PENMAN, WILSON (BILL)
Military Medal and Bar
Service No: 35902
Rank: Sergeant
Links: Battalion: 25th Infantry Google Maps
Sangro Images Died: 30 November 1943  
Military Medal Buried: Plot 16, Row B, Grave 26  
Bar to the M.M Location: Sangro River War Cemetary  
Replica Medals Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead  
Son of David and Norah Penman (nee Horn), of New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand.
Sergeant Wilson (Bill) Penman served with the Zealand Infantry during World War Two. It was near the Sangro River that he was called upon to use his new skills and check a route for mine clearance. Bill Penman fell victim and lost his life to an unusual box-type mine. Others were seriously injured in the explosion. The severity of the loss of brave men like Bill Penman, in Army terms was beyond assessment. To his many friends, to be without the warmth of his delightful personality was devastating. Lance Sergeant W Penman was buried in a small village cemetery, at Otessa. Later, he was reinterred and laid to rest in the Sangro River War Cemetery, Italy. He was 34. Remembered by all the family here in New Zealand. (R.I.P)
At N.P.B.H.S: 1922 - 1925  
Wilson (Bill) Penman was a gifted athlete and he left no one in doubt about his abilities during his four years at NPBHS, and later. At School, he won the Bayly Memorial Scholarship for athletics two years running. In 1924 he broke the junior high jump record, and in 1925 he played for the Rugby First XV. It was as a swimmer that he was probably best remembered. Bill represented Taranaki at Christchurch in 1925, thus swimming for his Province while still a schoolboy. He followed that up in 1926 as a member of the New Plymouth Old Boys' Surf Life Saving Club's six-man team when it retained the Tabor Memorial Shield as Taranaki champions.
The old-timers recalling the pre-war years had very clear memories of him as a youngster of their own age. Even then, they said, he was as game a young fellow as one would wish to meet. Besides which, he was a splendid companion for those who knew him as a close friend. Some uncertainty exists as to where Bill worked, and in which years, after leaving school. However, it is understood that for a time he was on the staff of the Taranaki Daily News. He then worked at the New Plymouth port, followed by some years in dairy factories, or, at least, in the Warea dairy factory. It is known he was at Warea in 1936 because a lady of that district has recalled the patience with which he taught her to swim in the local creek's swimming pool.
It is possible also that an appeal by a dairy factory company delayed his departure for overseas until towards the end of 1940. The one fact that is certain about Bill Penman's landing in Egypt for active service with 2 NZEF is that he was a member of the first reinforcements which arrived in the New Year of 1941 for 25 Battalion. The main body of that group had shipped in the previous October. Just before the convoy brought the 2nd Echelon from England, via the Cape of Good Hope.
Thus he did participate in the campaign in Greece. However, at its conclusion, he was with that large party of 25 Battalion personnel who were evacuated straight to Alexandria, by-passing Crete. The heavy fighting in North Africa all of which became virtually embossed on Bill's life for over two years, seems in retrospect to have been almost a crescendo of violence, baseness, and inhumanity specially designed to test the fineness and courage of men such as he.
Medals Awarded:
(Promulgated 15 June 1943)
 
Award of the Military Medal to Corporal Wilson Penman 
"On the night of 23 October 1942 during the attack on Meteiriya Ridge, Corporal Penman's platoon commander and sergeant became casualties. He took over command of the platoon and was personally responsible for obtaining assistance for many wounded members of the platoon. Although wounded himself, throughout the offensive action he showed excellent leadership and devotion to duty and his courage, determination, and disregard for his personal safety were a fine example and inspiration to those under his command."
(Promulgated 14 October 1943)
 
Award of a Bar to the Military Medal for L/Sergeant Wilson Penman 
"Lance Sergeant Penman on the night of 21/22 March 1943, throughout the 25 Battalions attack on Hill 201 at Djebel Tebaga- showed outstanding qualities of courage and leadership during the reorganisation of the objective, this NCO on his own initiative, led his section away to the left flank where the enemy was so fiercely attacked that they became completely demoralised. Over 100 prisoners were taken. Lance Sergeant Penman's example of coolness under fire during the attack and his exploitation after the objective was reached were of the highest standard."
Military History
The School received information to the effect that members of L/Sgt Penman's Platoon, who witnessed his courageous action on 21/22 March 1943, considered it worthy of a VC. They were spell-bound by the utter fearlessness of the man. Names spring to mind. People like Barnitt, Wipiti, Montgomerie, Hayton, Rabone, Metcalf, Nev Williams, Penman - and many others - all feature in this memorial. They had one characteristic in common; they used all their considerable skills to attack, and attack again at every opportunity. Personal safety was never a consideration.
After the Allied victory in North Africa and the return of the Army to Egypt, many loner serving men had furlough in New Zealand. Bill Penman, after two years of desert living and fighting was clearly in need of a rest and it came to him in the form of a course on land-mine clearance. On its completion, he caught up with his Platoon again in Italy at a time when reinforcements were arriving for the front line Battalions.
Near the Sangro River, he was called upon to use his new skills and check a route for mine clearance. Bill Penman fell victim and lost his life to an unusual box-type mine. Others were seriously injured in the explosion. The severity of the loss of brave men like Bill Penman, in Army terms was beyond assessment. To his many friends, to be without the warmth of his delightful personality was devastating. Lance Sergeant W Penman was buried in a small village cemetery, at Otessa. Later, he was reinterred in the Sangro River War Cemetery, Italy. He was 34.
Wilson (Bill) Penman's ribbons Italy Star Defence Medal War Medal 1939 1945 New Zealand War Service Medal Africa Star 1939 1945 Star Military Medal and Bar

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