"It would mean the world" - Nephew's quest to bring community to Norfolk veteran's funeral
PUBLISHED: 14:27 27 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:35 27 December 2019
The nephew of a "wonderfully kind" veteran said it would mean the world if people answered his call to attend his uncle's funeral.
Alan Rickett has appealed to former veterans and well-wishers to pay their respects to Reg Wilcox, who lived in Watton, when he is buried on January 9.
Mr Rickett said he felt compelled to act ahead of the funeral after realising fewer than 15 people could be attending, and wanted to give the best send-off to a "wonderfully kind" man.
The Southend resident said: "It would mean the world.
"There are 12 definites, possibly 14 in total, for Reg's funeral. It destroyed me and I knew we had to do something. That was the beginning of the quest.
"He was a wonderfully kind, caring and loyal man who deeply loved his wife of 59 years, Doris, his family, his friends and neighbours and holidays abroad."
Mr Wilcox, who was 90, was born on April 15, 1929, in London's east end and was evacuated to the Gissing area when he was 12.
As a child he lived next door to his future in-laws and would one day marry Doris, but had to prove his love to his father-in-law.
Read more: Call for people to attend funeral of Norfolk serviceman
Growing up, he joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Norfolk Cadets, attaining the rank of sergeant before joining the Royal Marines in 1947 aged 17.
During his 11-year career, Mr Wilcox would serve on the HMS Gambia, HMS Victoria and HMS Glory. He left in 1956 when Doris paid £50 for him to be released from service.
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His days of wearing a uniform were not over, though, and he first tried to join the police, but due to his height did not qualify.
Instead, he worked for the London Fire Brigade (LFB) and was among the heroes of the Moorgate tube disaster in 1975.
He served with the fire brigade for 23 years until a hearing defect caused him to retire early.
Mr Rickett said his uncle was a very proud and well turned out man.
Mr Rickett said: "He had 16 pairs of shoes and they are so heavily polished you could use them as a shaving mirror. He did his own ironing, even when he married Doris, he did not trust anyone to iron his shirts. He was so proud. He was the proudest man I know."
As part of his appeal, Mr Rickett asked for any veterans to attend the funeral and any Royal Navy or Royal Marine standards to be flown.
Mr Wilcox will be buried at St Mary's Church in Watton, at 11am on Thursday, January 9.
Anyone who wishes to attend may wear 'typical attire' for the occasion including berets, medals and regimental ties.