26th Oct, 2016

Town says farewell to veteran Noel

Evesham Editorial 13th Nov, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

CADETS and uniformed officers formed a guard of honour for the coffin of Noel Wilkes as Evesham said goodbye to the D-Day veteran.

Civic dignitaries and members of the armed forces joined veterans and residents for the service at All Saints Church on Armistice Day (Tuesday).

The historic venue was packed for the emotional service as the town paid tribute to the 90-year-old, who tragically died on October 25 after a collision with a car on Evesham High Street.

While mourners took their seats, the guard of honour was formed as the coffin, draped in the Union flag, was carried into church.

Rev Andrew Spurr led the service and talked of his memories of Noel before Alan Booth, chairman of the Evesham Branch of the Royal British Legion, paid his respects with a reading.

Legion member Jeff King delivered the eulogy and spoke of ‘a very popular but a very private man’.

He told the mourners how Noel had joined the Royal Army Service Corps and found himself on his way to Normandy at the age of 19.

“He joined the Canadian Forces via Juno Beach and became involved in driving petrol tankers closer to the front line so that they were reasonably close to refuel tanks and other vehicles.” he said.

“He would not hear of the word ‘heroic’ because he said it was a job that somebody had to do.”

On his return to the UK following the end of hostilities, Mr King said Noel settled in Bidford-on-Avon and worked for the Co-Op,

then for Littleton and Badsey Growers before ending his working life with Worcester Farmers on Old Worcester Road.

The service also heard of Noel’s tireless work with the Evesham branch of the Royal British Legion which included a spell organising all the poppy trays and tins for Evesham and his close ties to the town’s Sea Cadets.

Mr King highlighted Noel’s fund-raising efforts, in particular the effort to ensure a trip to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June.

“When I failed to get a grant from the National Lottery for the second Normandy visit which took place this year, I thought that was the end of the visit but Noel insisted that we should continue.” he said.

“When he said we needed at least £10,000, I asked what would we do if that sum cannot be raised – and quite without thought or emotion, he replied that he would pay for it out of his own pocket.

“As we all know, just like his wartime visit to Normandy, he came out tops.”

Noel Funeral 7

Photo by Marcus Mingins 4614022MMR7

Noel Funeral 4

Photo by Marcus Mingins 4614022MMR4

Noel Funeral 5

Photo by Marcus Mingins 4614022MMR5

Noel Funeral 3

Photo by Marcus Mingins 4614022MMR3

Noel Funeral 6

Photo by Marcus Mingins 4614022MMR6

Noel Funeral 2

Photo by Marcus Mingins 4614022MMR2

Noel Funeral 1

Photo by Marcus Mingins 4614022MMR1