A Shropshire family with a passion for restoring vintage military vehicles is heading to Normandy to take part in events to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings on June 6.
Ben Kaye, 42, of Mytton, near Shrewsbury has enlisted help from his father, Tom, 72, and friends Peter Meakin from Bomere Heath and Robin Frostick from Vennington to restore a 1940 AEC Matador medium artillery tractor especially for the historic anniversary.
Also making the 300-mile journey to Normandy beaches at Arromanches will be a 1940 Scammell Pioneer R100 heavy artillery tractor.
Ben will be joined on the trip by his wife Emma, sons Sam, 10 and Will, eight, parents, Tom and Julie and friends Robin and Helen Frostick and Peter. Pat Jagger, from Pentre, is transporting the Scammell Pioneer R100 on a low loader.
To ensure that the vehicles run smoothly during their French adventure, Shrewsbury-based Morris Lubricants has donated heavy duty engine and gear oils to Ben, a loyal customer.
The Kaye family and friends leave for France on Friday, May 31 and will take part in a series of parades and events in the week leading up to the D Day anniversary.
They will be taking with them a wreath to be laid in the sea on behalf of Emma’s grandfather, Charles Owen, a former Royal British Legion parade marshal and a white ensign belonging to Ben’s former primary school teacher, Ann Malpass from Mytton, which was displayed on a gunboat captained by her late father on D Day, June 6, 1944.
“It’s a great responsibility to take the white ensign because few flags survived after the D Day landings, which makes it rare and valuable,” said Ben, who runs a busy Range Rover and Land Rover repair and diagnostics business.
“We will be on the beach at Arromanches early on the morning of June 6 and we all have to be off the beach early because of a high tide.
“There will be veterans there for the events and we think it’s important for them to be spotlighted for what they did for us 75 years ago. Sadly, the number of D Day veterans decreases at every anniversary.
“Had we not got a foothold in Europe through the D Day landings, we would probably have been invaded by the Germans. It turned the tide of the war and I think it’s important to remember the guys that died there to keep us free.
“A card written by my mum and attached to a wreath that my sons placed in the sea at Arromanches for the 70th anniversary in 2014 best summed it up for me. It read: ‘With our sincerest gratitude to the bravery of those who fought and those who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that we, the following generations, could have the opportunity to live in peace and freedom.’
Ben, who has always been fascinated with military vehicles, began collecting vehicles to restore at the age of 19, when he bought his first Scammell Pioneer SV25 recovery vehicle for £2,000 with a student loan.
His father, who was craft teacher at Meole Brace Secondary School for 38 years, then caught the collecting bug and they now have 15 vehicles, including two tanks and five Scammells.
Ben’s passion for Scammells hold no bounds, as he went out on his first date with Emma in the recovery vehicle, which was also used when they got married.
His latest restoration project, a Scorpion tank, is nearing completion after 14 years and Ben has promised to drive it to school to collect his sons this summer.
Sam and Will are being allowed by the school to take a week off to travel to France for the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings. The headteacher recognises that it is a special occasion and will be of significant educational value to them.
“The attraction for me of restoring vintage military vehicles is the history,” explained Ben. “It’s being able to do something that I enjoy as a hobby and a passion which I can share with Emma and the boys.”
He thanked Morris Lubricants, one of Europe’s leading family owned lubricants companies which is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, for donating the oils.
Ring Free XHD 30W monograde is a high quality engine oil particularly recommended for haulage, plant contractors and certain mixed fleet operations and Golden Film AG 140 Gear Oil is a mineral oil-based lubricant, formulated without extreme pressure additives which offers natural film strength, anti-foam performance and long-term stability.
“I buy all the oil for my hobby and business from Morris Lubricants because it’s good quality and the back-up service is excellent,” explained Ben. “You can ring their technical department with a query and speak to a human being which means a lot when you are working on cars that can be worth up to £100,000.”
Andrew Goddard, Morris Lubricants’ chairman, said the company was delighted to supply oil for the Kaye family’s British vintage military vehicles that will be travelling to the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings.
“These engine and gear oils are perfect for Ben’s vehicles,” he added. “They are recommended for use in veteran, classic and vintage vehicles, where engine design and tolerances prohibit the use of modern multigrade, high additive level oils.”