Remarkable 101-year-old D-Day veteran meets Queen at national commemoration

Date published: 12 June 2024

A 101-year-old man believed to be Rochdale’s only surviving D-Day veteran met with Queen Camilla at the national commemoration event in Ver-sur-Mer last week.

Ken Wright, believed to be one of the last surviving original assault troops, travelled over 300 miles to commemorate the 80th anniversary event attended by the Royal Family and thousands of soldiers who participated in the Normandy landings eight decades ago.

The date, 6 June, is etched in the memories of generations as D-Day - when mainly US, British and Canadian forces combined to break Germany's hold.

It is believed Ken, who lives in Newbold, is the only surviving veteran who landed on Sword Beach with the 8th brigade, part of 3rd British Infantry Division; the Royal British Legion has said that Ken is Rochdale’s only D-Day veteran that they are aware of.

Private Ken Wright, in Egypt in 1945, just after the war ended
Private Ken Wright, in Egypt in 1945, just after the war ended

In 2016, Ken was appointed to the rank of Chevalier (Knight) in the prestigious Legion of Honour, France’s highest honour.

One of five children, Ken was born to his Rochdale father, Fred, – who served in World War One – and his Shropshire mother, Mary-Ann, on 10 October 1922.

A baker and confectioner, Mary Ann originally moved to Rochdale after responding to an advert in the local paper looking for a trainee cook on Spotland Road. She met Fred after he served in the forces and they married, before welcoming their first child, Mildred, in 1920.

They moved from Belfield Road to Ditton Priors in Shropshire by the time Ken was born, returning to Rochdale when Ken was nine.

Speaking to Rochdale Online News, Ken’s son Alan explained how the trip to Ver-sur-Mer could well be his last, making it all the more important.

He said: “It went really well.

“He wanted to go back, not just because it was a big commemoration being the 80th anniversary, but also because of his age. He’s 101 years old, it could be his last time.

“You just don’t know.

“We flew to Paris from Manchester as it was of course a much easier journey than the long drive down there for him.”

Alan also explained how his dad was one of the rare army veterans in attendance.


Remarkable 101-year-old D-Day veteran meets Queen at national commemoration


He continued: “My dad was army, he was part of the original assault troops. Only 170 of those men came back from the war, and then of course you would need to live to 100. At this point I think he was the only remaining one there.”

Only a few dozen veterans attended this year, reflecting the dwindling number of survivors.

Five years ago, for the 75th anniversary, 255 veterans made the trip to France; this year, only 50 were able to make the journey.

King Charles and Queen Camilla, joined by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron, led a poignant silent prayer to honour those who have passed. Memories of those who were on the beaches 80 years ago were also shared.

Alan explained that his dad, now at 101, is one of the lucky ones not just to have survived the war, but to still be here over 80 years after it ended. He commented: “He’s doing great. He likes to put salt and sugar on everything so we’re not entirely sure how he’s done it, but we’re very glad to still have him.”

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