Tributes paid to war hero who served in liberation of Europe and Operation Market Garden
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Tributes have been paid to a veteran of the Allied liberation of Europe, who has died aged 97.
Thomas Twite, from Dereham, had been an active member of his town’s St Nicholas Church as well as the Probus club, and was a familiar face on the streets, selling poppies for Royal British Legion.
Robert Hindry, his nephew, said he would be missed by many.
He said: “He always had that glint in his eye showing he was ready for a bit of fun and a joke. He was everyone’s favourite uncle - always up for a laugh.”
Mr Hindry said Mr Twite was proud of his service in the war, but “very humble”.
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He said: “As a military man he wouldn’t forget his past. When we went to an anniversary in Normandy he insisted on going around the gravestones of all his fallen mates, rather than going to the service on the beach to receive a medal.
“The war was a tragic thing, but he also had a lot of camaraderie, and also fun, with the group of people he was with.”
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Mr Twite was born in Tittleshall and grew up on a farm in Litcham.
As a teenager he left home to become an assistant gamekeeper at Cockley Cley, the estate of Sir Samuel Roberts. But when the Second World War broke out in 1939 he was made redundant - the gentry were being called to service and game shoots were no longer going ahead.
After the Battle of Britain saw Luftwaffe warplanes fill our skies, Mr Twite applied to join the Royal Air Force.
But he was told at the Norwich recruitment centre the RAF did not need any further recruits, and was advised to join the army’s Coldstream Guards instead.
He joined the Coldstream’s 1st (Armoured) Battalion in 1942 and was sent to Catterick, Bovington and other training camps in preparation for the invasion of Europe.
His unit was first at Bayeux, before breaking out and join the battle for Caen in Operation Goodwood in late July 1944.
Mr Twite’s unit was then embroiled in fierce and bloody fighting in Operation Bluecoat against well-entrenched German forces who held the high ground.
In August 1944 his battalion fought alongside the 3rd Battalion Irish Guards at the hamlet of Pavee (Sourdeville) as part of an operation to cut the road between Vire and Vassey.
Mr Twite’s tank was one of the first into Brussels, liberating the city, in what was, until the Iraq War, the fastest military advance in history.
He was later involved in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge, and his final engagement of the war was an attack on Lonneker Bridge at Enschede, Holland in April, 1945.
Mr Twite was then promoted and sent back to Britain for further training. His tank was destroyed in battle three days after he left.
Soon after war’s end he served in Palestine, helping police the movement of people from across Europe wishing to live in the newly-formed Israel.
Mr Twite married Joyce in 1946 and returned to work on his father’s farm in 1948.
They had a son in 1949 but he tragically died after just two days.
Mr Twite started his own farm in Tittleshall in 1957 and continued as a dairy farmer until retirement in 1974.
Mr Hindry said: “In their 30 years together both Tom and Joyce had never had a holiday. He then became a freelance herdsman/dairyman, working for his old neighbour David Holland in Litcham.”
Mr Twite was a founder member of the Coldstream Guards Association in Norwich, and went on to form a sub-branch in King’s Lynn. He represented the Coldstream Guards Association in France and Holland at anniversary events.
In 2010, he was presented to the Queen Mother at Sandringham Estate and he planted a tree to mark the Coldstreams’ 350th anniversary.
He was guest of honour at commemoration events at Charles-De-Percy war cemetery in France and at Valkenward in Holland.
Mr Hindry said he maintained many friendships with people in the Netherlands. He said: “They had great affection for him - he was basically a local celebrity there.”
He was awarded France’s highest honour, the Legion d’honneur, in 2015 for his role in the liberation of Europe.
Mr Twite’s family are raising money for the Priscilla Bacon Lodge hospice in Norwich and SSAFA, the armed forces charity, in his memory.
To contribute, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tomtwite