Friends plan to reunite 103-year-old D-Day hero with World War Two truck

Friends of a 103-year-old D-Day veteran are planning to reunite him with an amphibious landing vehicle similar to the one he drove during World War Two.

Bill Milward, of Peak View Drive, Ashbourne, has fond memories of driving DUKW trucks, a type of landing craft affectionately known as the “Duck” – but he hasn’t seen one for decades.

This was used when the allies launched their invasion of Nazi occupied France in 1944.

Now a small group of friends are making arrangements for him to take a ride in the two-and-a-half ton truck, after tracking down a restored version in Peterborough.

Clare Tuck, a friend of Bill’s, has been working on setting up the special reunion and now says the preparations are almost in place.

She said: “When it was near to the time of the D-Day anniversary, we went to see him and he’s got this little model of the Duck that he gets out and shows us.

This is the type of amphibious landing vehicle that Bill would drive

“You can just see in his face the fondness that he has for this vehicle and obviously the memories that it holds for him.

“So I came out and I just thought I’d love to see if I can get a Duck, one like he was in, just to let him see it.

“Looking at the way he looks at his model, I think if he could see a full version of it he would just love it.”

Clare managed to find a farmer in Peterborough that who owned a DUKW had been renovated in time for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June – and she dropped him a message.

 

Clare explained: “He said he’d love to help. Anything for a veteran like Bill, he said”.

“We realised it was too far for Bill to travel, but he offered to come over here with it, which was amazing.

“They’re doing it all for nothing, they don’t want anything for it, they’re happy to come all the way from Peterborough.”

Bill, who until recently was extremely fit and walked several miles a week, is currently suffering from a knee problem which has led to a quandary as to how to help him climb into the vehicle.

Sarah posted a request on social media for anyone with equipment that could help lift him into the DUKW and she has been inundated with offers, including one from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Friends plan to reunite 103-year-old D-Day hero with World War Two truck - Derbyshire Live
Bill Milward drove DUKW vehicles during the D-Day landings

A local tree surgeon has been lined up to help Bill into the vehicle and Clare says the overwhelming response has meant plans are now back on track and, as long as Bill is fit enough, she hopes to have secured some land to use as a parking area in time for the big day, on Wednesday, August 21.

If all goes according to plan Bill will be lifted into the “Duck” and taken on a drive – and plenty of people have said they will be desperate to go and see it happen.

Clare said: “Everyone has been fantastic. In a way I was expecting it, because it’s Bill and everyone knows him. He’s a bit of a legend in this area.

“When I told him about the response we’d had it did put a big smile on his face and he was really heartened by it.”

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Bill is no stranger to big crowds, after he was invited to turn up the Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide ball on his 100th birthday.

At the 2016 event, he gave a speech to more than 500 people at the pre-game luncheon before hurling the ball into the crowd.

As he stepped back down from the plinth he told the journalists who were gathering round him that it was the “best day of his life”.

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