A PIANO-PLAYING drag queen hailed as one of the heroes of the Falklands War is set for a starring role after going AWOL and missing the 30th anniversary reunions.
Roy Gibson has been hunted down by the men of the British Airborne Forces Club and plans to take centre stage when they gather to remember old times and fallen comrades in Aldershot in November.
Few of the men will have met Roy and fewer still know him by his given name.
But most will have heard of Wendy, the gay steward who kept spirits up when he sailed 8,000 miles to the Falklands on the ferry Norland with the men of the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment in 1982.
“He was definitely different, mincing around the ship among all the Paras,” said Ron Webster, a veteran of the campaign.
“A lot of the men really weren’t comfortable with Wendy being around but once he started playing his piano he was an absolute Godsend. He really helped to keep up morale and he won our total respect because of that.”
Military memoirs, notably the graphic “A Soldier’s Song” by Ken Lukowiak, pay warm tribute to Wendy as the gay man whose talent and camaraderie forced people to overcome their prejudices and who was welcomed by the men of 2 Para as an honorary member of their ranks, even receiving a Red Beret.
But when the time came to invite Roy to this year’s 30th anniversary reunions he was reported missing in action.
No one could find him until he walked into the Vauxhall Tavern, one of his old haunts a few miles from his home near Hull, and started playing the piano.
“My friends at the Vauxhall had Ron’s number but they couldn’t track me down because I don’t play much these days and I’d changed my phone,” said Roy.
“So now I’m hoping to get to the event in Aldershot to see a few of the lads who sailed with us on the Norland and to make up for the reunions I’ve missed this year.”
Roy, who was was 27 when the war started on April 2, 1982, retains vivid memories of his Falklands campaign, which involved earning the trust of the British troops and later extending respect to prisoners of war as Norland ferried captured Argentine soldiers back to their homeland.
“My piano was my passport,” he said as he recalled the riotous sing-along sessions that put smiles on the faces of the troops as they steamed towards the battle zone.
“My boyfriend was there as well. We kept each other out of trouble! I was scared but I was trying to be positive, after all I was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by more than 1,000 men. Heaven!
“But we had a job to do looking after the soldiers and getting them to the Falklands safely, and they were working hard keeping fit, training and preparing for the task ahead.
“It wasn’t easy, and you could feel the tension increasing the closer we got to the war zone. But we tried to have some fun as well and it is absolutely true that at one stage we were warned by the soldiers that things could get nasty.
“One of them asked me if I thought I could kill an Argie and I said: ‘Ooh! Yes darling, eventually!’
“I told them I’d had more jumps than the Paras!”
Ron says Wendy is guaranteed a warm welcome when he appears in Aldershot for a camped-up piano show that has been hailed as a cross between Mrs Mills and Liberace.
“We’ve had a few reunions this year and people have been looking for Wendy at all of them,” said Ron.
“We’ve been all over Facebook and couldn’t find him anywhere so it will be great to see him and we’ll try and make sure we keep in touch.”