Harrogate children meet D-Day veteran to mark 80th anniversary

Children in Harrogate have paid tribute to the fallen at a D-Day ceremony ahead of its 80th anniversary in June.

Pupils from Willow Tree Primary School attended as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's (CWGC) Lighting Their Legacy torch roadshow visited the town.

They met 98-year-old veteran Ken Cooke, who shared memories of the Normandy landings of June 1944, at the torch-lighting event at Stonefall Cemetery.

Mr Cook, from York, said it was "very heart-warming to be here".

The aim of the CWGC's tour is to engage with younger people and inspire them to play their part in marking the sacrifices of the fallen.

Elizabeth Smith from the CWGC said: "The Torch of Commemoration has been made in Canada by students, so just like those Canadians that came over to help us liberate Europe, the torch has done that journey."

The torch was passed between the children and Mr Cooke, and be taken to Normandy to be a part of the D-Day commemorations next month.

Ms Smith said: "The children at the D-Day event in Harrogate will long remember their meeting with Ken and the stories of those who are buried at Stonefall.

"Hopefully it will inspire them to ensure the legacy of commemoration endures for generations to come."

She said the relatives of those buried in the cemetery were from countries around the world and could not attend commemorations easily, "but the children of Harrogate can visit and we're hoping that's something they will do into the future".

Head teacher Robert Mold said: "A lot of children will learn about World War Two but we have an opportunity here to meet a veteran from D-Day from 80 years ago and it's so important that our youngest generation get to learn from our bravest and greatest generation."

Susanna, a pupil at the school, said the children would be writing a "special message" for the fallen on a cardboard wreath which would be sent to Normandy.

She said: "It makes me feel quite special that something I've done is going to be in the presence of a special celebration."

Mr Cooke, who will turn 99 in August, added: "It moves me every time I go to a cemetery and when we go to France I stand there and tears come down my cheeks because I was very, very lucky to go through D-Day and still be here today."

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