A D-Day veteran from the real Band of Brothers returned to his former Wiltshire camp, near Swindon, for the first time in 70 years.
All images by Richard Wintle of Calyx
For former 101st Airborne Division parachutist Sgt Bob Noody, it’s likely to be the last time he comes to England.
Mr Noody, now 90 years old, returned to the village Aldbourne where his Fox company, which was part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st, was billeted in huts where Aldbourne recreation ground is now located.
Fellow parachutists in Easy company were immortalised in the 10 part HBO TV series Band of Brothers which depicted the arrival of GIs in the UK, their training in the Wiltshire countryside, landing behind the D-Day beaches and the fight through France.
However the real life Sgt Bob Noody is immortalised in a famous image taken by a US Air Force photographer just 10 minutes prior to take off for France from Upottery Airfield in Devon. He is pictured with his F company compatriots loaded with equipment which he jumped with into occupied Europe in the early hours of 5 June 1944.
Bob Stark from Seattle organised an online fundraiser to fund Mr Noody’s expenses and travel to England and France and accompanied him to Wiltshire.
Neil Jones from Highworth, who is based at RAF Brize Norton, has been involved in organising the British leg of Mr Noody’s trip. He said it was an honour to welcome Bob Noody back to Wiltshire. "I’ve been fascinated by the D-Day invasion and have focussed my attention over the years on the US airborne regiments, partly because of their connection with Wiltshire. I met Bob at a reunion in America and asked him if he had ever come back to England. He had returned to northern France several times but never to his old camp staging post.
"He said he would like to come back one last time. The plan was for him to visit Aldbourne on Monday but he was taken ill, but was OK on Wednesday 27 May.
"We turned up unannounced at the Blue Boar pub, complete with BBC TV crew. The staff there were magnificent with their welcome and served a great lunch and presented Bob with a plaque to commemorate his visit."
The pub had served as an officers mess 70 years ago.
At the nearby Aldbourne Memorial Hall, where there is a permanent display dedicated to the US forces camped in the village, Bob met British veteran Cecil Newton, below. He had been a member of a Sherman tank crew in the 47th Royal Dragoon Guards which landed on Gold Beach on D-Day.
On Sunday 1 June Bob will leave Britain and travel to Normandy for the 70th anniversary commemorations. An estimated 700 US veterans are expected to be present; the number of UK and Commonwealth ex-soldiers who will make the trip is not yet known.
Sgt Noody, who broke out of the Normandy beach-head with Fox Company, also fought at the Battle of the Bulge and into Germany, was awarded two Purple Hearts for injuries received in battle, the Bronze Starr, two Presidential Unit Citations and the Croix de Guerre.
His wife Elizabeth knew nothing of his heroic wartime service until she came across the famous photo in a magazine many years after the war.
Neil Jones said: "Bob’s story is extremely moving; he is such a remarkable man. During the 70th anniversary commemorations he will receive France’s highest decoration, the Legion d’Honneur, to be presented by another soldier who has received the award. It will honour all the band of brothers who went to France and never returned."
Watch Sgt Moody visiting the US Air Force Museum in May 2012
Watch a the battle for Europe video via the Daily Mail