Looking dapper in his tricorne hat and scarlet coat which proudly displays his collection of hard-earned medals, war hero George Skipper is loving life as a Chelsea Pensioner.
The D-Day veteran left Amble more than two years ago to start a new chapter at the iconic Royal Hospital Chelsea. And he is enjoying every minute of his time in London.
At the tender age of 95, George has even become a cover model – featuring on the front of a commemorative booklet published by the hospital and distributed at this year’s Royal Chelsea Flower Show.
The publication – A Soldier’s Story – features four extraordinary veterans, all of whom showed exceptional bravery in the Second World War. It’s no less than George deserves. Cockney born and bred, George grew up in tough surroundings in 1920s East End London, attending school with the notorious Kray twins.
He was called up for active service in 1941 at 18 years of age and sent to the Middle East with a special elite unit for 14 months. On his return, he was deployed as a driver for senior commanders organising D-Day.
On the day of the Normandy landings, George was dispatched to Gold Beach and on jumping out of his armoured vehicle found himself neck deep in water. He helped his comrades who could not swim and fought his way across the beach under heavy fire.
In 2015, George was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the French Government for his service on D-Day.
Well-regarded George is a former president of the Warkworth and Amble District Branch of the Royal British Legion. And recently, Jeff and June Watson, chairman and secretary respectively of the branch, went to visit George.
June said: “George has settled in well to the social life of the hospital and he has his own modern room with all of his needs provided. Many London charities invite able Chelsea Pensioners to outside events and excursions and he thoroughly enjoys these outings.
“In his beloved electric scooter, George eagerly took us on a tour of the hospital and its museum. While walking, we were met by the French Ambassador in London who was on a personal visit and who was delighted to speak with George on hearing he was in possession of the Legion d’Honneur.
“Everyone had a kind word to say about George and greeted him warmly. It was sad to leave him. He misses all his friends in Amble and sends his best wishes. He hopes to take part again in this year’s Remembrance Day parade in London.”