Second World War veteran wears medals for first time after surprise gift

Ken Batt
Ken Batt (PA Media)
7:46am, Thu 05 Nov 2020
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A 99-year-old veteran has been surprised with a repaired set of his Second World War medals allowing him to wear them for the first time.

Ken Batt, of Loughton, Essex, had never worn the awards he received while serving with the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry during the conflict.

But the gift from serving soldiers in his former regiment means he can wear his medals on his chest in time for Remembrance Sunday.

Remembrance Sunday (PA Media)

Mr Batt was just a teenager when he signed up to the army, having earlier worked as an apprentice at the Great Western Railway company.

His passion for horses made him keen to serve with the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry as it gave him the opportunity to develop his riding skills and he volunteered to exercise the officers’ horses at weekends.

In 1939, he was deployed to the Middle East, in what was then known as Palestine, and took part in the Iraq and Syrian campaigns.

He was bayoneted at the Battle of Palmyra and shot out of his tank on the first night of the Battle of El Alamein.

But Mr Batt survived and went on to serve in Syria and Italy in 1944 before returning to the UK after four-and-a-half years of service.

Remembrance Sunday (PA Media)

When his regiment, now part of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry, helped him mark his 99th birthday in September, it was discovered Mr Batt had never worn his medals which had battered ribbons and were wrapped up in tissue paper.

Lt Col David Utting, of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry, said: “It was clear that he’d never actually had them mounted or worn them.

“I thought about this afterwards, and I thought, ‘well, this can’t be right’.

“So I had his medals smuggled out of his house, by his wife and the lady who helps them and had them mounted.

“We took them back last week … and he was totally unaware this was going to happen.”

Mr Batt, who lives with his wife of 74 years Joyce, was surprised on his doorstep with hand-finished repaired medals.

Remembrance Sunday (PA Media)

Lt Col Utting said: “Initially when he picked them up, you could see he was just trying to comprehend the idea. He did say ‘whose medals are these’? We said ‘they’re yours Ken’.”

Mr Batt was particularly moved to see the 8th Army bar on his Africa Star because that had previously been lost.

Lt Col Utting added: “At the end of it all, he said to me: ‘so how much do I owe you’? I said: ‘I think Ken we owe you a lot more than you owe us’.

“Well, that’s the humility of the man, you know. He’s never expected anything.”

Lt Col Utting said Mr Batt had never sought to disassociate himself from the war, but was simply part of a generation who had not focused on the medals they received.

He said: “Medals weren’t important. It was his friends, the people he made friendships within the regiment and the fact that they were the ones that survived, that thing that brings all the survivors together.

“They didn’t need the medals to remind them where they’d been, they knew.”

Lt Col Utting said Mr Batt is a “wonderful” and “humble” man who had help put his regiment “on the map”.

“I was just so pleased to be able to do this for him and to be able to see his reaction. I feel really pleased and proud.”

Mr Batt will be observing Remembrance Sunday in “quiet contemplation” from home this year, Lt Col Utting added.

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