New Year Honour for war veteran Wilf

A 99-year-old veteran of the Battle of Arnhem has been recognised in the New Year's honours list.

Wilf Oldham, from Radcliffe, told of his pride after being made an MBE for services to commemorations and UK/Dutch relations in the Diplomatic Service and Overseas list.

"I was very surprised, of course, because it's the last thing I ever expected," he said.

"I'm a very humble man and I feel very proud because obviously somebody recommended me or put my name forward.

"I must say I feel very proud that somebody's gone to this trouble."

Mr Oldham took part in Operation Market Garden - depicted in the 1977 Hollywood film A Bridge Too Far - that saw 35,000 British, American and Polish troops parachute or glide behind German lines in a bid to open up an attack route for allied forces.

Wilf at his 99th birthday party Credit: ITV Granada

The subsequent fighting around Arnhem saw more than 1,500 Commonwealth soldiers killed, nearly 6,500 captured and five Victoria Crosses awarded.

Mr Oldham, who joined airborne forces serving with 12 Platoon, B Company of the 1st Battalion, The Border Regiment, was one of the few who successfully escaped across the River Rhine at the end of the 1944 battle.

He said he did not return for 45 years but has since gone on the annual pilgrimage to Arnhem, where he stays with the same family, apart from this year when he was too ill to attend the 75th anniversary commemorations.

"I was extremely disappointed. It was a terrible blow to me," he said.

"It was a terrible disappointment to me."

But he said his MBE, which he credits to his work speaking to groups, including schoolchildren, about the battle "more than makes up for that".

"I think it's because of keeping the cohesion between England and the Netherlands," he said.

"I must admit I don't know whether I was shocked or surprised because that was the last thing I ever expected from anything to do with the war.

"It came as a great surprise."