YORK Normandy veteran Ken Cooke got to meet House of Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and a visiting delegation of Ukrainian MPs during a special visit to the Palace of Westminster on Monday.

Ken and his 'support crew' - including Nick Beilby of the York Normandy Veterans Association - were whisked down to London First Class courtesy of LNER.

Ken, 97, posed for photos in front of Big Ben and with the statue of Sir Winston Churchill, before being ushered into the Palace of Westminster.

He then had a special surprise - a meeting with House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle in his private rooms.

Ken hadn't known beforehand that he'd be meeting the Speaker, Nick said.

"He was wonderful with Cookie," Nick said. "They got chatting about their mutual interest in Rugby League, and Sir Lindsay made clear that he was the one who was privileged to meet Cookie. He said it was a great honour to meet him!"

Afterwards, Ken and his support team were able to go into the Speaker's private gallery to listen to a debate on defence.

York Press: Ken Cooke at Big BenKen Cooke at Big Ben (Image: Daniel Saunders)

They also visited the House of Lords - and stood at the spot in Westminster Hall where Queen Elizabeth II lay in state.

While they were at Westminster Ken - a Green Howards private who took part in the Normandy landings on Gold Beach on D-Day - was also approached by a delegation of three visiting Ukrainian MPs.

"They thanked him for his service," Nick said. "And he wished them well in Ukraine and told them to stick with it."

Afterwards, as they left Westminster, a policewoman with the Metropolitan Police, learning who Ken was, flagged down a taxi for him.

Nick said the day - which he planned with the help of Mark Sullivan, the York man who was one of the Yeomen of the Guard on duty at the Queen's lying in state last year - had been a 'memorable day and a once-in-a-lifetime experience'.

Staff at the Palace of Westminster and LNER during the journey had all 'pulled out all the stops' to make it special, he said.

"When I dropped Cookie off at home, he flung his arms around me and said it had been one of the best days of his life!"