Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life
One-hundred-year-old Arnhem veteran, Wilfred Oldham, is due to be presented with his long-awaited for MBE this Saturday 26th September. After several cancellations due to the pandemic, the former Border Regiment soldier from Radcliffe, near Bury, will travel north to Carlisle Castle, the former home of the Regiment, to receive his award from Lord Inglewood, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria.
Jules Wooding, Museum Manager explained the situation: ‘I was contacted by a friend of Wilf’s who described the difficulties about making the award. Due to the national lockdown, followed by restrictions in the Greater Manchester area, the MBE was being continuously delayed. I spoke to Wilf and offered the Museum, based in Carlisle Castle, as a potential venue. After all this is the spiritual home of the Border Regiment and Wilf is one of our veterans.’
Supported by Wilf’s local Parachute Regiment Association and working with Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life, the event has been organised in less than a week with precision military planning and great care to adhere to Coronavirus restrictions. The ceremony is very timely as it is the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem. Wilf was one of the Border Regiment soldiers evacuated across the Rhine overnight on the 25th/26th September 1944.
Due to restrictions, the ceremony will be limited, and COVID-19 restrictions will be put in place. However, soldiers from C Company, 4th Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment will be forming a socially distanced guard of honour to show their respect to one of their own.
3391058 Sergeant Wilfred Oldham had previously served in the East Lancashire Regiment and the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment. In June 1942 he volunteered for Airborne duties and was posted to 12 Platoon, B Company of the 1st Battalion, the Border Regiment. The Battalion formed part of the 1st Air-Landing Brigade who landed in gliders behind enemy lines, eight miles west of Arnhem, during Operation Market Garden. For the next ten days, the Battalion were engaged in fierce fighting in and around Oosterbeek before being ordered to withdraw. Wilf was one of the last across the Rhine as part of Operation Berlin on the night of 25th/26th September 1944.
Wilf Oldham is the oldest person to be recognised in the 2020 New Year Honours list. Born in Salford, he was made an MBE for services to commemorations and UK/Dutch relations in the Diplomatic Service and Overseas list. Wilf reacted with surprise at the honour. “I must say I feel very proud that somebody’s gone to this trouble. I was very surprised, of course, because it’s the last thing I ever expected.”
The ceremony will take place at Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life, located in Carlisle Castle, on Saturday 26th September 2020 at 1430hrs. The MBE will be presented by Lord Inglewood representing Her Majesty, the Queen.