Wallace was born in Randalstown, Northern Ireland, in 1943 and educated at Ballymena Academy. He joined the Territorial Army in 1961, and later was a marksman in the Ulster Special Constabulary, or 'B Specials'. A former officer cadet in the Irish Guards, in 1963 he was commissioned into the Antrim and Belfast Army Cadet Force. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1965. In 1972, he was commissioned into the Ulster Defence Regiment and was immediately granted the acting rank of captain, although he also stayed in the ACF. He was seconded to the SAS in New Zealand before working for the Intelligence Services as a psychological warfare officer.
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“It is not too much to say that next after the passion to learn there is no quality so indispensable to the successful prosecution of science as imagination. Find me a people whose early medicine is not mixed up with magic and incantations, and I will find you a people devoid of all scientific ability.”
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