Tears at funeral: Family of Harrogate D-Day hero says 'rest easy dad, your work is done'

The funeral of Harrogate D-Day hero John Ruston who was honoured for his bravery as a Royal Marine on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 as the Allies liberated Europe from Nazi rule included a moving tribute from his family, as well as military honours.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 4:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 4:06 pm
The Royal Marines bugler plays the Last Post at the end of the committal of D-Day hero John Rushton at Stonefall Crematorium in Harrogate. (Picture Gerard Binks)
The Royal Marines bugler plays the Last Post at the end of the committal of D-Day hero John Rushton at Stonefall Crematorium in Harrogate. (Picture Gerard Binks)

The last of a dying breed of British heroes, the passing of Royal Marine John Rushton at 97 was an poignant moment for history, the military and for Harrogate.

At the service at St Roberts' Church in Harrogate were many military veterans and serving officers of different generations, some of whom had travelled the length and breadth of the country to be there.

One 89-year-old military veteran had made a five-and-a-half hour journey from Lowestoft to be in the church where Mr Rushton had been a member.

Others were young enough to be Jack’s own great grand-children.

At the military committal at Stonefall Cemetery as the military standards were lowered, the Last Post was played by a lone 23-year-old bugler from the Royal Marines, who had travelled from Scotland for the occasion.

Ultimately, however,‘Jack’ belonged to his family - his late wife Jean and four children Michael, Paul, David and Catherine, grandchildren Sally, Hannah, Ben and Nicholas and great-grandchildren Finlay, Lucas, James and Ella.

The family's eulogy at St Robert’s Church in Harrogate at Monday’s requiem mass shone an intimate light on a man who did the right thing wherever it mattered.

Reading the family’s words, the Very Revd Simon Bradbury, a former naval chaplain, said:

Eulogy to John Rushton

“If there’s one word that summed up dad’s life, it was “service”... to his family, community and country.

“Dad’s wartime service in the Royal Marines and his role in the D-Day landings defined him - even today, in his wishes for a military committal.

“His ‘tribe’, to use a modern term, meant everything to him.

“But dad took life as it came, and asked for nothing more than to devote himself to family, community and country. In doing so, he made his mark on this world as a much-loved and highly-respected man.

“As a father, he let us follow our own paths, but was there if we needed him. “As a husband he was loyal, caring for mum after she developed Alzheimer’s, despite being in his mid-to-late 80s.

"If he was thrifty, it was because he knew what it was like to go without. As a child he saw his mother’s wedding ring pawned and retrieved almost every week. He started his first job in 1939, earning 25p a week.

"It was impossible to make him spend anything on himself. He would make do and mend. But if anyone in the family had a crisis, the “Bank of Grandad”, as he called it, sprang into action.

"A member of the Royal Naval Association for over 60 years, he won many standard-bearing competitions as well as playing his part in Remembrance Sunday and on countless D-Day visits to France, where he made lifelong friendships.

"His prized possessions were a photo of the Queen talking to him on parade in Normandy, and more recently, his Légion d’honneur medal.

"At Whitwood Tech in Castleford and then at Harrogate College of FE, he played an active role in educating generations of young people. He genuinely wanted to see them succeed.

"It was that same sense of order – of high standards, reliability and commitment – that kept him in great demand when he retired.

“A true Yorkshireman, dad was stoicism personified.

“Aged 85 he spent eight hours in A&E with a broken hip and two paracetamol, and still bantered with hospital staff.

“At 89 he fought his way back from two weeks in intensive care with sepsis.

“Dad, your work here is done. Rest easy.”

Afterwards, his son David, one of four children, told the Harrogate Advertiser that the incredible show of support at the funeral - not only from military veterans - but also from current serving officers had left people in tears.

Mr Rushton said: “It was an unbelievable day. Even the weather picked up.

“The sun shone down on him.

“The family was completely blown away by how many servicemen made the effort to take part in my dad’s farewell.

“There was at least double the number we expected at the committal at the chapel.

“The occasion was sad but magnificent. A lot of people came out in tears.”

His son David added that the family was overwhelmed by the efforts people made to pay their respects.

“The family are grateful for the honour paid to him by the military," he said.

“It was exactly what he had said he wanted, especially the Royal Marines bugler who played the Last Post.

“There were people there who we hadn’t seen in years and lots of neighbours and former work colleagues from when dad was chief administrator at Harrogate College.”