Harrogate war heroes' emotional day of memories for VE Day

Harrogate people didn't just mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day with socially-distanced street mini-street parties, they shared their real-life memories, some of them of a heroic nature.

Monday, 11th May 2020, 3:41 pm
Updated Monday, 11th May 2020, 3:46 pm
Harrogate war veteran Mary Bruce Hanson Todd, known as Molly, who was a leading aircraft woman in the RAF and who will turn 101 shortly. (Picture Ernesto Rogata/Alamy Live News)
Harrogate war veteran Mary Bruce Hanson Todd, known as Molly, who was a leading aircraft woman in the RAF and who will turn 101 shortly. (Picture Ernesto Rogata/Alamy Live News)

Harrogate war veteran who will shortly be 101

A Harrogate woman who will be 101 years old in less than two weeks' time remembered her late husband, who survived being torpeoded in the Second World War.

Originally from Sunderland, war veteran Mary Bruce Hanson Todd - known as Molly - was a leading aircraft woman in the Women’s Royal Air Force based at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire where she was a physical training instructor and tailor.

The new collage posted by the Howes family in tribute to Leonard Howes, a member of the Royal Corps of Signals, who marched through Harrogate on VE Day in 1945.

Molly decided to join the RAF in the hope of being posted together with her newly-wed husband Billy Todd, who was already in the air force.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and Billy was sent overseas, Molly told the Sunderland Echo earlier this week.

His ship was torpedoed and Molly didn’t receive any news for six harrowing months.

Fortunately, Billy survived and they lived a happy long life together after the war.

They both retired in 1982 and moved to Harrogate to be closer to family before Billy sadly died just eight years later.

Molly marked the VE Day anniversary last Friday by singing We’ll Meet Again alongside her loved ones.

Neighbours and Army Foundation College's tributes to Jack Rushton

Not only neighbours but the army itself made a fuss of Harrogate D-Day hero John 'Jack' Rushton.

Residents in the street where the 95-year-old former Royal Marine put up the bunting and made a giant banner for outside his house for the VE Day's 75th anniversary.

In giant colourful letters the message on the huge banner outside Sergeant Rushton 's house said simply "Our hero".

A bagpiper event turned up to play in the middle of the street to pay tribute to Jack who won the Légion d’honneur medal from the French government for his bravery on the sands of Sword Beach on D-Day in June 1944.

And the Army Foundation College (AFC) Harrogate‎ got involved, too.

Lft Col Richard Hall from the Army Foundation College made a personal visit to talk to Jack last Friday during the celebrations.

Community initiative in 'Saints' area of Harrogate

Barbara Leach got in touch with the Harrogate Advertiser about a community initiative which took place last Friday on the Saints estate area of Harrogate.

Barbara said: "Aware of many veteran residents friends of mine from St Marks Church made scones, shortbread and flap jack for a mini afternoon tea gift for 14 identified residents in our community.

"I visited Fodder and bought strawberry jam and clotted cream and had individual pots to safely pot up.

"They were all carefully placed (with tongs only) on plates and clingfilmed.

"Another lady from St Marks made small bunches of forget me knots and also cards in which we wrote “From the ‘Saints’ Community VE Day 75th Anniversary 8th May 2020”.

"These were delivered after Churchill’s speech.

"What was so wonderful for me was that a number of university students and older school children have offered help to others in our community, garden tidying, basic paiting or easy repairs.

"The community spirit has really grown despite the dire circumstances."

Leonard Howes, 103, marched through Harrogate on VE Day

Carol Howes got in touch with the Harrogate Advertiser from Newquay where she lives to tell us a little about her father-in-law Leonard.

Now aged 103, Carol's son put together a collage celebrating Leonard's role on the first VE Day, which he posted on Facebook.

Carol said: "My father-in-law Leonard Howes was a member of the Royal Corps of Signals during the Second World War and was based at the time at the Forest Moor Y-Intercept Station.

"I'm told he marched through Harrogate on VE Day to cheering crowds."

Pannal remembers Second World War hero who was honoured by The King

Anne Smith of Pannal, whose neighbours toasted the VE Day anniversary in the street at a safe distance, said he later father, a decorated war hero, had been involved in a dramatic incident in the Royal Navy during the war.

Anne said: "My father CPO AD Grant RN DSM was on searchlight when the sailors from HMS Cossack boarded the German ship Altmark to rescue the British prisoners they had on board and he was shot at and this cigarette case saved his life as it was in his breast pocket.

"I am very proud of my father. He had been a boy seaman and spent 22 years in the Royal Navy. He was buried at Stonefall with full military honours attended by the sailors from HMS Forest Moor.

"He was entitled to a Military Funeral as he was a decorated war hero, having been awarded the DSM Distinguished Service Medal presented by King George V1 at Buckingham Palace.

"He served on many ships, including HMS Warspite, and had many escapes from death."

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.