Born to Captain Charles Harry and Lilian (nee Everett) Fenwick in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, the family home being in Market Overton, Rutland. He is remembered as being 6 foot 4 inches.
With cricket and Cambridge behind him Ian moved on to follow his other great interest, art. He furthered his talents by studying at Leicester and art college in Berlin, where he was Hon. Attache at the British Embassy. He concentrated in perfecting his natural talent for humorous drawings and became a professional cartoonist. During the 1930’s his drawings appeared in many magazines including Punch, and Men Only. He also illustrated many books. Travel was another interest. During his visits to Austria and Switzerland he became a competent skier. In 1937 he produced “I’m Telling You” – a comic guide to winter sports – written and illustrated by himself. He was in America, returning as war broke out.
When he was killed Fenwick was engaged to be married to The Honourable Mrs Robert Dundas (born Margaret Connell Ross) Melville Castle, Midlothian. Her husband Robert Dundas, had been reported missing, then killed in June 1940 in France. Fenwick and Margaret met when she served him tea after a practice parachute jump. He remarked; "My advice to despairing bachelors is to take up parachuting and all will be well !"
He is buried at Chambon-La-Foret Communal Cemetery (right of entrance, rear far corner).
1924 Winchester College. Played for their 1st cricket XI in 1929. Lance Corporal at Winchester College in the Cadets, Junior Officer Training Corps. Played at Lords.
Pembroke College, Cambridge University
Studied art at Leicester and in Berlin.
Lance-Cadet Winchester College Officer Training Corps.
19 Feb 1937 Commissioned to Leicestershire Yeomanry. 2nd Lieutenant 70468 (rear, 7th from left in picture).
Sept 1939 Fenwick was part of "the Pivot Group" in action in Egypt fighting at Sidi Rezegh and Wadi el Nagarmish, where they suffered heavy losses.
15 Feb 1940 Leicestershire Yeomanry converted to 137 Field Battery Royal Artillery.
1940 March - May Sent on secret government assignment to Turkey and the Balkans.
30 June 1940 Transferred to 60th Rifles - Kings Royal Rifle Corps. He was posted to the 1st Motor Battalion (MTB) KRRC at Chiseldon Camp, near Swindon.
23 Nov 1940 Posted to Auxiliary Units as Intelligence Officer with the rank of Captain. Appointed Intelligence Officer covering the county of Somerset along with the City of Bath. During his command he was billeted near Taunton with a HQ in 68 Monmouth Street, Bridgewater.
15 Sep 1942 Joined SOE. Released from Army to Room 98, Horse Guards [Not paid by Army funds] The various organisations such as SOE and SIS all had as cover addresses rooms at the War Office in London - Room 98 was a cover for the SOE Special Training Schools whose address was Room 98 Horse Guards. He attended parachute training course No.87 at RAF Ringway and while there found time to sketch.
1 Nov 1942 Commandant Special Training School 4. Appointed Major Commandant No.4 Special Training School at Winterfold, Surrey. During WW2 Winterfold was requisitioned by the British Government and used by SOE Special Operations Executive, as a training school designated STS 4 and later STS 7 as the location of the SOE Student Assessment Board. Its primary use during the war was to whittle out those not suited to undercover work and begin initial training for those that progressed.
1 Jun 1943 returns to Regular Army, 1 Motor Transport Battalion as Temporary Major.
1 Sep 1943 Posted to Airborne Forces Depot as Captain.
Feb 1944 Joined 1 SAS, commanded D Squadron.
June/July 1944. Parachuted into France at night as Major, Commander of “D” Squadron, 1st SAS, in “Operation Gain” with some 60 men in the vicinity of Orleans, together with a number of Jeeps. This was just a couple of weeks after the Normandy landing on D-Day, but well over a hundred miles behind enemy lines. Their job was to hinder enemy movement and disrupt enemy communications, similar tasks to those Auxilary Units had been trained for and they proceeded to do just that, blowing up railway lines and, working with the French Resistance, derailing many trains. They sent back daily reports. After a couple of months, good work had been done: after another successful night attack on a train carrying troops and ammunition Ian reported that, “We are happy in our work.” By the end of Operation Gain, 16 railway lines had been put out of action and two locomotives and 46 trucks destroyed.
17.00 hours, 7 Aug 1944 Killed in action during Operation Gain.
