Lieutenant Alexis Peter Vedeniapine
Unit : Headquarters, 3rd Parachute Battalion
Army No. : 283332 / 5441604 (earlier, non-commissioned rank)
Awards : Military Medal, Bronzen Leeuw.
Alexis Vedeniapine was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on the 15th February 1916. He came from a military family; his grandfather, Alexis Vedenyapin, became an Engineer General and member of the Military Council in 1912, and his father, Peter Vedenyapin, in 1916 rose to the rank of Colonel in the Probeshensky; an elite Guards unit. The family moved to Shanghai in China following the collapse of Tsarist Russia, and Alexis Vedeniapine was sent to Britain to be educated. In 1939, he enlisted in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry before volunteering for the Parachute Regiment. He served in North Africa and Sicily with the 3rd Parachute Battalion, and for his part in the fighting in Tunisia he was awarded the Military Medal. His citation reads:
On 22nd March 1943 at Mapsa (Tunisia Sheet 10) after a night attack on Dj Deera had proved unsuccessful it appeared as if the enemy as a consequence of his heavy losses had withdrawn from the hill, and Sergeant Vedeniapine immediately volunteered to climb the hill and check this point. He succeeded in reaching the summit before the enemy opened fire and forced him to withdraw, bringing back valuable information as to the enemy's dispositions which proved their worth during a subsequent successful attack two nights later. On the 5/6th April this N.C.O. carried out a lone patrol of over 27 hours behind the enemy positions on Green Hill 3778 securing accurate information of locations and general dispositions. Throughout the whole campaign, this N.C.O's work has been outstanding, setting an example not only to his own Intelligence Section but also to all ranks of his unit.
In September 1943, Vedeniapine was given an emergency commission, and by the time of Arnhem a year later, he was serving as the 3rd Battalion's Intelligence Officer. For his part in the battle, he was awarded the Dutch Bronze Lion:
On 18th September 1944 at Arnhem, Battalion Headquarters of 3rd Battalion was split into two groups one of which was completely surrounded by German Infantry. Command of this group was immediately assumed by Lieutenant Vedeniapine who rapidly organised the defence of some eight houses, four on either side of the street. For two hours the enemy supported by machine guns and mortars attacked incessantly but never succeeded in breaking in. During this time Lieutenant Vedeniapine repeatedly crossed and recrossed the street in spite of machine gun fire and went from house to house encouraging the defenders. He showed utter scorn for the fire of the enemy and by setting such a splendid example to those under his command, inspired them to stand their ground for two hours when the position seemed hopeless. Personally he supervised the defence of every attack which was directed at the houses and often directed fire on the enemy as he stood in the open street. After dark he played a most energetic and enthusiastic part in the break out from the area which was completely successful. That this force remained effective as a fighting unit was entirely due to the inspiring and fearless example of Lieutenant Vedeniapine and to his splendid devotion to duty.
On the following day, Lieutenant Vedeniapine took part in the final attack of the 3rd Battalion towards Arnhem Bridge. During the withdrawal after their failed attempt to support the 1st Battalion's advance, Vedeniapine was badly injured in the back and chest by splinters from the same mortar bomb that killed Lieutenant-Colonel Fitch, but he nevertheless struggled on and managed to reach the Battalion Rendezvous. Members of the Dutch Resistance were with the Battalion at this time, and as he realised that the situation was now hopeless, Vedeniapine urged them to remove their orange armbands and disappear as they would surely be executed by the Germans if they were discovered. It was very difficult to persuade them as he found them to be very brave people and unafraid of death, but they finally relented and took their leave. His son later related that his father was reluctant to speak much about Arnhem, but he seemed happy to recall this story as he thought that he might have saved their lives.
Lieutenant Vedeniapine was taken prisoner and was sent to Stalag IXC. He continued to serve within branches of Intelligence after the war, with a brief posting to India before spending five years in Hong Kong. He subsequently retired from the Army and became a farmer near Whitland in Carmarthenshire. He held prominent positions in the National Farmers Union, and frequently met with senior politicians, including the Prime Minister on one occasion to discuss the price of milk. He died near Bath, Somerset, in May 1991.
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