THE WIDOW of a much-loved headteacher and Second World War veteran today (Monday February 24) paid tribute to her inspirational and devoted husband.

Following a long life marked by adventure, travel and dedication to work and family, Darlington man John Cecil Chaplin died in his sleep on Sunday, February 2 aged 91.

Joan, his wife of 63 years, is left with a lifetime of fond memories of a remarkable yet humble man who proved inspirational to his own children, grandchildren and those he taught in schools around the region.

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His war time efforts saw him dispatched to France where he took part in the Normandy landings, an experience that stayed with him forever.

“John was always interested in France and part of him was excited when he went across to Normandy.

"He could not wait to go to France but he didn’t want to be there in those circumstances,” said Mrs Chaplin.

“He had so much to carry and he was such a slight man. The weight on his back and the crush of the transports and then the sergeant screaming at them on the beach to get off it as soon as possible – it was terrible.”

Durham University educated Mr Chaplin remained in France for some time and harboured a lifelong love for the country, working tirelessly throughout his life to teach the language to countless young charges at establishments including Darlington’s Dodmire School and Corporation Road School, where he was head.

“John was always well-respected by his pupils and we couldn’t go anywhere without bumping into someone he used to teach. They all remembered him,” Mrs Chaplin said.

Mr Chaplin also worked as a tourist guide, accompanying solo travellers across Europe. Along with his wife, he instilled a love of travel into his own children – Paul, Frances and Sally – and lived to see two of them take up residence in France.

Mr and Mrs Chaplin spent much of their retirement travelling the world, taking in the sights and sounds of far-flung locales such as Russia and New Mexico.

Mrs Chaplin said: “He was such an interesting man to talk to and he was so extraordinarily modest about his achievements.

“He will be remembered as someone completely devoted to his family and someone who genuinely cared about his pupils.

“He was never boastful but always conscientious, innovative and highly respected as a teacher of 11-year-olds around Darlington.”