Date Published: 31 July 2019
A decorated D-Day veteran who served with the prestigious 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats, has swapped stories with a modern-day Desert Rat just weeks before his 101st birthday.
Wilf Hamit is a resident at Rutland Care Village in Oakham and served as a member of 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats for more than six years – initially in France, being evacuated from Dunkirk, then into North Africa, Italy and finally Germany during the Second World War.
A Rutland resident of more than forty years, Wilf has been reunited with his former regiment as part of a special visit arranged by Rutland County Council.
Prior to moving into Rutland Care Village in June 2019, Wilf lived in Ketton and had been receiving help and support from the Council’s Adult Social Care team, to maintain his independence. Wilf eventually made the decision to move in to residential care as he wanted to be around more people.
Through conversations with his family, Council staff involved in Wilf’s care learned of his connection with the Desert Rats, who are based at Kendrew Barracks in Cottesmore.
After careful planning, Wilf was met by Lieutenant Colonel Andy McCombe, Joint Regional Liaison Officer for 7th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters East, as part of a special reunion on Friday 26 July.
“It’s not easy for Dad because of his sight and his hearing but he’s well looked after and this has been a really special day. He’s never talked about his service an awful lot but he did his duty and know he’s proud. When the ladies who look after Dad first suggested the visit I did think it would be nice. He’s got a lot of stories to tell and I hope people will be interested.”
Barbara Whitworth, Wilf's daughter
“It has been a great privilege to meet Wilf. He is one of a group of extraordinary people that played a pivotal part in World War Two. They’re our forefathers who laid the foundations for today’s modern day infantryman – who continue to serve all over the world, with the same commitment and professionalism.”
Lieutenant Colonel Andy McCombe
"This was a very special occasion and it’s been a privilege getting to spend time with Wilf, who has some incredible stories to tell. One of the core aims for Rutland’s Adult Social Care services is that we provide personalised support for people – support which takes account of the things that are important and meaningful to them. By speaking with Wilf and his family, our care staff recognised that Wilf’s military career was something that made him incredibly proud and that serving in the Desert Rats was a big part of his life. I’m really pleased that we could reconnect Wilf with his former regiment as a way to recognise his important contribution to our military services.”
Councillor Oliver Hemsley, Leader of Rutland County Council
Wilf served as part of the 8th Army’s 7th Armoured Division from July 1939 to May 1946. He was an artillery gunner and served under Field Marshal Montgomery, with postings to France, Germany, Italy and North Africa (El Alamein). He was also part of the D-Day landings at Arromanches Beach, in Normandy.
Wilf will celebrate his 101st birthday in October of this year.