D-Day hero from Doncaster who landed in Normandy despite being blind in one eye

A D-Day hero from Doncaster landed in Normandy despite being blind in one eye.

Monday, 10th June 2019, 12:33 pm
Updated Monday, 10th June 2019, 1:04 pm
D-Day veteran Herbert Wells (ringed, back row, second from right) in 1937, with his niece Joyce Burgin in the front row on the right (pic: Scott Merrylees)

Herbert Wells lost a leg as Allied troops stormed the beaches that day, turning the tide of the war irrevocably in their favour, but his niece says he should never have been there in the first place.

Joyce Burgin told how her uncle lost his sight in one eye when a piece of armour plating flew off a machine and struck him in the face at the tank factory where he had been working earlier in the war.

D-Day veteran Herbert Wells (ringed, back row, second from right) in 1937, with his niece Joyce Burgin in the front row on the right (pic: Scott Merrylees)

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Despite the horrific accident, she said, he ended up as a cook with the Canadian forces who landed on Juno beach on June 6, 1944.

“I don’t know what he was doing taking part in D-Day when he’d already been blinded in one eye,” said Joyce.

“He went over with the Canadians and was waiting for transport after landing when a bomb dropped and blew his leg off.”

Joyce Burgin with the only photo she has of her uncle Herbert Wells, who took part in the D-Day landings (pic: Scott Merrylees)

Joyce told how Herbert, who lived in Hexthorpe, had ended up working at the tank factory in Basingstoke because as a boiler maker he was in a ‘reserved occupation’, meaning he could serve the war effort better on home soil.

Having lost his sight in one eye, she said he was called up as he could not continue working at the factory but there were jobs he could still do with the forces, like being a chef.

However, she believes he should never have made the crossing on D-Day itself, given his disability.

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After the war, Herbert, who had two daughters with his wife Marjorie before the conflict began, went into the family trade selling fruit and veg at Doncaster Market.

Tragically, having survived D-Day, he ended up dying in a car accident in November 1951, aged 36, while travelling with his brother to Hull to buy produce for the stall.

The door to their lorry came open on a roundabout and he was flung onto the road and died of a of a triple fracture of his skull.

“It was such a tragedy those three things happening to him, but it’s fate and you can’t do much about it,” said Joyce.

“He was a smart dresser and was right lively. He loved his daughters and was always carrying them about, but he was never quite the same after what happened during the war.

“It’s important we continue to remember people like my uncle Herbert and the part they played in winning the war and securing our freedom.”

Herbert’s grandson Simon Tabor followed him into the fruit and veg business, added Joyce, and still runs a stall near Primark in Doncaster town centre.