London Irishman Charles Ward remembers the events of 1939

On 18 October 1939, three 20-year old men reported to Liverpool Street train station to respond to call up papers for them to join the British Army. They were met on the station concourse that morning by Captain Colin Gibbs, then Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles (2 LIR), who duly witnessed the attestation formalities.

The three men were

  • Charles (‘Pip’) Ward, a printer from Dartford;
  • Edmund (‘Rosie’) O’Sullivan, who worked as a salesman at Hawkes in Savile Row and lived in Herne Hill; and
  • Edward (Eddie) Mayo, a Fords’ car worker from Dagenham.

Edmund ‘Rosie’ O’Sullivan

All three men would spend the next 3 years, taking part in training activities in various locations right across England, Wales and Scotland before embarking for North Africa on 11th November 1942. Sergeants Mayo, Ward and CQMS O’Sullivan would all be involved in the bitter fighting that faced 2 LIR in Tunisia over the next six months….

Sgt Mayo was wounded twice in Tunisia and, for his actions at the mountain village of Heidous during April 1943, was awarded the Military Medal (MM).

Sgt Ward was injured during the training period with 2 LIR in Algeria in June 1943 and would be forced to leave the battalion – to join the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to work on ciphers at Massingham and later transferred to Italy before returning home in early 1946.

CQMS O’Sullivan continued with his Quartermaster duties in support of E Company as they moved to Sicily in July 1943 and thence onwards with the battalion to Italy and finished his war in Austria before he was able to return home to his family during March 1946.

Sgt Edward Mayo MM

Sergeant Mayo would recover from his wounds and re-join CQMS O’Sullivan and his comrades in 2 LIR when they had moved to Italy but tragically, on 16th May 1944, he was killed near to the town of Cassino, after successfully leading his platoon through the German strongpoints of the Gustav Line near to Casa Sinagoga… soon after his death, one of Sgt Mayo’s platoon would carve the words “The Finest Sergeant That Ever Breathed” onto the cross that marked where he was buried, a scene witnessed by E Company’s OC, Major Mervyn Davies MC.

In honour of their friends and comrades and the many thousands of other men and women who fought against tyranny over 70 years ago, Charles Ward and his wife Margaret, who also served with SOE in Algeria and Italy, met earlier this week with ninety 9/10 year olds from Aylcliffe Drive Primary School in Hemel Hempstead to talk about their experiences, both home and abroad, during those times of desperate conflict.

It was a remarkably moving afternoon, further accentuated by the presence of Richard, the son of CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan and Louise Mayo, whose husband, Alan, is the grandson of Sgt Edward Mayo.

Charles and Margaret Ward at Aylcliffe Drive Primary School in Hemel Hempstead

Quis Separabit.

Faugh a Ballagh.


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