Second World War veteran Geoff Noble was special guest at a 1940s party organised by Brighouse Heartbeat group. Mr Noble, aged 89, served in the Royal Navy for three years and took part in the Normandy landings.
Since suffering heart problems and having a pacemaker fitted five years ago, he is a keen member of the Heartbeat group and regularly takes one of the group’s exercise classes.
“Being a member of Heartbeat is very important to me, it’s part of my routine, it helps keep me healthy and it encourages me to keep up with my exercises,” said Mr Noble, a retired newsagent.
Mr Noble is the oldest man in the group and credits Heartbeat with helping him enjoy life as he approaches his 90th year.
“There’s a good social life in the group and we all support and encourage each other,” said Mr Noble, of Bolehill Park.
The 1940s night at Brighouse Adult Education Centre was the first organised by Heartbeat. The hall was decorated with flags, posters, air raid shelter signs and wartime menus.
The event was organised by Mary Mitchell and Bernie Holdsworth and Lesley Slater prepared the wartime-themed food which included corned beef hash, dripping and spam sandwiches followed by cakes made to rationing era recipes.
John Wallis entertained the group with jokes and songs and there was a movie quiz, fancy dress competition and a raffle.
Mr Noble said: “It was a great evening and everyone enjoyed themselves. We all had a good time.”
Now Mr Noble is hoping to travel to France with his son Christopher next year to take part in the commemorations for the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings.
“It will undoubtedly be a very emotional occasion,” said Mr Noble, who was also present at the 60th and 65th anniversary services in northern France. “I think it will be the final parade in Arromanches.”
Mr Noble was 18 when he joined the Royal Navy in March 1943.
Before long he found himself in the drama and the horror of the daring amphibious raids on the coast of northern France in June 1944.
Even though almost 70 years have elapsed, he still finds it difficult to talk about his fallen comrades and the loss of life in the dangerous but decisive operation.
“We were all such young men and thought we had our lives ahead of us,” said Mr Noble. “I know my family was very worried about me.”
After three years in the Navy, Mr Noble returned to ‘civvy street’ and tried to forget about the horrors of wartime.
But as the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings approached, he made contact with other veterans and became a member of the national LST and Landing Craft Association which was disbanded this year.
He has collected photographs, newspaper reports and articles in a scrapbook and shared his memories with his family.
In total he made 12 trips to the Utah and Omaha beaches as part of the flotilla of more than 50 vessels carrying men and equipment for the Allied Forces. On one of the cross Channel trips his landing craft hit a mine and filled with water. Mr Noble and his comrades endured a long, cold and dangerous night in total darkness until they managed to get to safety on the French coast.
“Thinking back I remember the poor lads who had been at sea for three days, feeling seasick and afraid, then having to wade ashore on the beaches and face whatever lay ahead of them.
“We hoped there would never be any more wars after that but sadly that hasn’t been the case.”
l Heartbeat’s next public event is a Christmas Fair and Grotto at Brighouse Adult Education Centre on Saturday, November 23 from noon to 3.30pm. Admission is 50p, accompanied children under 10 years old are free.
All proceeds will go to Heartbeat’s funds to help provide classes for people of Calderdale who have had or are at risk of having a cardiac event.