'He is our hero' - D-day veteran Wilf, 102, gets surprise visit
- Credit: Family
A 102-year-old veteran – who can vividly recall taking part in the D-Day landings – had a special visit from a military vehicle group at home in St Neots.
Wilf Wrench modestly speaks about when he landed as a gunner on Gold Beach on June 6 1944 – and on Remembrance Sunday, family and friends wanted to mark Wilf’s bravery.
The Marstock Military Vehicle Group, run by family member Gary Stock and friend Steve Marshall, arrived on Wilf’s doorstep as a unique way to say thank you.
Wilf recently moved to St Neots to be closer to his son, Philip, aged 74, and granddaughter Donna.
Wilf joined the Beds and Herts Yeomanry in 1939 at just 20-years-old.
Late 1943 his gun crew were transferred to the “new innovation” self-propelled gun – better known as the Sexton.
In a piece written by Gary Stock from the military vehicle group, he described Wilf’s journey as a ”hero”.
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Mr Stock wrote: “Wilf’s outfit moved down to Southampton in late April for specific D-Day training, although none of them where aware what they were to take part in.
“He vividly recalls the lorries arriving with sand and tipping it near their camp, they had no idea at first but we all now know it was sand tables, in theory an exact replica of the area of beach they would land on.
“Wilf tells us he was lucky as when they landed, they could in fact pick out most of the waypoint clearly on the model they were shown – and this was not always the case.
“Loaded onto their ships on the June 3 he recalls how uncomfortable conditions where – as there were no hot meals but at least a ‘cuppa’.
“Wilf said they were ‘terrified and like a coiled spring, with most of us suffering from sea sickness – many more hours anchored in rough seas in the Channel and we would have been little use to fight'.
"Wilf’s not sure why, but he looked at his watch, it was 8.40am on June 6, the ramp went down the engines revved up and Wilf’s fight for freedom had started.
"He drove ashore on Gold Beach near Ver-Sur-Mer as part of the 50th Division TT. His squadron 342nd were tasked to silence the Mont Fleury battery, which of course they did.
“Today a memorial stands in the village of a Sexton with his picture on an information board.”
Wilf then travelled through Europe, encountering fierce German resistance in the Falaise "gap".
His journey took him to Arnhem, the Ardennes and onto Berlin.
He was not demobbed until June 1946.
“He does not consider himself a hero, however we do, so when you having a coffee, beer or just freely walking down the road, spare a moment of thought for the hundreds of thousands of young men who fought and died so that we may enjoy the freedom we know today," Mr Stock added.
Wilf returned to his sweetheart Maureen, who he married in 1942 and lived happily in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, with son Philip.
Wilf worked at local company AC Delco until he retired in February 1985.
He had two grandchildren by Philip, Paul who sadly passed away in his early 30s, and Donna.
Maureen passed away on December 1 2009, after 67 years of being happily married.
Wilf’s niece, Angela Stock, who got in touch with The Hunts Post to share Wilf’s story, said he is a “very modest man who cares deeply for his family”.
She added: “Wilf is a sensitive, calm man, devoted to his family and lives a quiet unassuming life.”
The Marstock Military Vehicle Group formed in 2015 to keep Second World War vehicles on the road.
Wilf's nephew, Jerry Woodbridge, who is also a member of the group, named his Jeep Uncle Wilf in his honour.