FELLOW veterans who served with the Durham Light Infantry formed a guard of honour as the Union Flag-clad coffin carrying Charles Eagles went past.

Five standards were lowered and the men stood silently, paying their respects to the 94-year-old, who was one of the last men from the regiment to have fought in the Second World War.

The Northern Echo:

WAR HERO: Charles Eagles presented with the Legion D’Honneur, France’s highest military honour, at Durham Cathedral

Family and friends gathered at Sunderland Crematorium and he was carried into the music of Jerusalem, before DLI chaplain, The Reverend Kenneth Crawford opened the service and the congregation sang Abide With Me.

Mr Eagles, who lived in East Herrington, became a sergeant with the 9th battalion of the DLI aged just 19 and landed on Gold Beach, in Normandy, on D-Day.

The following month while advancing across France, he was badly injured when a mine exploded and he was sent home.

While recuperating at Dryburn Hospital, in Durham, he met his future wife Irene, from Meadowfield, and the couple went on to have two children, Brian and Sandra.

In 1972 he founded Charles Eagles and Son, a photography business, and following Irene’s death, he married his second wife Lyn.

Mr Eagles, who died last month, had five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

In the eulogy, Clive Bowery, a family friend, said: “Time takes its toll on us all and Charles did not enjoy the best of health with problems in walking, with arthritis and eyesight to name but a few. Many of these ailments being caused by wounds he received in Normandy. Due to his indomitable spirit and determination he rarely admitted to how bad things were and soldiered on.”

In 2004, he returned to Normandy for the first time since the war to mark the 60th anniversary of the landings, and in 2016 he joined other DLI veterans to retrace their steps across the former battlefields of France.

In 2015, he was one of eleven DLI veterans to be presented with the Legion D’Honneur, France’s highest military honour, at Durham Cathedral’s festival of remembrance.

Charles Eagles wartime experiences in his own words 

Mr Bowery said: “Charles was a remarkable man, a true gentleman in every sense of the word and I consider it an honour and a source of great pride to have known him.

“But above all I am proud and privileged to have called him my friend.”