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D-Day veteran expecting visit from Belgian family, whose relatives billetted him during Second World War

PUBLISHED: 10:15 01 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:15 01 July 2019

William Twiddy with the letter from the Bertrand family. Pictures: David Bale

William Twiddy with the letter from the Bertrand family. Pictures: David Bale

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Seventy-five years ago William ‘Billy’ Twiddy was a young man far from home when he was billetted with a friendly family overseas.

Pierre and Maricke Bertrand, who sheltered Mr Twiddy during the war.   Pictures: David BalePierre and Maricke Bertrand, who sheltered Mr Twiddy during the war. Pictures: David Bale

Now 96, he has not seen any members of that Belgian family since the Second World War, although they did send Christmas cards for a few years.

But, completely out of the blue, he received a letter from the descendants of the family saying they were holidaying in the UK and wanted to visit him.

The shocked great-grandad did not at first know what to make of the letter.

Initially, he thought the visit might bring back bad memories from the war.

Bill and best mate Fred Lighthowler with their Bedford lorry in WW2. Picture: Twiddy familyBill and best mate Fred Lighthowler with their Bedford lorry in WW2. Picture: Twiddy family

But after speaking to his son Alan he decided he had to see the family from Linden in Belgium.

Mr Twiddy, who was born-and-bred in Langham, near Holt, had not been out of Norfolk when he left the country to fight overseas.

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He landed on Arromanches beach in Normandy three days after D-Day in June 1944.

He spent most of the war on a lorry with best mate Fred Lighthowler, from East Yorkshire, delivering petrol to tanks.

They were part of the 535 Royal Armoured Corps, and most of the time they slept in the truck.

But for one glorious fortnight late in 1944, they were billetted with the family of Pierre and Maricke Bertrand in Belgium.

The father-of-four, who has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, said: "They were very good to us and looked after us well. They gave up their beds for us. "Fred and I slept in a double bed. And it was lovely to sleep on clean bedsheets. They did not feed us, because we had a cookhouse in the village. I remember there was snow on the ground, so it must have been the winter of 1944."

The Belgian family kept a note of Mr Twiddy's address and when they sent the letter, they included photocopies of some old photographs.

Mr Twiddy recognised the couple that had billetted him straight away.

Francis Bertrand and family are in Norfolk this week and plan to visit the Twiddy family on Thursday, July 4.


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