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Holidaymaker gets civic welcome in Norway after being mistaken for WWII hero


David and Deborah Wilson from Penarth in South Wales

David and Deborah Wilson from Penarth in South Wales

David and Deborah Wilson from Penarth in South Wales

A HOLIDAYMAKER was stunned to receive a civic reception when he arrived in a Norwegian town after dignitaries mistook him for a Second World War Dambusters hero.

David Wilson and his wife Deborah were greeted by the mayor of Tromso, TV cameras and a line-up of war veterans on a visit to the town.

The hosts were expecting to meet Capt Paddy Gingles, who had famously bombed a Nazi warship off the Norwegian coast in 1944.

However, instead, they got Mr Wilson, 47, who had travelled to the town to research Capt Gingles, his great uncle, who died more than 20 years ago.

Mr Wilson, a salesman from Wales, said: "We were given a full welcoming party. It was all a bit embarrassing really.

"It was a classic case of mistaken identity – but when I explained the confusion they took it very well."

The mix-up started when Mr Wilson rang the town's museum to say he was researching Capt Gingles's war heroics and asked if he could be shown around.

But word spread that ace pilot Capt Gingles himself was on his way to visit the scene of his bombing raid.

On arrival, Mr Wilson had to explain that he had never even met the former pilot before he died in 1988.

Mr Wilson said: "We decided it would be nice to find out more about my great uncle during our holiday to Norway.

"But when I rang ahead to arrange a tour, I said I was Captain Gingles's great-nephew, and they completely misunderstood. I suppose it was a language thing.

"When we got to the museum we were greeted by two men who had been alive at the time of the war – one was a soldier in the Norwegian army.

"So when the press suddenly arrived we realised they thought I was Paddy.

"The next thing we knew we were being ushered to a meeting with the mayor and leader of the council!

"I tried to explain but it took a while before things were straightened out."

He said the mayor and other civic leaders laughed off the error and the story made the front page of the Tromso newspaper.

Mr Wilson added said: "We were in the country for five days and ended up celebrities. We had a good laugh about it and the Norwegians thought it was very funny too."

Capt Gingles was part of the Dambusters 617 squadron in World War II.

He helped to sink the German battleship the Tirpitz – the sister ship of the Bismark – off the Norwegian coast in November 1944.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal, retired to the Algarve, Portugal, and died in 1988.

Tromso museum set up a permanent exhibition to the Tirpitz in 1993 and the people of the town never forgot the brave airmen's heroic deeds.

Mayor Jens Joah Hjort said: "This has been fun and misunderstandings happen.

"The Wilsons were sorry for the mix up but it was not their fault. They went back to Wales as great ambassadors for Tromso."