THE death in the early hours of Sunday morning has been announced of one of Thurrock’s most respected war veterans – the much-loved and admired Albert England reports Thurrock Nub News.
Albert, 95, died in Basildon & Thurrock Hospital, and sadly, because of Covid, his wife Wyn was not able to be with him – a sad end to a loving partnership that produced four sons and a multitude of grandchildren, great grandchildren and even a great-great grandchild Albie – a fitting name synonymous with his heroic great, great grandfather!
Albert’s death was not Covid connected.
For decades Albert and Wyn, of Giffords Cross Avenue, Corringham, were stalwarts of Thurrock’s Burma Star Organisation, with Albert a long time president. Though the organisation disbanded and retired its standard several years ago, the couple remained present at local memorial commemorations – and at the civic Armistice Day service at Grays in 2019 the couple were the guests of honour.
The Burma Star branch was granted the Freedom of Thurrock in 2008 and Albert and Wyn gained individual recognition in 2014 when they were honoured at Thurrock Council’s Civic Awards for their contribution to civic life in the borough. The award is presented to celebrate outstanding contribution and dedication to the borough over their lifetime.
And there was another major award to come Albert’s way. In 2015 Albert was appointed to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Legion d’honneur by the French Government for his D-Day Service. Albert declined the honour of attending the French Embassy to receive the award, but on behalf of the French president and the people of the Republic, Thurrock’s deputy Mayor Cllr Cathy Kent handed Albert his insignia at a council meeting, where the veteran received a standing ovation from councillors.
Cllr Kent said: “I am sure we all join with the French people in extended heartfelt thanks for his service and offering congratulations on this honour.”
Albert was part of the D-Day landings, helping pilot a landing craft to the Normandy beaches. His boat didn’t make it to the shore, as it was bombed and Albert was rescued from the sea.
He was later flown to Burma where he served with honour and began his lifelong association with the veterans of that campaign.
A man of great charisma and character, Albert always seemed the epitome of the brave serviceman and his appeared in several national newspapers, including the front page of the Guardian as he shed a tear at the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing at the national 2019 commemoration at National Arboretum where he and Wyn were invited guests.
Five years earlier Albert had paid his last visit to those Normandy beaches he never set foot on in conflict, when he travelled with the Royal British Legion to be part of the 70th anniversary celebrations.
There will be many tributes in the days to come to Albert, and Thurrock Nub News editor Neil Speight wanted to be among the first. At the council presentation of Albert’s Legion d’honneur medal Neil was invited by Albert to read one of the veteran’s favourite pieces of literature, an extract from a poem of tribute called At Dawning, written by Tony Chapman a member of the Landing Craft Association and dedicated to the men of D-Day on June 6, 1944
Mr Speight said: “I am honoured to say that I knew Albert as a friend. He was a man I met many years ago through his work for the Burma Star organisation and from the moment I first met him – and Wyn as they were virtually inseparable – I had nothing but admiration and respect.
“Albert and Wyn were kind enough to invite me to their home on a number of occasions and it was a privilege to sit with Albert and share his memories – and enjoy a cup of tea and the wonderful baking of Wyn.
“What I think I will remember most about Albert is the sparkle in his eye. He had been bombed at sea and lost friends in conflict. He served in Burma and knew first hand of some of the horrors of that campaign. Yet it never seemed to dim his enthusiasm for life.
“I cannot remember ever seeing him without a smile on his face, other than at the sombre moments of reflection for those former comrades and others who gave their lives. He was a man who respected what they had given and he served their memory well – but he also knew that those who died would have wanted those who survived to go on and live full and rewarding lives.
“Albert certainly did that. I was also privileged to be invited to the England family’s annual parties which were wonderful occasions. Many people may know Albert (and Wyn) just because of their military connections but those friends and family who shared those personal festive celebrations saw them both at the heart of a family and in the true light and warmth of real love and affection.
“That love and affection shone through when I was able to use a wonderful picture by David Meacham of this amazing couple, taken at VJ commemorations at the Burma Star Rose Garden in Orsett. I think the headline says it all – England’s Finest!”
As well as Wyn, Albert is survived by sons Bob, Phil, Andy and Stuart and their respective wives Sue, Sandie, Sue and Jane; grandchildren John, Richard, Jenny, Lee, Ben, Paul, Andrew, Ian, Brett, Lacey, Emma, Alex; great grandchildren Taylor, Millie, Jenson, Brandon, Ryah, Oscar and Jacob, Gracie, Florence, Jay, Mickey, Isabelle, Stanley, Albert, Ruphert, Findlay, Ralphie, Dion, Dylan, Daisy, Billy, Elana, Connor, Kai, Lewis and Molly. And, of course, Albie.
Alberts’ friend, Mike Horton added this tribute. He said: “What a wonderful man, with whom my colleagues and I formed a bond on behalf of the Normandy veterans and others such as the Burma Star in the region.
“We miss him, to say the very least, and just wish him eternal peace from Malta”.