Major A E C Vizard, A, E & HQ Company, 16th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, 1943-46

The photographs and documents in this section relating to the war service of Major A E C 'Viz' Vizard, 16 DLI, are all provided courtesy of Graham Skilton.

A key figure in the wartime history of the Battalion, alongside Majors Alan Hay and Ronnie Sherlaw MC, 'Viz' Vizard was also one of the three main stalwarts of the 16 DLI Old Comrades' Association in the 53 years of its formal existence, through to the final 'stand down' in September 1999. He was a 'Faithful Durham' through and through but, like so many other true 'Durhams,' his beginnings were a long, long way from Brancepeth Camp and Durham Cathedral
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Arthur Vizard was born in London on 5/9/18. His father, who was serving with the Australian Imperial Force, was killed in action just a few weeks later. Viz was educated at the Royal British Orphan School at Watford and at the Duke of York Military School at Dover. He enlisted as a Territorial in the 8th Battalion the Middlesex Regiment, a machine gun battalion, in 1936. Mobilised at the outbreak of war, he was annoyed to be held back in the UK with 'B Echelon' when that unit went to France in January 1940. Commissioned into the Middlesex Regiment in 1941, he later served with its 7th Machine Gun Battalion in Northern Ireland, before being transferred to the 70th Young Soldiers' Battalion of the DLI at Barnard Castle in late 1941.

In December 1942, he was put in charge of a reinforcement draft of around 150 DLI men and posted to Tunisia. Viz came to the 16th Battalion DLI at the lowest point in its history, in early March 1943, just after the Battle of Sedjenane. The unit had recently lost so many officers and men that it was reduced to a headquarters company and the equivalent of just one rifle company. The then Captain Vizard's reinforcement party of 150 men and just a handful of NCOs was originally meant to provide replacements gradually into what used to be the four rifle companies. Since they no longer existed, instead he found himself in command of an ad hoc rifle company, 'E Company', made up solely of these inexperienced new men. Meanwhile, the 16 DLI Sedjenane survivors, mostly HQ Company men, were organised into two composite companies, led by Major Denis Worrall and Major T G L Ballance. For the next few weeks, the depleted unit fought, held the line and acted as a reserve wherever it was needed under all manner of battalion, brigade and divisional commands.

Captain Vizard's first major action with E Company, on 17/3/43, was a tense operation to extricate the Battalion HQ of the 5th Sherwood Foresters, who were almost completely surrounded by the enemy at Maison Blanche. His account of this action was published in the 1946 Battalion History. He also wrote to me informally on this subject in 1998, pointing out that one of the men alongside him during this operation was Pte Tom English, of Thornley Colliery. This informal account can be read here.

Later, as more reinforcements arrived and the situation on the northern part of the Tunisian front stabilised, the Battalion reformed its four rifle companies, A, B, C and D, with Arthur Vizard in command of A Company. He led A Company ashore from the front, the first soldier from his company down the ramp, from the US Navy landing craft LCI 345, on the first day of the Salerno Landings, on 9/9/43. In subsequent fighting on 13/9/43 he was severely wounded by a mortar fragment in his spine. His CSM, Company Sergeant Major S A 'Nutty' Wilson, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (read his citation here), for his actions in the aftermath of this incident.

Evacuated to Tripoli, Libya, Vizard was hospitalised in the Middle East for several months. Though medically downgraded to category 'B1' which normally precluded service in the infantry, Viz rejected the dull option of running a POW cage and, in March 1944, somehow wangled his way back to the 16th DLI, who were now refitting in Syria--a trip that also meant persuading two Canadian airmen to unofficially fly him from Algiers to Cairo!

Somehow, his freelance initiative to rejoin his old unit was eventually cleared with the powers that be and he assumed command of HQ Company, 16 DLI. He remained with HQ Company through to the end of the war and beyond, in Italy, Greece and Austria and was one of the very last officers to serve with the Battalion, overseeing the final disbandment in February 1946. As recounted elsewhere, he was of immense help to me in the early years of the research that led to this website, and so it is with great pride that these items are included here. A real gentleman and the personification of everything that was and is great about the British Army and the British regimental system, Major A E C Vizard died in 2004.

The photographs and documents in this section are arranged in a broadly chronological order. Click on the hyperlinks index on the following page to view them.
Major A E C Vizard, 16 DLI Portrait, Khaki Drill
Click to enlarge, wounded in action telegram, A E C Vizard

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