The Taxi Charity was saddened to hear that WWII veteran, Ernest John Sleep, died at his home on 18 February 2021
Born in 1921, Ernest John Sleep, who was always known as John, lived in Wraysbury, near Windsor all his life, except for a few years when the family moved to Portsmouth to run a shop. The family returned to Wraysbury in 1933 after the death of his father and John lived in the same family home ever since.
He was recently granted the Freedom of his beloved Wraysbury.
John will be greatly missed by his children, Mark and Margaret, his four grandchildren and his two great grandchildren.
Margaret said: "John will be sadly missed by all his family and friends. He was a lovely man."
Called up in 1940, John initially saw service with the Royal Berkshires. He later volunteered for the Parachute Regiment and after training was posted to the 3rd Battalion. He was attached to the Royal Norfolks and took part in the fighting at Overloon and Venray in October 1944 in the south-east of the Netherlands.
After the war, John used his carpentry skills making gymnastic equipment. After retiring, he continued his love of working with wood by making beautiful rocking horses.
John went on trips with the Taxi Charity to the Netherlands with other WWII veterans to remember those who did not make it home.
Dick Goodwin, vice president of the Taxi Charity, said: "Last month, John celebrated his 100th birthday and was delighted to receive cards and good wishes from across the world. Sadly, he was not able to celebrate in the way the family had originally planned, because of lockdown restrictions, but the family shared pictures of John surrounded by cards with a fabulous birthday cake and a huge smile on his face."
Glyn Dewis, who took the above portrait of John Sleep, said: "Of all the veterans I have been privileged to meet and photograph for the 39-45 Portraits Project, photographing John was the most emotional. Taking time to talk with him while we both had a mug of tea, John told me some of his story and it was so clear to see that he'd lived with those events continually. Meeting John changed not what I do but how I do it in a big way and taught me that the most important part of taking a portrait is taking time with the person, getting to know them, slowing down, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. I'll always remember John's smile, both when we caught up in Normandy and when he came for a private viewing to see his picture in my 39-45 Portraits Project Exhibition. The world has lost another great."
Photo courtesy of Glyn Dewis