FLAG-waving supporters gathered on Platform 6 at York Railway Station as a very special train pulled in - carrying a very special passenger.

No, not a senior politician on the campaign trail, or even a minor Royal. This was someone much more important - York's very own Normandy veteran Ken Cooke.

Ken - a Green Howards private who took part in the Normandy landings on Gold Beach on D-Day in 1944 - went down to London by train yesterday to lay a wreath on the Great Northern Railway and LNER War Memorial at King's Cross.

But unbeknown to Ken, his friends at the York Normandy Veterans Association had conspired with LNER to make sure his return trip was memorable.

The trained which pulled out of King's Cross at 9.06am this morning was LNER locomotive no 91111 - a special War Memorial engine named 'For The Fallen'.

And instead of travelling back in one of the carriages like other passengers, Ken was whisked to the front - and spent the two-hour journey sitting in the cab, alongside the driver.

York Press: Ken in the cab of Locomotive No 91111Ken in the cab of Locomotive No 91111 (Image: Stephen Lewis)

It had been a long-held dream of Ken's: but at first when he was invited to ride in the cab he thought it was a 'wind-up'.

"I said 'no, I'm going in the carriage with the rest of my retinue!'" he said.

"But they finally persuaded me to come to the cab - and I have really enjoyed it.

"I missed my breakfast - you can't get through to the canteen from the engine! - but it has been absolutely brilliant. I'm going to be a train driver now!"

Ken was greeted at Platform 6 by members of his family, flag-waving fans - and a media scrum.

York Press: Ken being greeted by friends and supporters at York Railway StationKen being greeted by friends and supporters at York Railway Station (Image: Stephen Lewis)

He waved from the open door of the cab, then turned to climb down. Anxious LNER executives hovered as he lowered himself to the platform.

Part way down the 97-year-old half-turned and made a trademark Ken Cooke joke. "Shall I jump?" he said.

Nick Beilby of the Normandy Veterans association, who helped organise the trip, said Ken's face at King's Cross when he realised he was really being invited to ride in the cab had been a picture.

"He didn't believe it and thought it was a wind-up," Nick said. "For the first time in years he was speechless."

In recent years, Ken has regularly given talks - including to children - about his D-Day experiences.

He has spoken in the past about how he and other members of his Green Howards unit had to climb down a scramble net onto a landing craft on D-Day. Some of the other craft nearby at Gold Beach that day were struck by shells.

Ken once told The Press that when he and his comrades went into the water, some were in above their heads and drowned.


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“We were told to get off it (the landing crtaft) as quickly as possible,” he said. “There were shells landing further down the beach. After getting on land, there were a couple of German machine gun nests which we had to take. We lobbed a couple of hand grenades in.”

Standing on the platform at York railway Station today, he said: "We try to explain to children why D-Day happened and why the war happened, and we try to convince them that... to make sure that it never happens again."

York Press: