Former WWII soldier, 96, remembers Britain’s hour of victory in Europe weeks before his death

D Day veteran Melville John Wintle died in March at the age of 96 Credit: Melville John Wintle

Melville John Wintle - known to his friends as John - died in March, at the age of 96.

A few weeks before, a job had come my way: see if you can find a veteran to talk about VE day. There was only one man for it.

I first met John a year earlier, at his 95th birthday party, to hear about another of his seminal moments in history - as a veteran of D-Day.

So I rang him. He, of course, agreed to meet again.

John vividly recalled his memories of Britain’s hour of victory in Europe, over cups of tea and his homemade Welsh cakes.

He may have been four years away from a card from the Queen but he lived, and baked, with the exuberance and energy of someone half his age.

But wherever the conversation went he was never far away from his guiding principle and a lesson learned the hardest of ways: his hopes that no one would ever forget the sacrifice his generation made.

“Hopefully they will learn from the history we went through to prevent it happening again" was how he put it.

Millions of people took to the streets across Britain to celebrate the end of the War Credit: British Pathe

Like many soldiers, John Wintle was still abroad when peace was declared on 8th May 1945.

He was in Brussels when the news reached him and said it was a relief to know fighting had finally ended.

"I was standing on guard duty outside our barracks, when a dispatch rider came through and shouted "the war is over".

“That was the day before it was officially declared, so I had early notice of it. We knew it wouldn't be too long, because Germany was on her knees, but it was a relief to know fighting had ended."

Having lived through Britain’s darkest hour, John, like many around the continent celebrated its end.

Millions spilled onto the streets to celebrate this historic moment in Britain.

And despite John being far from home, the celebrations were no less.

He told me, “Once it was declared, we went to town to celebrate, plenty of drink, plenty of good company and let our hair down.”

John was just 15 when he left his home in Trethomas near Caerphilly and joined the Army in 1939 Credit: Melville John Wintle

John was just 15 years old when he left his home in Trethomas near Caerphilly and joined the Army in 1939.

After joining the Royal Ordinance Corps, he fought right through the conflict and was there as the allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy as part of D-Day operations.

He saw and experienced the Second World War in all its forms.

John celebrating his 96th birthday just weeks before he died Credit: ITV

Roll on to to early March 2020, and, at the age of 96, I joined him again as he was with fellow servicemen, cadets and the Royal British Legion to celebrate his birthday.

The military still hadn’t quite left him.

Despite his age, he never tired of sharing his experiences with younger generations, who hung on to his every word.

Full of stories, character, charm, and a twinkle in his eye. He always told me he was one of the lucky ones and life had been good to him.

"I think of how lucky I've been, to go all through the war without a scratch. I was lucky. Others weren't so lucky"

He like so many others was a war hero, but he was also a husband and a father.

He left the scars of war behind him and was determined to focus on enjoying his life, especially to honour those who didn’t get the chance.

On this most poignant of anniversaries, his memory, like so many others lives on.

To be involved in the VE Day celebrations you can:

  • Take part in a two minute silence at 11am

  • Celebrate in your own home– for ideas go to

  • Sing We’ll Meet Again on your doorstep at 9pm

  • Share your family stories on social media using the hashtags #VEDay75 #DiwrnodVE75