'They are all gone into the world of light'
They are all gone into the world of light!
And I alone sit lingring here;
Their very memory is fair and bright,
And my sad thoughts doth clear. . .
Henry Vaughan, 1650
They are not quite all gone, but the men and women who bravely fought Nazi Germany in World War II, and survived the conflict, are leaving us.
"Nicholas Wide, who has died aged 85, won an immediate MC in action at La Rivière, Gold Beach, Normandy, on D-Day+1" -
Aged just 21, Wide was a lieutenant and troop leader with C Squadron of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards. His troop had been sent on ahead of the squadron, and near Audrieu railway station his Sherman tank was hit twice by 88mm anti-tank gun fire. His driver and co-driver were killed, but the tank careered on, out of control.
Despite all this, and the fact that the tank was now approaching a railway cutting, Wide engaged the enemy gun with high- explosive shells. Just before the cutting, he and his gunner and wireless operator baled out. They then crossed a field under Spandau fire, making their way to a wood, which was surrounded by German infantry.
According to the citation for his MC, Wide "piloted his men through enemy lines and returned to his squadron on foot some four hours later". His own account of his return to his squadron focused less on the enemy fire than on the field's stinking mayweed, to which he was allergic. He also ruefully recalled his colonel's enthusiastic reassurance that he was not to worry as they would have a new tank for him by morning.
Shortly afterwards Wide demonstrated great courage when a brave medical officer (though warned of the presence of Germans) went down a farm track to look for wounded, and was shot.
Wide left his tank and, in full view of the source of the firing, recovered the doctor's body. . .
Ave atque Vale.