A DECORATED war hero who missed out returning to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day tomorrow because of a spelling mistake will instead be honoured here in the North-East.
Jim Peaks was invited to make his first return to Normandy since driving the first armoured car onto German-occupied soil during the 1944 Allied invasion by the French regional president, who wanted him to be part of the official commemorations.
But the 91-year-old, of Sherburn Village, County Durham, did not get a passport in time, after his middle name was mis-spelled on his first application.
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Nevertheless, it has now emerged he will be a guest of honour at a memorial event in Sedgefield, where he will lay a wreath to the war dead.
Organisers from Sedgefield Village Veterans said they were honoured to have the former Desert Rat joining them for the day.
Dave Pitfield, Mr Peaks’ carer from Sedgefield-based Serenity Care, worked tirelessly to try to help the great-grandfather get to Normandy. When he realised no passport would arrive in time for the trip, he helped arrange for Mr Peaks to be involved in the Sedgefield act of remembrance.
“I thought it was important for Jim to mark the occasion,” he said.
The ceremony will begin at 10.40am, with two minutes’ silence being observed at 11am.
Mr Peaks has also been invited to attend Sedgefield Village Veterans’ 1940s weekend, to be held in Sedgefield on July 12 and 13. More details on this event can be found online at sedgefieldvillageveterans.co.uk
Having lied about his age to join the army at 17, Mr Peaks served with the Desert Rats in North Africa, fighting at El Alamein and through Libya and Tunisia before joining the invasion of Sicily.
From Italy, he was shipped home to prepare for D-Day invasion of Sword Beach.
Recalling the landing day, he said: “There’s no actual fear because you lost your fear – in my case years ago.
“You knew you might come back and you knew you might not. It was a matter of what is to be, will be.”
The Northern Echo is happy to point out that Serenity Care was not responsible for the spelling error on Mr Peaks’ passport application.