Arnhem veteran Wilf Oldham dies aged 101

Credit to - Richard Jopson
Credit: Richard Jopson

The oldest remaining veteran of the battle of Arnhem Wilfred Oldham has died aged 101.

Mr Oldham, who was known as Wilf, took part in Operation Market Garden which 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.

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

He did not return to the region for 45 years, but began to go on an annual pilgrimage where he stayed with the same family.

He was recognised in the 2020 New Year's honours list and was made an MBE for services to commemorations and UK/Dutch relations in the Diplomatic Service and Overseas list.

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

"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."

Dave Sharkey, chairman of the Bolton branch of the Parachute Regiment Association, said Mr Oldham he was "such a nice gentleman".

"He was very slight, very small, but once you got to know him and he told you his adventures in Sicily and then Arnhem it as just unbelievable, but he was just such a nice gentleman.

"As soon as you met him he put you at ease, he was really nice to talk to and he'd tell you about his exploits."

Friends and family held a special party in August 2021 to celebrate Mr Oldham's 101st birthday, following the cancellation of his centenary celebrations the year before.

The event saw a surprise parade setup in Mr Oldham's honour, and people gathered in a local club in Farnworth to celebrate.

Wilfred Oldham, MBE is a veteran of Italy, France, Germany and Arnhem during operation Market Garden.