Birthday treat for Albert who is to receive MBE for community work
A 93-year-old from a village near Petersfield has been made a Member of the British Empire.
Albert William Bleach of Nyewood is 94 on January 17 and was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List for his work in the village and wider community.
The former Nyewood saw mill worker was born in the village and only left to serve during the war years.
He said: “This is a special village and I’m very proud of it. It’s a real honour to be recognised like this, although I’m sure there are lots of other people who have done just as much and are just as deserving.”
As a lad he went to school in Harting, and was a member of the church choir, but just a week before the start of WWII on September 3, 1939, he was called up to join the army, and on finishing his training was posted to France.
In 1940 the Germans invaded and the British and French armies were forced to retreat to Dunkirk on the coast.
Suffering bombing raids and heavy shelling, more than 338,000 troops, including Albert, were rescued from the beaches by a flotilla of little ships in an operation later dubbed the Miracle of Dunkirk.
He was then posted to El Alamein in Egypt, where the ‘desert rats’, as the British 8th Army desert force was nicknamed, engaged the elite German Afrika Corps in a savage 20-day battle, and inflicted the first major defeat of the war on Hitler’s army.
Albert, born in 1920, said: “After Dunkirk we just wanted to get them on the run, and we did.”
Returning after the war with his new wife Helena from Cheshire, who served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service in Portsmouth, he worked tirelessly to keep Nyewood Club open, over the years filling every role on the club committee.
The former bellringer and bell captain of 60 years at St Bartholomew’s Church, Rogate, said: “The club would have closed after the war but through hard work it was kept open.”
In recognition of his unstinting efforts he was made a life president of the club.
He was also a founder member of Rogate British Legion, and for 20 years a Special Constable in Midhurst.
Albert and Helena have a son and daughter and “numerous” grand children and great grandchildren. Helena, now aged 94, said: “I am very proud of him. He has served his country and community all his life, and is loved and respected. ”
To celebrate his honour Albert and Helena will be enjoying a family and friends party at Nyewood Club.
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Weather for Petersfield
Saturday 07 December 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West