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Sergeant Thomas McAlister (3529896)

Tom in later lifeTom was born on 30 January 1921 at Cowan Street, Ancoats, Manchester and attended St Phillips School. He won a Scholarship to Newton Heath Technical College and then started work as a Junior Draughtsman at Mather & Platt. After the war Tom lived in Newton Heath and Blackley before moving to Macclesfield in 1956.

After various jobs as a draughtsman in and around Manchester he worked as a design engineer for 25 years at E.T. Oakes in Macclesfield producing stainless steel mixers for the food industry in the UK and Europe. The company was sold following the death of the American owner and in recognition of their loyalty and service, he and another colleague were given two of the company’s patents and formed a small manufacturing firm from which he retired in 1990 aged 69.

Military Service

Tom joined the Royal Engineer cadet force at Technical College in 1935 going to camp at Lytham (where he and most of his mates saw the sea for the first time). He transferred to the 8th Battalion Manchester Regiment (TA) based at Ardwick Green barracks in 1937.

He was sent to Halluin on the France/Belgium border in January 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Three days before the German attack on Belgium in May 1940 the Battalion was transferred to Cherbourg and embarked on the P&O Liner ‘SS Oronsay’ for Gibraltar.Tom in 1943

Less than a week later he was sailing again this time for Malta. As part of the island’s force he was mainly deployed on airfield defence and aircraft re-arming at Takali.

Tom witnessed the arrival of the US oil tanker ‘Ohio’ which entered Valetta Grand Harbour supported (literally) by two destroyers as part of the relief convoy ‘Operation Pedestal’ in August 1942 which probably saved the island from capitulation.

He sailed to Egypt for rest and recuperation in September 1943 before moving to Palestine in November 1943 where he was attached to 10th Indian Mountain Division for training in Syria/Palestine.

Tom later landed at Taranto, Italy in June 1944 and fought up the eastern side of Italy ending the war in Bologna.

Reproduced here by kind permission of the publication ‘Up the Line: Journal of the Western Front Association’ (Lancashire and Cheshire Branch).