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Aerial view from the church around the Wiltshire village of Bromham in Wiltshire, near to the towns of Calne, Melksham, Devizes and Chippenham

Old soldiers celebrate with a tipple

By Bromham Webmaster, Mar 22 2018 08:19PM

OLD soldier Vic Reed from Bromham, near Devizes, celebrated his 99th birthday with his lifelong friend and comrade Ivor Gardner, who will in turn be 99 in December.


Mr Reed, on the left in our picture, happily shared a drop of the 'good ole mountain dew' with his friend.


The two men joined the army together in 1937 and three years ago were honoured by the French government for their part in the Normandy landings in 1944 when they were made Chevaliers de la Legion d' honneur.


Having joined the local T.A. before the war, they disembarked on Gold Beach on June 6, 1944 as members of the mortar platoon of The Wiltshire Regiment.


They were inseparable until Mr Reed received leg wounds at Else, near Nijmegen, and was repatriated. He nearly lost his legs, but finally made a full recovery.


Mr Gardner fought on, to be a member of the relief party at Belsen. Since the war, they have remained close friends.


Peter Holt the standard Bearer from Bromham branch of the Royal British Legion said: "Good luck and many happy returns to this gallant gentleman."


The two men first became friends at Bromham Primary School and were together in The Bell at Bromham, which later became the Oliver Cromwell and is now an Indian restaurant, on the first Sunday evening following the outbreak of war in September, 1939.


A sergeant arrived and told them to meet in Devizes the next morning to join the Wiltshire Regiment.


Mr Gardner said a the time of them receiving their French honour: "We managed to stay together and were in the same platoon. I think we were just lucky that it worked out that way."


During the immediate months after landing on the beaches, they were engaged in many of the key battles to liberate France from the Germans. Both men attained the rank Sergeant.


They then took part in the liberation of Belgium before carrying on into Holland. It was near the Dutch town of Nijmegen that the two were finally separated when Mr Reed was seriously wounded in battle and had to return to England, where he spent many months in hospital.


The two men were helped to get their medals by friend Ray Cargill after French President Francoise Hollands announced in 2014 all surviving veterans who had fought in the liberation of France would be given France's highest award for bravery.


Gazette and Herald - 16 March 2018

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View from the tower of SAt Nicholas Church, Bromham, Wiltshire