YORK World War Two veteran Ken Cooke has set off for Normandy, where he will be taking part in a series of ceremonies to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

D-Day veteran Ken, 98, landed at Gold Beach with the Green Howards on June 6, 1944.

During his time in Normandy for the 80th anniversary of the landings, Ken will take part in a series of commemorations – and will also scatter the ashes of his friends and fellow York D-Day veterans Flying Officer Douglas Petty and Trooper Sid Metcalfe, who both died in 2022.

Ken began his journey to Normandy just after 12 noon today as a special guest on LNER’s special ‘For the Fallen’ train, named in honour of those who gave their lives for their country.

He was accompanied by family and by members of the York Normandy Veterans Association.

Ken, who last year was named ‘Person of the Year’ in the York Community Pride awards, served in the Green Howards after being called up in 1943, and went ashore on Gold Beach on June 6, 1944.

After his military service Ken returned to York, where he worked in the Blacksmith’s shop at Rowntree’s until he retired.

Speaking ahead of his journey, the veteran said: “It is so important that we remember and pay our respects to those who never came home. They are the real heroes.”

During his time in France, as well as scattering his friends’ ashes, Ken will visit sites where former York Normandy Veterans saw action – including Gold Beach, where he himself landed.

Nick Beilby, of York Normandy Veterans, said: “Ken does not regard himself as a hero, but to me and many others, he most certainly is. Because of him and his comrades, we enjoy our life today.

“Over the last 12 years, Ken and his York Normandy Veterans friends have spoken to many young people and groups about their experiences, and he always emphasises that it is down to them to ensure that it never happens again.

“Ken served his country 80 years ago, and at 98 continues to serve it now.” 

Dean Hobson, Head of Fleet at LNER, said, said the company had been delighted to help Ken start his journey.

“When we learned of Ken’s visit to Normandy to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, we felt it only fitting that his journey began with ‘For the Fallen’, one of our fleet named in honour of those who have served,” Dean said.

“As a veteran myself, it is important we continue to recognise the sacrifices made by so many, and the bravery of those who fought and continue to fight for our freedom.”

Don’t miss Thursday’s Press for our full interview with Ken about his wartime experiences