A COMMUNITY rallied around last week to throw a birthday party for a much-loved WWII veteran.

When Douglas Sayles turned 99, he did so surrounded by friends and loved ones in Heighington, near Darlington.

They marked the special occasion by presenting him with a cake and candles during a celebration at St Michael’s Church.

Ward councillor Gerald Lee was in attendance and said that Mr Sayles deserved the community’s respect and support as he gave a speech highlighting the Royal Navy veteran’s service to the country.

Mr Sayles signed up to the Navy in 1937 when he was just 17 and went on to take part in numerous convoys, narrowly escaping death on several occasions.

In 2015, he received a medal from Russia commemorating his service and the “extraordinary heroism” he displayed as a sailor in the Arctic convoys.

He added the medal to the UK equivalent – the Arctic Star – and 11 others he has been awarded since beginning his Navy service.

Upon receiving the accolade from Russia, he took the opportunity to warn young people to learn lessons from the past and do more to resist war.

Then, he said: “Over the years, I saw thousands killed – I still see them…

“Nothing has been learned from all of this and it is difficult to see war still happening.

“I want this generation to be serious, not frivolous, we must stop these wars.”