One of the UK’s oldest surviving servicemen was given a hero’s send-off on Friday as he left Preston to attend the annual Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.
Ernest Horsfall, 101, was surprised with a guard of honour as he arrived at at Preston Railway Station by local Army Cadets and standard bearers from the Royal British Legion, as well as fellow veterans and Network Rail and Virgin Trains staff.
The event, which saw the station’s main entrance grind to a halt, was arranged by Ernest’s friend Terry Cook and staff from Northern Rail.
Terry said: “I wanted to try and recognise Earnest’s service. Really Ernest and I talked about it a lot, but he’s a symbol of all the veterans who can’t be here - those who never came home and those, like my dad who died before their service was recognised.
“So I thought I would try and do something, and actually it was Esther who works for National Rail who said ‘well, why not get a cadet guard of honour?
“It mushroomed from that initial idea of trying to give him just a little bit of a send off and recognition.”
Ernest, resplendent in his military medals, was led into the station by a bagpiper and, visibly touched by the event, saluted those who had turned out to see him.
He said: “I was shocked and surprised, really I thought it was for someone else.”
Terry added: “It went beyond my wildest dreams. His reaction said it all - he was emotional, absolutely delighted and determined to walk everywhere.”
Ernest, who lives in Fulwood, Preston, was working as an engineer when the Second World War broke out and the Army called him up to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). He made Staff Sergeant and spent six-and-a-half years in the forces, something he said he “wouldn’t have missed for the world”.
Back on Civvy Street he worked at Vauxhall Motors where he became an experimental/development engineer and later a senior manager.
In later life he developed a love of aeroplanes and clocked up 3,000 flying hours before having to stand down as a Pilot In Command at the age of 93 - only because insurance companies would no longer cover him at the controls.
>>>Read more about Ernest's career in aviation here