The Story of William Wallace and Stan Ford

This is a story of an extraordinary connection between Normandy Veteran and Memorial Ambassador, Stan Ford, and the family of fallen serviceman lost at sea, William Wallace.

With thanks to the family of William Wallace for sharing this story: William’s late daughter, Val, and her husband Philip Enticknap, and William’s nephew, William (Bill) Butcher.

Shipmates – William Wallace (left) and Stan Ford (right) both in Royal Navy uniform ahead of D-Day. William died aged 33, while Stan survived the sinking of HMS Fratton and was left with serious life-long injuries.

Engineman William Wallace was killed, along with 30 of his shipmates when HMS Fratton was hit by a German Neger human torpedo midget submarine, and subsequently sank, whilst at anchor in the Seine Bay, Normandy in the early hours of 18 August 1944. His body was never found. He left behind his wife, Lily, and their 2-year-old daughter, Valerie. Lily attempted to find out the circumstances of William’s death, but she passed away before she was able to discover the full story.

Val took on the task and after years of searching she finally struck gold and made an unexpected friendship as a result of it. Lily had believed that only one person had survived the sinking, but Val discovered that there were a number of other survivors. One of them was Stan Ford and one Christmas Eve her perseverance in trying to find him paid off. She and her husband arranged to meet him at his home in Bovey Tracy, Devon, early in 2004. Stan was very welcoming and explained to them about what had happened regarding the sinking of the Fratton, how he survived and the life-long injuries that he sustained.

Stan also told Val about the war graves cemetery at Ryes in France, which she had no knowledge of. There were two named headstones at the cemetery to sailors from HMS Fratton – A S Nobel Sanderson and Seaman Frank Tucker. Sanderson was a very close friend of Stan. There is also a headstone to a sailor Known Unto God and Val adopted this grave because of its closeness to the Fratton graves. Val and her husband, Philip Enticknap, visited the cemetery in the summer of 2004, which was very emotional, but it gave closure for Val for what happened to her father. In 2010 they again visited Ryes with Stan and members of his family. Val and Stan became great friends, and they visited him many times at his new home in Bath after his wife Eileen sadly passed away.

Val and Stan standing besides graves of the men of HMS Fratton and the grave adopted by Val in Ryes Cemetery, 2010

Sadly, Val passed away in 2019, two days after her 77th birthday following a very long brave battle with cancer. Stan attended her funeral, and it was her wish to have the story of how she found Stan read at the service. Val’s husband, Philip Enticknap said, “I somehow managed to find the strength to do so. At the end I announced that Stan “is here with us today” at which point the congregation broke into spontaneous applause. Stan and I remain great friends.”

78 years later, Stan visits the completed Memorial and finds the column with 31 names of his fallen shipmates, including William. And the engraving of William’s name, taken by Philip Enticknap.

William’s complete story is told in two parts and can be found here.


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