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Calling York wartime veterans: your city needs YOU

York Normandy veteran Ken Cooke, centre. Left, top to bottom: the York blitz and  a WAAF recruiting office in Blossom Street. Right, top to bottom, Martin Rowley and  a wartime demonstration in York of how to put out an incendiary bomb <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
York Normandy veteran Ken Cooke, centre. Left, top to bottom: the York blitz and a WAAF recruiting office in Blossom Street. Right, top to bottom, Martin Rowley and a wartime demonstration in York of how to put out an incendiary bomb (Image: Newsquest)

CALLING all York's Second World War veterans: your city wants to hear from YOU.

The council is keen to invite veterans who served in the war to the Mansion House for a reception to say 'thank you for your service'.

And not just those who served overseas in the front line.

It wants to invite those who served on the home front, too - air raid wardens and firefighters who helped out during the blitz, women who served in the ATS, any York people who may have worked at Bletchley Park - even policemen who helped keep order.

"If they took part in any kind of service during the war then we want to invite them," said the council's Armed Forces Advocate Cllr Martin Rowley, himself a Falklands veteran.

But before the authority can send out invitations, it needs to know who the veterans are.

Cllr Rowley, who served in the Falklands and Northern Ireland during an eight-year spell with the Royal Signals between 1978 and 1986, said the council was aware of two surviving Second World War veterans in York - Ken Cooke, a Green Howard who took part in the Normandy landings, and Joe Thomas, who served in the Royal Navy.

But he said there must be more.

He accepted that many veterans were modest about their service - and others, even after all these years, were reluctant to talk about their experiences.

"But we just want to acknowledge their service, and show our appreciation and recognition to those who are still with us," he said.

That's why, as well as appealing to veterans themselves, he is asking relatives and even neighbours who know of someone to served during the war to help them get in touch.

Formal invitation letters can then be sent out.

What form the reception at the Mansion House will take, and exactly when it will be, is still to be decided.

But Cllr Rowley is hoping some veterans could also be involved in the Armed Forces Day flag-raising on Monday April 19.

The initiative has the backing of both the council's new leader, Cllr Claire Douglas - and of the Lord Mayor, Cllr Chris Cullwick.

Cllr Douglas - who as council leader also has the role of Armed Forces Champion - said: "It’s important we remember our history and the vital role our WW2 veterans played in securing the freedoms we all enjoy today.

"I look forward to meeting those remaining York veterans to whom we owe such a debt.

"We also hope all those able to will attend a civic event later this year to recognise their service to our country."

Cllr Cullwick added: “As Lord Mayor of York it will be a real privilege to host York’s surviving second world war veterans at the Mansion House.

“Whether they served in the frontline with the armed forces, or on the home front with the ATS or as an air raid warden, they gave and sacrificed so much for our future.

“We must not forget what they did for us. It is only right and proper that, as a city, we do something to formally say thank you.”

Second World War veterans who would like to accept the invitation should contact Cllr Rowley at cllr.mrowley@york.gov.uk