b. 17/09/1896 Kirkee, India. d. 21/07/1975 St Clement, Cornwall.
Wilfrid St Aubyn Malleson (1896-1975) was born on 17th September 1896 at Kirkee, India, the eldest son of Major General Wilfrid Malleson (later Sir Wilfrid, KCIE, CB), a distinguished Indian Army officer. Wilfrid was brought to England by his grandmother to attend prep school at Edgeborough, near Guildford, Surrey, and became his second home, with holidays spent with either relatives or the headmaster and his wife. He then attended Marlborough College in 1908, before joining the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1912, and was appointed midshipman on the battleship Cornwallis three days before the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914.
Having taken part in the bombardment of the Turkish shore defences in early 1915, Cornwallis was assigned to cover the landings at S Beach, Cape Helles, on 25th April 1915. On that day during the landing at V Beach, Cape Helles, Gallipoli, Turkey, Midshipman Malleson and three others (William Charles Williams, George Leslie Drewry, George McKenzie Samson) of HMS River Clyde assisted the commander (Edward Unwin) of the ship at the work of securing the lighters under very heavy rifle and Maxim fire. When the other midshipman with the party had failed, through sheer exhaustion to get a line from lighter to lighter, Midshipman Malleson swam with it himself and succeeded. The line subsequently broke and he afterwards made two further unsuccessful attempts at his self-imposed task.
Malleson was the only one of the six VCs from V Beach to escape without physical injury. He spent six days toiling on the beach, and it took a heavy toll on him. He was evacuated to Bighi Hospital in Malta suffering from rheumatic fever. After recovering, he was promoted acting sub-lieutenant on 15th May 1916, and joined his brother Rupert in serving on Lord Nelson six months later. He was confirmed as sub-lieutenant on 30th December. He was the last of the six V Beach VCs to receive his award, attending a Buckingham Palace investiture on 2nd January 1918.
Three months before his investiture, he embarked on what was to become a long association with the submarine service. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 30th March, and joined the depot ship Lucia, under the command of a fellow VC, Martin Dunbar-Naismith, on 5th November. Peace-time service followed in the submarines L7 and L19 followed, before he gained his first command, H50, in 1923. A two year spell was then followed by command of L69 in 1927.
That same year, he married Cecil Mary Collinson at St Mark’s, Marylebone, London, and they had a daughter. After a spell on the staff at Devonport, Malleson was then posted to the cruiser Barwick on the China Station. He was whilst he was there that he was described by a fellow commander as “Mad Malleson; that is not meant to be pejorative mad, but a chap who is a bit unpredictable. He was fiercely forgetful, abnormally so.”
By the outbreak of the Second World War, Malleson was a commander serving at Devonport. He joined the Retired List in 1941 only to be recalled and appointed Assistant Captain of Malta Dockyard. He remained on the island throughout the remainder of the war, being joined in 1945 by his family. He was promoted to Captain of the Dockyard and later King’s Harbour Master, and served on the island until his final retirement in 1948.
Malleson then settled briefly in Lifton, Devon, before moving to Washaway, near Bodmin, Cornwall, and then on to Galloway, where he ran a hotel on the first of a number of attempts to start a second career. He then returned to Cornwall where he and his wife ran a caravan park near St Austell. In the early 1960s they retired and moved to St Clement, near Truro. He spent his last 12 years there, in a bungalow he built himself. He was active in the local community, serving as chairman of the parish hall committee and chairman of the local sea cadets, but few knew of his distinguished war record. He declined all invitations to join the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.
Malleson died on 21st July 1975, aged 78. His body was cremated at Truro Crematorium, and in keeping with his wishes, his ashes were scattered at sea off Falmouth by his old colleague Commander Macintyre. His medals, originally presented to Edgeborough School, were later acquired by Lord Ashcroft and are displayed in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: PENMOUNT CREMATORIUM, TRURO, CORNWALL.
ASHES SCATTERED IN THE SEA OFF FALMOUTH, CORNWALL.
Wilfred Malleson's medals including VC on display at Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (August 2014).
Wilfred Malleson's memorial stone laid at the National Memorial Arboretum in March 2015.