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War veteran receives letters of thanks from European children and mayors, Isle of Man Courier

War hero Hector Duff has received a number of letters from writers across Europe thanking him for his efforts during the Second World War.

The 100-year-old was delighted to receive letters, many of which were from Dutch mayors, that paid tribute to veterans following the 75th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) Day.

Organised by the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, the parcel of letters contained drawings, pictures of commemorations, poems and messages that were personally addressed to the Onchan resident.

One letter of thanks came from a 15-year-old student called Aloise who lives in Cabourg, France.

It read: ’My region had been sorely hit by the combats during World War II.

’I hope that when I am grown up, I’ll also be capable of committing myself to others. Your comrades’ actions and you had set an example for me.’

Another letter came from Ahmed Marcouch, Mayor of Arnhem in the Netherlands, who wished Mr Duff and other veterans well on behalf of the city.

He said: ’In times of hardship like these, in our city we seek for guidance and find it in your actions from more than 75 years ago. You have taught us about the true cost of freedom. We remember your perseverance, your selfishness and your bravery. It inspires us to carry on.

’In adversity, you showed us the best of human nature. With coronavirus, there are no guarantees as to what will happen, but if people will pull together we are stronger for it.

’With great community spirit, as I like to think that your community and ours are indefinitely linked, we’ll get through this.’

Other letters expressed sympathies to veterans as the pandemic has prevented people from commemorating VE Day together.

VE Day was declared on May 8, 1945 when allied forces gave a formal acceptance on the end of the war in Europe with Nazi Germany surrendering.

Mr Duff, who fought on Normandy beaches on D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history on June 6, 1944, remembers the day vividly.

He said: ’I can remember we were desperate to get something to drink and we did eventually. We were outside a big post office in Hamburg and I gatecrashed my armoured vehicle in the doorway to find something, but there was nothing there.’

He called the letters ’wonderful’, adding: ’I have read and re-read them.

’People don’t know what the war was like unless you tell them. These letters are results from talks from not only me, but others.’

He hopes remembrance will be paid on the anniversary of D-Day in the island.


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