b. 17/07/1919 Bristol. d. 03/06/1944 Ardea, Italy.
Maurice Albert Wyndham Rogers (1919-1944) was born on the 17th July 1919 in Bristol, the son of Albert Edward Rogers and his wife Dora Grace (nee Love). His family originally came from the Marlborough area of Wiltshire, and later the family moved to London, where Maurice grew up. However, Maurice regularly returned to Wiltshire to visit his grandparents, and it only seemed right that at the age of 14, Maurice enlisted with the Wiltshire Regiment. At the age of 14, he was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, stationed at Plymouth, joining his brother in the Corps of Drums.
The Battalion moved to Aldershot and in 1936, they sailed for Palestine on operations, though the Drummer Boys were left behind in Devizes at the Regimental Depot, much to Maurice’s frustration. At the end of 1937, they returned to Aldershot, and the Boy Rogers rejoined the Battalion which moved to Catterick at the start of 1938. He had now turned 18 and was part of the regular Army, and was a key member of the Battalion’s Athletic Team which won the Northern Command Athletic Championship that year.
In the summer of 1939, he passed the Junior Wing course and earned his first stripe as Corporal. At the beginning of September, the 2nd Wiltshires were recalled from manoeuvres and sailed for France on the 14th, and the Corps of Drums took their role as Anti-Aircraft/Defence Platoon for Battalion HQ. During the winter of 1939-40, the 2nd Wiltshires were on guard duty for Nantes and St Nazaire, before being moved to the Lille area, and they helped construct the “Gort Line” defences.
On 10th May 1940, the Germans launched a heavy assault and the Battalion were forced to retreat to Dunkirk. On the 31st May, the 2nd Wiltshires with only 270 men (including Rogers) left, escaped aboard the ships evacuating them from the French coast. The 2nd Wiltshires then served in Scotland, Liverpool and Northern Ireland from 1940-1942. Corporal Rogers then joined the Carrier Platoon and in 1941 was promoted to Sergeant and became the Platoon Sergeant, an appointment he held until his death.
During a short period of leave back in London, Maurice married Lena Stone in Bethnal Green, where they lived at 1, Ravenscroft. In March 1942, the 2nd Wiltshires sailed from Glasgow in the “Franconia” to India, where they took part in the successful assault on the northern part of Madagascar, then on to Iraq, Persia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt before landing on Sicily on 10th July 1943. On the 18th, the Battalion was successful in establishing a bridgehead over the Simeto River, south of the Catanian Plain.
On 1st August 1943, the Carrier Platoon and a platoon from A Company were ordered to reconnaissance enemy positions at Gerbini airfield. Rogers led with two Bren carriers to the Farm Landolina. Within 200 yards of the farm, they came under enemy fire, and the track of Rogers’ carrier came off. Leaving his crew to engage the enemy, he returned to the Platoon Commander and gave a report of the exact position of the enemy. He then directed fire of a 3” mortar onto enemy positions. By this time the enemy brought up heavy mortars and were shelling the area in which the carriers and infantry were. In spite of this, Rogers attached two chains to his broken down carrier and successfully towed it back out of the danger zone. He was awarded the Military Medal for his actions, and by the 12th August Sicily was clear and invasion preparations for mainland Italy began. On 3rd September, the Battalion crossed the Straits of Messina and advanced north by the coast road.
For the six weeks of January-February 1944, the Battalion as part of the 5th Division held their ground while to the north the landing at Anzio took place. In March, the Battalion was sent in reinforce the beleaguered garrison. They fought a defensive battle in the Anzio beachhead in atrocious weather. The Americans called Anzio “the Hatbox of Hell”. On the 29th May, the Wiltshires as part of a breakout from the bridgehead advanced towards the town of Ardea. Two days later after attack and counter attack the Battalion was held up to the north west of the town. During the night of 2nd-3rd June 1944, a patrol from D Company commanded by Lieutenant Morris reported they had come across wire and mines but he thought that the spurs in front of the Battalion position were only lightly defended.
The leading Company then managed to take their first objective, but were unable to reach their final objective, owing to heavy enemy fire and casualties. The Carrier Platoon including Sergeant Rogers, dismounted, were ordered to capture the final objective, supported by fire from the Company and a troop of tanks. The objective was wired and mined and strongly defended by the enemy. The Carrier Platoon advanced through machine-gun and mortar fire until they reached the enemy's wire, which was 70 yards from their objective. At this point the Platoon was under the intense fire of seven machine-guns firing at ranges of from 50 to 100 yards, and sustained a number of casualties. The Platoon, checked (by the enemy's wire and the intensity of his machine-gun fire, took cover and returned the fire preparatory to gapping the wire. Sergeant Rogers, the Platoon Sergeant, without hesitation continued to advance alone, firing his Thompson Sub-Machine Gun. He got through the enemy's wire, ran across the minefield and destroyed two of the enemy machine-gun posts with his Thompson Sub-Machine Gun and hand grenades. By now, Sergeant Rogers was 100 yards ahead of his Platoon and had penetrated 30 yards inside the enemy's defences.
He had drawn on to himself the fire of nearly all the enemy's machine-guns and had thrown their, defence into confusion. Inspired by the example of Sergeant Rogers, the Platoon breached the enemy's wire and began the assault. Still a'lone and penetrating deeper into the enemy position, Sergeant Rogers, whilst attempting to silence a third machine-gun post, was blown off his feet by a grenade which burst beside him and wounded him in the leg. Nothing daunted he stood up and still firing his Thompson Sub-Machine Gun, ran on towards the enemy post. He was shot and killed at point blank range.
Rogers was buried in the Anzio Beach Head War Cemetery, and he was gazetted for a posthumous VC on 10th August 1944. At an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 17th July (ironically what would have been Maurice’s 26th birthday) 1945, the VC was presented to his parents by King George VI. His story was published as the cover story for D.C. Thomson's Victor comic in issue 204 dated 16th January 1965. In 2003 Rogers had a road named after him. A new industrial estate had been built at Hopton, Devizes, Wiltshire (near to the old La Marchant Barracks) and the road has been called "Sgt Rogers Way". The road sign gives his full name and location and year of the VC award. Earlier he had a block of flats 'Rogers House' named after him on the White City Estate in Shepherds Bush, London. His parents were in attendance at the opening ceremony. His medals are held at the Rifles (Berkshire and Wiltshire) Museum, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: THE BERKS/WILTS RIFLES MUSEUM, SALISBURY, WILTSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: BEACH HEAD WAR CEMETERY, ANZIO, ITALY.
Rogers VC is buried in Plot X, Row D Grave 8.
Maurice Rogers' medals on display at the
Royal Berks/Gloucs/Wilts Regimental Museum, Salisbury (Picture - Thomas Stewart).
Bethnal Green (Dawn Green)
Anzio Beach Head Museum (Thomas Stewart)