the war.”

After the war, Wallace often worked two jobs to support his family, while his interests included caravanning holidays with Jean and going out on boats. Ian said his father was proud of his military service.

He said: “He always attended the Armistice commemorations and he marched in London. He used to come down and march at the Cenotaph and he went to Buckingham Palace a couple of times as a D-Day veteran.”

Wallace’s funeral took place at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium on Monday, January 12. Members of the Normandy Veterans Association and the Royal British Legion attended, with the Last Post played as part of the service.

Ian said: “It was a fitting tribute. The coffin had a Union Jack on it and he would have been very pleased with that.”

Friend Peter Wolstenholme said: “I photographed him with other members of The Royal British Legion Frecheville Branch each year at the Crystal Peaks Armistice Day Parade until he was too ill to attend.

“I enjoyed talking to him about his wartime experiences finding him a quiet, gentle person who was immensely proud of his country, the Navy and the medals he was awarded. I will miss him, there are so few of his type left.”

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