Lion Wenceslaus

by Lion Wilf Wise MBE (1917 – 2002)

Lion Wilf Wise was one of the original members of Malton, Norton and District Lions Club when it was formed in 1963 – a Charter Member. For almost 40 years Lion Wilf was an active club member and supporter of other charities. In recognition of his huge contribution to Lions he was awarded a Melvin Jones Fellowship, Melvin Jones being the founder of Lions when it started in Chicago in 1917.

Wilf’s poem below was written in recognition of the efforts of a fellow Lion – Peter Grice – to delver Fish and Chips to the elderly and housebound of Malton and Norton on a very snowy Saturday in 1989.

The Daily Telegraph carried a detailed obituary of Lion Wilf’s remarkable life when he died in 2002 and this is reproduced below.

Click on photo to enlarge

The Daily Telegraph – 23rd August 2002

Wilf Wise, who has died aged 85, gave up the chance to take part in the Great Escape from Stalag Luft 3 on March 23 1944: instead he stayed behind to maintain a flow of valuable intelligence to London.

Wise helped to devise and construct the bellows system which ventilated the escape tunnel, and so was an obvious candidate to join the 76 Allied airmen who broke out of the camp. However, the escape coincided with a period in which he was supplying London with important information on V-2 development in the camp’s neighbourhood – information which assisted the Allies in making damaging air attacks.

Fluent in German, Wise managed to garnet tit-bits of intelligence from a variety of sources and to include this in letters to his mother.

He was well qualified for this task: before flying operationally he had received instruction in sending coded messages in the event of being shot down. His letters were intercepted by the Secret Intelligence Service which distilled information from Wise’s ostensibly mundane obervations and family endearments before forwarding them to his family.

Re-location of much of Germany’s V-1 “doodlebug” and V-2 rocket work, from what Hitler called the “revenge weapon” centre at Peenemunde on the Baltic, had made it imperative to keep track of the subsequent dispersal arrangements.

Such information that Wise could obtain supplemented intelligence which had been gathered by underground commandos of the Polish Home Army, who were involved because the PoW camp was situated at Sagan in Lower Silesia.

Naturally, Wise harboured some misgivings about surrendering his opportunity on the night of the Great Escape. But he was later to learn that of 73 of his fellow prisoners who had been recaptured, 50 had subsequently been murdered by the Germans.

Wilfred Arthur Wise was born on January 25 1917 at Norton, near Scarborough, in Yorkshire. Young Wilf was educated at Malton Grammar School and afterwards qualified as a solicitor.

He enlisted in 1940 and the next year was commissioned into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a pilot officer. He joined No 12, a two-engine Vickers Wellington bomber squadron. In October 1941, he was returning from a raid on Germany as second pilot when one engine failed and he survived a severe crash landing in a Dutch sand dune.

Temporarily paralysed, he managed to drag himself out through a hole in the fuselage. After a spell in a German military hospital in Holland he was held at Stalag Luft 3 until Russian troops reached the camp.

Despite suffering badly from gangrene, Wise, who was now a flight lieutenant, led 200 fellow PoWs northwards until he encountered Allied forces, and in April 1945 (VE Day came on May 8) was repatriated. When he reached home he weighed seven stones. Back home in Yorkshire, Wise did not return to the law; instead, he took charge of Headley Wise & Son, the family corn and seed business in Malton.

In recognition of his activities when a PoW, he was appointed MBE.

Wilf Wise was a countryman at heart, never happier than when shooting or fishing. Over the years he was active in the interest of a range of charitable causes, among them the provision of a fish-and-chips service to pensioners and talking books for blind people.

Wise married, first, in 1947, Joyce Bellerby, who died in 1963. They had two sons. He married, secondly, Helen Wallace, by whom he had a daughter.

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During August 2017
- We welcomed a new member – Lion Ray King. Enjoy your time with Lions Ray!
- We donated £1,500 to Yorkshire Air Ambulance
- We awarded a grant to a local young man to assist with the cost of his studies
- We donated £360 to Next Steps to cover fuel costs on a Scottish holiday
- We donated £500 to the Fire Station Playgroup to assist with the costs of rebuilding a dangerous wall
- We awarded a local young lady a grant to cover the costs of a bond to secure appropriate accommodation as she starts her education away from home
- 16 Lions and friends enjoyed a Sunday stroll and lunch in Nunnington
- Lion Brian Abbott won a charity CAMEL race at Beverley Race course

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Malton, Norton & District Lions hosted the District Convention for the first time in our 50 year history in Nov 2013
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