Heartfelt tribute to 105-year-old "true gentleman" and war hero

Date published: 06 July 2024

The family of one of Rochdale’s oldest residents has paid tribute to a "warm and humble" gentleman and World War Two veteran, who passed away at the age of 105.

Harold Burgess, born and bred in Rochdale, married his first love, Freda, and had two children, John and Ruth. Against the odds, Harold outlived both of his children as well as his wife, who passed away in 1984.

In his final days, the 105-year-old expressed to a family member that he was ready to reunite with his beloved Freda, having lived without her for over four decades.

Described by family as a “true gentleman”, Harold was both a courageous war hero and a private family man, who loved to sit in his garden and enjoy fish and chips.


Heartfelt tribute to 105-year-old 'true gentleman' and war hero


He began his career during World War Two in 1939, starting in North Africa before travelling through Sicily and Italy. He returned to the UK for the D-Day Landings before fighting his way through Nazi Germany with the seven Medium Regiment Royal Artillery, transporting six-inch Howitzer cannons.

He left the Army in 1946 to find that his wife had set up her own patisserie and bakery business, where he joined her as a baker. Harold grew very proud of his bread and would enter competitions for the best crust.

Granddaughter Joanne said: “Grandad was a very warm person, and he was a true gentleman. A very respectful and humble person who didn’t understand why everyone was making a fuss over him.”

In 2020, Harold featured on Rochdale Online News after volunteers spruced up his garden, somewhere he really liked to spend his time.

Joanne added: “Even then he couldn’t work out what the fuss was about, why people wanted to do that for him. He was very grateful nonetheless.”

Paul Ellison, who helped with the garden, said: “Harold was a man of pride and passion, and not many live to be 105. What he did for this country, a D-Day veteran, this hero needs to always be remembered. Thank you, Harold, for your service, and to give something back was a thank you from our local community."


Harold with his family


Harold valued his independence and was still driving at the age of 99, until his licence was finally revoked. He insisted on doing his own shopping, leaning on trolleys for assistance at the age of 100.

A huge fan of a good meal, Harold was particularly fond of fish and chips, but it had to be from Willbutts Lane Chippy, as his family confirmed, “he knew what he liked.”

After a long life, Harold passed away with his family around him on 28 May 2024, with the funeral on 17 June.

Joanne continued: “You can’t help but notice that it was timed around the D-Day celebrations, which in a way added to the emotion of it all. I was so proud that he was my Grandad - he was a hero and he has done so much.”

Harold's legacy lives on now in his granddaughters Joanne and Iola, his grandson Paul, and his great-grandchildren Jack, Joseph, and Morven.

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