Tony Noyes, who was a well-known tour guide on the Western Front, passed away today after a battle with cancer. Here’s what the Western Front Association had to say about him when he became a vice president of the organization.
He was born in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1939 and after leaving grammar school was apprenticed to be a Civil Engineer. He retired in 2005 after completing 50 years in the industry. He joined the WFA in its earliest days and soon joined the committee, serving as Branch Coordinator, Vice-Chairman and, later, Chairman. He believed his first duty as Chairman should be to organize the attendance of the Association and its members at the Cenotaph on November 11th and to restore the two minute silence at 11am. This would be followed by a Service of Remembrance at the Guards’ Chapel. Held for the first time in 1994, this ceremony has struck a national chord and similar ceremonies are now held in many places across the UK.
After several years of leading the Cenotaph ceremony, he took over from Lt Col Graham Parker as Parade Marshall for the Poppy Parade at Ypres on November 11th, a position he held for several years.
He now looks forward to being of further service to the Association as a Vice-President.
Tony led the first tour I went on, in 2003, all around Ypres. I was dazzled just to be in Belgium and hardly knew where we were most of the time. But I have two powerful memories of Tony: at one site of the 1914 Christmas Truce, where he played a recording, “Christmas in the Trenches.” He got down on one knee and covered his face. Sorrow, or theatrics? Either way, it is very affecting to stand where simple soldiers stopped the war for a day.
By the end of 1915, there was no truce possible. After a year of bloody slaughter, no one was disposed to sing with the guys who murdered his pals.
My other memory of Tony is when we drove past a little housing development under construction, and he remarked, “I wonder if they realize they are building on an abbatoir.”
Au revoir, Tony. I’m sure the Old Contemptibles are as glad to greet you as we are sorry to see you go.