Family of Second World War veteran from Watton appeal for people to attend his funeral

WW2 war hero Denis Icke has passed away aged 96 - His widow and son are appealing for people to atte

WW2 war hero Denis Icke has passed away aged 96 - His widow and son are appealing for people to attend his funeral - Widow Madge Icke holding a photo of Denis as a soldier. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The family of a Second World War veteran who was dropped behind enemy lines is appealing for people to attend his funeral.

WW2 war hero Denis Icke has passed away aged 96 - His widow and son are appealing for people to atte

WW2 war hero Denis Icke has passed away aged 96 - His widow and son are appealing for people to attend his funeral. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Denis Icke was in his early 20s when a glider dropped him in Nazi-occupied territory at Arnhem in the Netherlands as part of Operation Market Garden, known as A Bridge Too Far.

It was hoped that a co-ordinated push to seize key bridges would allow the Allies to punch through Nazi defences, reach Berlin and end the war by Christmas 1944.

But the operation went disastrously wrong, with troops hit by machine gun fire as they parachuted in and German tanks waiting.

Mr Icke was able to escape to safety by swimming across the River Rhine amid a hail of bullets, but almost 1,500 people died and more than 6,500 were taken prisoner, with some badly injured.

WW2 war hero Denis Icke has passed away aged 96 - His widow and son are appealing for people to atte

WW2 war hero Denis Icke has passed away aged 96 - His widow and son are appealing for people to attend his funeral - Son Stewart Icke and widow Madge Icke. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The Norfolk man never collected his medals as he did not see his involvement as something to be proud of.

He died on June 24 aged 96-years-old, having built a new life for himself after the war - running a large caravan park in Sea Palling, before moving to Norwich and latterly Watton with his wife Madge who survives him.

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Speaking from the bungalow they had shared in Watton, the 94-year-old said her husband had not kept in touch with any of his colleagues in the 1st Airborne Division and had not been involved with local veterans groups.

But their son Stewart, 65, wanted to invite people to his father's funeral as his parents had few surviving friends and he said it would mean a lot to his mother.

'Operation Market Garden is part of our history,' he added. 'It's a reminder of what atrocities have happened and we've got to learn from history.'

Mr Icke was born in Smethwick, near Birmingham, and met his wife at a dance months before war broke out.

He was an office worker and was conscripted in 1939, with a week's leave in 1942 to get married and honeymoon in Bognor Regis.

Mrs Icke said that her husband wrote to her daily but never told of what was going on - only that he wanted to return home - and that after the war he did not speak of his experiences for many years.

'In his later years, when they started to put it on TV, he would talk about it,' she said. 'He threw a different light on some of it - he didn't want it to be glamorised.'

She added that he told her about what happened at Arnhem.

'He found out it was a mistake,' she said. 'The Germans were already there and they were being shot at as he came down on a glider. They had the tanks there.

'The parachutists were being machine-gunned before they hit the ground.

'He was determined he wasn't going to be a prisoner of war and he swam the River Rhine while he was being fired at.

'He was a good swimmer and he swam under water to where he knew his regiment was parked.'

She added it was a fast-flowing river and she did not know how far downstream he went, but he managed it as he had trained as a lifeguard in his youth.

After he made it back to his regiment he was said to have battle fatigue and was given a job as chief clerk until peacetime due to his skills in shorthand and typing.

'He said he did not want medals for killing people and he never collected them,' said Mrs Icke. 'He said if it wasn't them it would have been him, so he had to do it.

'That was one regret he had.'

Stewart Icke added: 'We're lucky we haven't had to experience that at 18 to 20-years-old.'

Mr Icke's funeral is at Earlham Crematorium on Wednesday, July 13 at 3pm.

The life of Denis Icke

Born in Smethwick near Birmingham in 1919, Denis Icke was a fan of the great outdoors and rode a tandem to Land's End with a friend aged 14.

He met his wife Madge Cooke at a dance months before the start of the Second World War, he was conscripted in 1939 and they wed in 1942 - with a week's leave for a honeymoon in Bognor Regis.

Mrs Icke described her late husband as a 'business fella' who preferred office jobs, so he had no chance of avoiding conscription.

He survived Operation Market Garden, and was given the job as chief clerk afterwards due to battle fatigue.

When the war ended he was serving in Norway.

He was offered his previous job in peacetime, as this was a legal requirement, but the salary offer was so low that he worked in the car industry instead, gaining promotions to designer and buyer.

His father, a carpenter, also taught him woodwork and they built caravans together.

Mr Icke moved to Sea Palling with his wife in 1958 where they ran the Golden Beach Caravan Park which had 200 caravans.

After they retired they moved briefly to Cornwall but missed Norfolk so much that they returned to a flat in Cromer Road, Norwich, above a shop owned by their son Stewart.

For many years Mr and Mrs Icke split their time between Norfolk and America - where they spent six months of the year through the winter.

In his free time the great grandfather kept horses, was a keen fisherman and photographer. He would make slideshows of his photos with carefully recorded voiceovers under the name of Pegasus Productions. The Pegasus - the winged stallion from Greek mythology - was the mascot of the 1st Airborne Division.

Operation Market Garden

The ill-fated Operation Market Garden was an effort to bring a swift end to the Second World War as the success of the D-Day landings in France ran into slow and costly progress through the fields of Normandy.

It was hoped that by flying thousands of troops behind Nazi lines, key bridges over the canals and rivers on the Dutch-German border could be seized and ground forces could advance to Berlin.

The plan was orchestrated by General Bernard Montgomery, commander of the British forces in Europe, in September 1944.

It quickly ran into difficulty.

There were too few aircraft to deliver all troops in one day, and troops had to be dropped at a site seven miles from Arnhem as the town's anti-aircraft defences were too effective.

This cost the Allies the element of surprise.

Ground units that were supposed to follow the men ran into trouble as they had to travel on narrow roads, defended by small groups of determined German infantry.

British paratroopers also found that their radios did not work correctly, making it impossible to co-ordinate the offensive.

Most of the eight key bridges were blown up by the Nazis before they could be captured by the Allies.

British troops began to run out of anti-tank weapons and found the Nazi tanks were devastatingly effective.

The British survivors were evacuated, with some 2,500 making the river crossing, almost 1,500 killed and more than 6,500 taken prisoner.

It was not until months later that the Allies managed to cross the Rhine and move into the German industrial heartland, with many more lives lost as the war dragged on.

The war was effectively ended in May 1945 when the Russians moved into Berlin.

Operation Market Garden was later turned into a war film - A Bridge Too Far - which told the story of its failure.

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