A veteran of the Second World War had a surprise send-off from Preston station when he went to board a train for London.
Ernest ‘Ernie’ Horsfall, 101 years old and one of the UK’s oldest surviving servicemen, was given a surprise guard of honour at Preston station by local Army Cadets and Royal British Legion standard bearers, along with Network Rail and Virgin Trains staff.
He was headed off to London, with his friend Margret, to take part in the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.
Born in Bradford on 21 April 1918, seven months before the end of the Great War, Ernie served in the Army’s Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) from 1940 to 1946. He was involved in the North Africa campaign, in which Bernard Montgomery’s 8th Army defeated the Afrika Corps, and was at the battle of El Alamein. He finished his service with the rank of Staff Sergeant.
Once the war was over, Ernie returned to civilian life and joined Vauxhall Motors.
Phil James, Network Rail’s route director for the North West, said: “It’s only right that we make a fuss of Ernie. He and his armed forces colleagues have done so much for this country.
“Our thoughts and gratitude are with Ernie and his services colleagues, past and present, this weekend and on Monday, 11 November, as we mark the signing of the Armistice.”
Shirley Ross, Virgin Trains station manager at Preston, said: “All the team here in Preston, in Euston and along our route are so proud to have Ernie travel with us to the Festival of Remembrance.
“When we heard of Ernie’s trip, we wanted to make it an extra special occasion and worked with his friend, Terry, and Network Rail to give him a memorable journey, and to say thank you for his service at this important time of year.”
The journey was made even more special thanks to a piper and army cadets from Kirkham Grammar School also taking part in the proceedings.
Unbeknown to Ernest, his special send-off had been weeks in the making. Network Rail and Virgin Trains organised the surprise after being contacted by his friend Terry Cook in the summer, who said: “Not only do we all owe a great debt of gratitude to Ernest and his colleagues for their service and sacrifice, but he and his colleagues remain a great inspiration to me and a role model for so many of us.”