15 Aug 1945 an Inquiry was held on the shooting of Allied Prisoners of war at Chilleurs Aux Bois. It reported; "About the middle of July 1944, a party of British Paratroopers. members of 1 Special Air Service Regiment, commanded by Major J Fenwick arrived at the forest of Orleans, Leiret, Orleanais, France. From camps located in the forest the paratroopers and Maquis, or F.F.I, [French Forces of Interior] with whom they worked, operated against the German forces in the area. The paratroopers carried out their operations in the regular uniform of their regiment. On Monday, 7 August, 1944 Major Fenwick , an F.F.I Officer, Sergeants W.P. Duffy, F.W. Dinkley and Lance Corporal Meginou carried out a successful attack on a German convoy, and then were themselves ambushed. Major Fenwick and Lance Corporal Meginou were killed. Sergeant Duffy was wounded and hospitalized by the Germans. He was eventually recaptured when the hospital fell into Allied hands. He swears that when he was carried away by the Germans that he saw and talked to Sergeant Dunkley who was handcuffed and a prisoner. Nothing since has been heard of Sergeant Dunkley or the F.F.I Officer. This ambush took place just south of the village of Chambon."
It is reported that the bodies of Fenwick and Menginou were identified at the village hall by Antione Krouchelnitsky, Mayor of Nancray Sur Rinard, and Bernard Bertrand, of Nancray and then buried in the Cemetery.
Sergeant William Patrick Duffy gave his evidence; "We left the village of Nancray and proceeded to the forest of Orleans to pick up these said articles [wireless set and code book]. 'We' were Major Fenwick, Serjeant Dunkley, Corporal Meginou, a Frenchman and a F.F.I Officer....We reached the forest without any mishaps. We never saw any Jerries or anything, and we collected the kit we had set out to collect. On the way back we ran into two truck loads of Germans. The truck was similar to our kind of troop carrier and we shot them up. Serjeant Dunkley was on the rearmost and I was on the foremost. I think we pretty well wiped them out, I should imagine, and we set off home by the village of Chambon. It was there that everything happened so quickly. I remember we ran into a party of Germans...Firing commenced... Major Fenwick was driving with Corporal Meginou and the French chap sat either side....Then I remember seeing three Germans running across the road and diving into a ditch and I shot at them. The last thing I remember quite clearly is that I looked down at the speedometer and we were doing sixty miles per hour. At that moment Major Fenwick fell across the wheel. I felt the blood, which I found later was his... like water sprinkling on my face." It is thought the Jeep then struck a tree.
Lt Col John P. Page was instructed on 6 Feb 1945 to investigate and locate the graves of Major Fenwick and Lance Corporal Meginou. He interviewed Antione Krouchelnitsky, a member of the F.F.I. He stated that Major Fenwick had visited his home many times and established the HQ there. He mentioned that he put the machine guns on the jeep and often maintained it.
On 5 Feb 1945 Bernard Bertand of Nancray, a member of the F.F.I, gave a written statement; "Around 25 May 44 members of the Nancray F.F.I, to which I belong, received a group of 12 parachutists who landed near the forest of Bouilly Vrigny. I immediately became acquainted with the Commander of the group, Major Fenwick as well as with Parachutists Meginou. During the two or three first days Major Fenwick spoke nothing but English to me and it was only after we had worked with him during all that time that he spoke French to us. From the very beginning I was engaged, along with several other comrades, in carrying out sabotage here and there, always in the presence of Major Fenwick and Parachutists Meginou. On 7 Aug 44 Major Fenwick and his men were hiding in a little wood behind Nancrayand at approximately 17.00 hours he decided to leave alone to go to the Chambon-la-Foret. Just before he left a few members of the F.F.I, who were also hiding in the same spot, begged Major Fenwick and those who wanted to go along with him, not to go to Chambon-la-Foret since there were many S.S in the village. Major Fenwick and his men decided to go nevertheless. At the entrance to the village the Boches opened fire on the Jeep and the Major was instantly killed. At that moment Parachutists Meginou attempted to escape but he also was killed, with machine gun fire. The two bodies were picked up that same night and taken to the village hall. Two days later they were buried by the Mayor of Chambon-le-Foret Monsieur Louis Trembleau, in the cemetery adjoining the village. On 27 Aug a ceremony was held in the cemetery in the presence of two or three thousand people in honour of Major Fenwick and of Parachutists Meginou."
Noted Cartoonist for Punch and others, author of "Enter Trubshaw", with forward by David Niven, the famous actor, who was a friend (and also an Officer in Phantom, the GHQ Liaison Regiment). Printed posthumously there is a Publishers' note saying; "Ian's infectious cheerfulness, wit and ability were an inspiration to his men and to the whole regiment."
In 1941 he drew a Christmas card to send to the Auxiliary Units under his command.
He was Mentioned in Dispatches posthumously in May 1945.
In 2016 CART tried to obtain his Service Record from the Ministry of Defence but after extensive searching it is assumed they have been lost.
SAS and LRDG Roll of Honour,
TNA ref TS26/853
Alex van Straubenzee (Fenwick family)
Dalkeith Advertiser 8 June 1944
Somerset Heritage Centre ref A\BOR\1
Find a Grave