A local Chorley Second World War Royal Marine veteran has attended a remembrance trip to Normandy thanks to special funding.
John Dowling, who celebrated turning 97 during the trip, went on the seven-day break with his daughter Maggie and grandson Ian. The break was organised through the Royal British Legion and paid for with LIBOR funding.
The trip included tours of the Juno, Gold and Omaha beaches, sharing tales with other people who had experienced the war at Pegasus Bridge and a visit to Arromanches Museum where the veterans were presented with a medal. The construction of Mulberry harbour was explained and visitors were able to see what remains today, as well as a trip to Bayeux which is famous for its tapestry and cathedral.
John’s daughter, Maggie Harrison, said: “I think it was important for my Dad to visit Normandy again and we all really appreciated the funding made available for veterans to pay their last respects. It was extra special for us to celebrate Dad’s birthday in the company of friends and colleagues whilst we were there.
“His career in the Royal Marines played a big part in his life, and despite the dementia, he still tells stories of the war and his time in the Royal Marines and of the time he spent courting my mum. The trip brought back some happy and some sad memories, however it was great to experience the comradery between these elderly gentlemen. It was very poignant visiting several of the immaculately maintained war cemeteries.
“I would like to thank Denise from the British Legion for her support throughout the trip and also to our tour guide, Mike, who was exceptionally good at tailoring the tour to the veteran's experiences.”
John now lives with his wife Isobel at The Lodge, a specialist dementia care home within the award winning Buckshaw Retirement Village, which is operated by Hica Group.
The couple met in Dundee during the Second World War. John broke his ankle during training in Dundee and Isobel nursed him back to health, and they have been inseparable ever since. During the war John, who was originally from London, worked as a signaller for the Royal Marines, including working with Morse Code and flag signalling, also taking part in the D Day landings.
After several failed attempts to tie the knot due to John’s commitment to the Royal Marines during the war, John and Isobel went on marry in Dundee in 1944 before travelling and eventually settling down in Plymouth.
The happy couple went on to have children Helen, Maggie, Ian and Sally. Tragically, Ian passed away when he was 18 months old from leukaemia and Sally passed away at nine years old from spina bifida.
John and Isobel moved especially to Chorley to live at The Lodge, and now enjoy spending their time with other residents, taking part in the activities and entertainment at the home and visits from their children, five grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
Buckshaw Retirement Village is part of The Hica Group, a not for profit organisation, which operates a portfolio of 20 residential care homes, five of which are for people with a learning disability, along with two retirement villages. The company also runs a care at home service providing approximately 11,500 hours of support and care from four regional offices in the North of England.