4:40pm Friday 6th June 2014
A D-DAY veteran who missed out on a trip to Normandy due to a spelling error on his passport application was the guest of honour at a 70th anniversary service this morning (Friday, June 6).
A large crowd was moved to tears when decorated war hero Jim Peaks laid the first wreath at the poignant ceremony in Sedgefield, County Durham.
The 91-year-old drove the first armoured car on to German-occupied French soil during the Allied invasion of June 16, 1944, having previously served at El Alamein, Libya, Tunisia, Sicily and Italy.
In recognition of his service, he was invited to join the official 70th anniversary commemorations in Caen in Northern France.
But the miss-spelling of his middle name on his passport form delayed the application and the vital document did not arrive in time.
On hearing of Mr Peak’s misfortune, Sedgefield Village Veterans asked the great-grandfather to be the guest of honour at its commemorative service on the town green.
Mr Peaks of Sherburn Village, said: “I was surprised when they asked me. I didn’t expect it at all but I am very pleased to be here. It has helped make up for missing out on Normandy.”
It may have been hundreds of miles from the French coast but the service proved just as poignant.
David Hillerby, of Sedgefield Village Veterans, began with a moving account of the landings in which 4,414 Allied soldiers died on the first day.
“All we can do is imagine,” he said. “It will never be the same as what those who experienced it went through that day. “They all deserve the Victoria Cross.”
After the speech, children from Sedgefield Primary School sang a medley of wartime songs.
This was followed by the laying of the wreaths for the war dead, with Councillor John Robinson, chairman of Durham County Council, Councillor Mel Carr, the mayor of Sedgefield, and resident Betty Amlin following Mr Peaks to the war memorial.
At 11am, the Last Post was sounded and a two minutes silence was observed.
The Ode of Remembrance, the Kohima Address and the National Anthem brought the service to a close.
Tim Speary, chairman of Sedgefield Village Veterans, said: “Millions of men lost their lives in the Second World War. If we stop remembering the sacrifice made by my father and his generation, it was all for nothing. We have to stop wars like this happening again.”
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