Often taken for granted; the memories of the heroes who don’t wear capes.

Remembrance Day stands as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices the men and women of our country bravely made. In the face of unimaginable circumstances, our heroes selflessly dedicated themselves to defending our freedom. We pause to pay our respects, remember, and honour the brave spirits of our war veterans.

We take for granted the nation we live in, sometimes forgetting the courageous, honourable individuals who fought for it. And with every year passing, fewer of those are here to share their stories.

So let’s reflect, appreciate and recognise the service and sacrifices of those who defended the country’s freedom, and the heroes we gained.

Steve Bishop

The Northern Echo:

Heartbreakingly not here to tell his story, Steve Bishop’s sister holds it, sitting at her home in Middlesbrough. His spirit is held in the form of a glass eye, kept in a wooden box for more than 70 years.

A dashing young fellah, and a fine athlete, at the outbreak of the war, Mr Bishop joined the New Southgate Home Guard and, in 1942, volunteered for the Royal Artillery. Posted to Gibraltar, then North Africa, Steve was united with his younger brother, Ernie, serving in No. 221 Field Company, Royal Engineers, Italy.

In April 1945, weeks before Germany surrendered, it was a simple coin toss that he was unaware would shape his future greatly. A group of British sappers were summoned by their sergeant to clear mines. At the call of ‘Bishop’, both Bishop brothers boldly stepped forward. They shared the same selflessness. Neither wanted the other to go.

A toss of a coin, and Steve won, courageously setting off on his mission.

During the mission, a blast from a box mine hit Steve. He was left carrying horrific injuries, including the loss of both eyes, but the soldier remained strong.

Harrowingly, his sister recalled being made aware of the news while a ‘Welcome Home Boys’ banner was plastered across the streets, marking the declaration that the war was over. An Army officer handed over the grim news of her brother’s injury in the form of a letter.

He was brought back to a military hospital in this country before being nursed at St Dunstan’s, a care home for blind former servicemen and women.

Steve’s sister recalls seeing him “in a terrible state” with “injuries to his legs and body, and he’d lost some fingers from shielding his face. His eyes were covered in bandages.”

The Northern Echo:

The glass eye was given to Steve as a symbol of comfort and hope. One which he held in his hands valiantly while listening to his records.

During his time at St Dunstan’s, Steve was taught to touch type. Triumphantly, he wrote to his family on 16 June, 1946: ‘This is the first letter I have typed myself. With love, Steve xx’

Steve died of his injuries two years after the end of the war. He was just 25 years old.

Steve Bishop: an empowering young man reminding us of the importance of hope.

Lest we forget.

Dennis Smith

The Northern Echo:

From a brave 16-year-old to a proud 97-year-old war veteran, our hero Dennis has shared his story.

Dennis Smith from Eston started his journey at just 16 when he joined the Home Guard in 1942, followed by the regular Army in 1944. He was sent to serve in France not long after D-Day.

Dennis spoke with bravery as he recalled his service at Juno Beach: “I have lots of memories of that time, some of which I didn’t really talk about until recently.”

“They wanted drivers, so I was sent on a course to do military driving. One night we all piled into a truck in Northern France, and I could hear the sound of the guns, so I knew we were getting near the front.”

“We stopped in a small town and went into a little hotel. We were told to rip our tunics and badges off and put new ones on. It meant we were joining the 51st Highland Division – ‘Black Watch’.”

During his time in the Army, Dennis served for Black Watch and the Green Howards, The Lincolns and the Worcesters.

Though the war may have ended in 1945, his battle is still ongoing.

Mr Smith began losing his sight due to age-related muscular degeneration in 2018, 70 years after his time in service.

“I felt really down when I was told. My wife is blind from a hereditary condition so she has been able to help me and we help each other in lots of ways. The hardest thing is I’m not confident going out on my own anymore.”

But our hero won’t let his fears stop him.

Dennis’ bravery is to be honoured as he is set to march with his fellow blind veterans at the Cenotaph in London for the very first time this Remembrance Sunday.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I have always watched it on television every year but never gone.

“When it gets to the silence at 11 o’clock I’ll be thinking of some of my friends who didn’t make it back. I lost quite a few.”

Dennis Smith: an inspirational gentleman reminding us of the importance of bravery.

Vera Clachers

The Northern Echo: Vera Clachers, 95, with 17-year-old cadet Samantha Terry, in 2018

In 1942, a 19-year-old girl made history as one of the first serving female electrical engineers.

Darlington-born, Vera Clachers, ambitiously joined the RAF as the Second World War was raging, ditching the female expectations to prove just how empowering a woman can be.

Throughout the latter stage of the war and until 1949, Vera worked on aircraft including Lancaster bombers, serving at RAF North Coates and near Cologne in Germany, where she dissembled aircraft and carried out administrative duties.

In November 2018, Mrs Clachers’ incredible war efforts were finally commemorated.

From being awarded a War Medal which she never applied to receive at the expense of her simply forgetting about it, to finally being presented her long overdue award, Vera was thrilled to be hosted at a surprise ceremony in Edinburgh.

Vera Clachers: an empowering female pioneer.