Burma Star Association veteran Ted Read, 91, has received a personal invitation to meet the organisation’s patron, the Duke of Edinburgh.
The proud old soldier – part of the Forgotten Army – was thrilled and delighted when an impressive envelope bearing the royal crest and the postcode Buckingham Palace SW1A 1AA plopped through his Nappsbury Road letter box.
Sprightly Ted, chairman of the Luton & District Burma Star Association, said: “I was overwhelmed.
“The invitation is for an event on May 20 and I’ve been asked to make myself known to one of the equerries as the Duke would like to have a chat.
“He’s a year older than me and my regiment, the 25th Dragoons, came under his uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was the Association’s first patron.”
Ted and his wife Olive, 86, attended a Buckingham Palace party years ago in recognition of all their charity work but he’s concerned about the correct dress for this gala occasion.
“I know Olive has to wear a hat, but should I wear my Burma Star beret?” he mused. “I’ll probably put on my Pagoda tie and badge. And I told them I wouldn’t need the wheelchair they offered.”
Former Denbigh pupil Ted joined the army in 1942 and trained in India before being sent to Burma where the 25th Dragoons took part in the Battle of the Admin Box.
It was many years before the one-time tank commander was able to talk about his experience and the atrocities he’d witnessed.
But he still remembers the heat and humidity. “It was too hot to sleep,” he recalled. “We had Johnny Gurkha with us” – an affectionate term for the Nepalese soldiers who fought alongside the British during World War Two – “and one day we were preparing to move when Johnny Gurkha came out of the bush with his kukri (knife) covered in blood. He’d obviously spotted a Jap hiding in there.”
When Ted was demobbed, he worked for Luton’s electricity board before moving to the pensions and investments department at Vauxhall where he was press office for their magazine GM Mirror.
He met his wife Olive on the dance floor of Vauxhall Recreation Club and asked her for an old time Fylde Waltz. The couple, who celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last month, have been both judges and DJs on the ballroom dancing circuit – Len Goodman of Stricly is a former colleague – and their sitting room boasts numerous cups and certicates.
They’ve raised more than £180,000 for charity and admit they like to keep active although Ted confessed: “I think we’re going to have to start slowing down a bit.”