War veteran Bill Evans wore his campaign medals for the first time in 70 years to attend the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace.
Bill, 91, a resident of Pendine Park’s Gwern Alyn care home in Wrexham, took senior care practitioner Mandy Williams along to share his special day with Her Majesty.
According to Bill, being invited to share the monarch’s 90th birthday celebration was one of the proudest days of his long life.
Bill and Mandy even got to meet “pop royalty” in the form of singer and reality TV star Peter André and his wife, Emily MacDonagh, who has just confirmed she’s pregnant with the couple’s second child.
Bill says he had a wonderful day and one he’d never forget on what was his first ever visit to Buckingham Palace.
He said: “Marvellous, we’ve met so many people but I didn’t expect there would be so many people here, it’s been packed. I didn’t see the Queen but had my own queen with me.
“Mandy has looked after me so well, but she always does. I’ve been in Gwern Alyn for nearly a year now. When I arrived I was a bit down and not myself. Well I’m right back to my old self now believe me.”
He added: “We left Wrexham at 9:55am and we are due back this evening at about 9:20pm. It’s been a day to remember.
“There were so many soldiers here and some old veterans but sadly I never found anyone I’d served with. Perhaps I’m the last of that bunch!
“I even wore my medals. It’s the first time I’ve ever put them on in 70 years since I was de-mobbed. They have been in a draw. I never felt like I really wanted to wear them until today and I promised Mandy I’d put them on so I did.
“I have been very proud and it’s been a great experience. They have certainly made me feel very welcome.”
According to Mandy, it was a wonderful experience.
She said: “We chatted to Peter André and his wife for quite a while. He was lovely and very interested in hearing about Bill’s wartime exploits.
“We were so well looked after and there was an endless supply of cucumber sandwiches along with salad and ham and dishes of fresh strawberries with lashings of fresh cream.
“It’s been a fantastic experience and Bill has clearly had a wonderful time meeting old and serving soldiers and talking about his military service. I’m sure it’s a day he will remember, I certainly will.”
A native of Kerry near Newtown, Bill joined the army in 1943 and saw action in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
He recalled: “I arrived in Southampton just after D-Day, and we were told we were going to Normandy.
“We fought our way through to the Faliese Gap where the Germans had us pinned down for three weeks. I witnessed some terrible sights.
“We went through Belgium, we helped liberate Brussels and went back after the war for a parade and were given the freedom of the city. That was marvellous.”
After the war ended he was sent as part of the peacekeeping force in Palestine.
After the war and his military service ended Bill returned to his home in Mid-wales before working on a farm at Eardiston in Shropshire.
He married his first wife Doris and had two sons, John, now 55, who has three children, and Robert, 50.
He lived with his second wife, Violet, for 30 years until her death four years ago and moved into Gwern Alyn almost 12 months ago.
Gwern Alyn manager Jen Roberts was delighted Bill and Mandy had enjoyed the Queen’s birthday celebration garden party.
She said: “It was wonderful for Bill to be invited and richly deserved. Bill is an amazing and lovely man who deserves recognition for the sacrifices he made during the war years.
“I’m delighted he has had such a good time and I’m so thrilled he has asked one of our senior care practitioners, Mandy Williams to go with him.
“That was a lovely gesture and I think it just shows how much Bill enjoys living here at Gwern Alyn and what our staff, and in particular Mandy Williams, mean to him.”