IN JUNE 2009, former Evesham Observer editor Ian Dipple spoke to Noel Wilkes ahead of the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
As a tribute to the popular 90-year-old, who passed away on Saturday, here’s the interview in full as published at the time.
THE WORLD will come together on Saturday (June 6) to mark 65 years since the start of D-Day, the Allied offensive which brought about the end of the Second World War.
But for Evesham man Noel Wilkes, and the many other D-Day veterans who will attend the commemorations in Normandy and those staying at home, it will be a poignant time for reflecting, not only on the friends they lost but the fact it will probably be the last major anniversary of the operation many of them will see.
“It can be a bit emotional and bring back some memories which you had happily forgotten.” Mr Wilkes told the Observer.
“One of the last jobs we had to do before we embarked was make a will, which was forgotten a little bit but of course we thought nothing of it in those days.”
Mr Wilkes was just 18 when D-Day happened.
He was serving in the service corps and was responsible for re-fuelling the tanks and other military vehicles making their way into France. His unit was attached to the Canadians landing on Juno Beach.
“I remember the day of the landing. The vehicles were loaded on the ship and there were so many on the ship you did not have enough room to sit down or have a nap or anything.” he said.
“They dropped my six lorries into the landing barge and we went down the rope ladder on the side.
“We drove off up to our belly in water. The first thing we had to do was take the water proofing off the distributors. There were shells coming over the top and after one of them I said to our platoon officer ‘My God that was close’ and he said it’s okay as
long as you can hear them it’s the ones you can’t you have to watch out for.
“I remember the first meal was in an old tent about half a mile in – a cup of cocoa and what we used to call a dog biscuit.”
The 85-year-old added: “We were well into Germany when peace was declared, I can remember it coming across the radio. I
think we were aware it was probably going to happen.
“I don’t regret going. I was pleased I never missed it actually, it was quite interesting although obviously very dangerous.”
Mr Wilkes will be one of five D-Day veterans visiting Normandy on Saturday as part of a party from Evesham which includes the Reverend Andrew Spurr, vicar of Evesham, and young cadets who it is hoped will be inspired to continue the act of remembrance in years to come.
“I’ve been involved with the Royal British Legion for years and we just can’t get anyone in to help and hopefully once the cadets see it and already being in uniform, they will want to take over from us when we are gone and past.” he added.
The Evesham Observer of June 3, 2009 with our interview with Noel Wilkes.