Honour for war hero’s memoirs

War veteran Roy Wooldridge
War veteran Roy Wooldridge

A HERO war veteran who came face-to-face with Nazi general Rommel has had his remarkable memoirs accepted by the Imperial War Museum.

Double Military Cross holder Roy Wooldridge, 92, has penned his experiences during World War Two, including being captured while on a top secret mission behind enemy lines, when he ended up meeting Rommel.

His account also includes his involvement in the Battle of El Alamein in north Africa in 1942 where he served under General Montgomery, to his capture in 1944 while carrying out secret reconnaissance raids on a French beach in preparation for D-Day, and his subsequent encounter with Field Marshal Rommel.

Roy, a former mathematician said: “I was proud to attend Buckingham Palace to get the Military Cross. That would rank at the top. But having my memoirs accepted by the Imperial War Museum is one of my proudest moments after the Military Cross.”

Roy, of Duffield Road, Allestree, is well known to students of art, including ones from the Belper area, having been principal at Derby College.

He gained his first Military Cross for his bravery during the Battle of El Alamein when, aged just 23, he cut a path through a minefield while under enemy fire.

The second was for his part in the reconnaissance raids three weeks before the D-Day Landings, which eventually led to the end of the war in Europe.

The D-Day mission saw Roy sneak into France by boat to try to find out what a mystery explosive device under the water line was before the Landings could take place, but he was captured.

Recalling his meeting with Rommel after his capture, Roy said: “Wherever I went I was blindfolded and my hands were tied behind my back. I had three weeks of interrogation and I did not know where I was.”

He was in La Roche Guyon – a French chateau that was being used as Rommel’s headquarters.

“I was walked across a courtyard, up some stairs and through some doors.There, standing behind a desk, was Field Marshal Rommel.

Rommel amazingly asked if there was anything Roy needed to which he replied, ‘a pint of beer, a packet of cigarettes and a good meal’. Roy was taken to Rommel’s mess and given all he asked for. He still has the cigarette packet to this day.

When Roy asked why, as he had been brought to see Rommel, the German told him they knew D-Day was imminent and that Roy was important, and also that Rommel liked to meet people who were doing something unusual.

Roy was later blindfolded and bundled into a car. When he had the blindfold taken off the car was being driven down the Champs Elysees in Paris.

He was then held in a Gestapo prison until he was freed by the Americans in April 1945. It was Roy’s daughter-in-law Rhona, who urged him to write his memories for the family to read, especially the younger generations.

When he had completed them Rhona took them to the Imperial War Museum in London to see if they would be of any interest.

Roy said: “I was taken aback a bit, but I was very proud.”