Homecare worker organises special VE Day tea party for Armed Forces veteran

May 05, 2020

An Armed Forces veteran who feared he would miss out on commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day will now be able to wear his medals with pride at a special tea party in his honour on Friday.

Jeff Ashworth, 93, who lives with his wife Jennie at Emesgate Lane at Silverdale, was called up in 1944 and served during the conflict in Palestine between 1945 and 1947.

But with the coronavirus lockdown forcing the cancellation of many of the gatherings planned to mark the anniversary of VE Day, he believed this Friday would end up being just like any other day.

“He has some medals but he told me he was not going to wear them because, with the lockdown, no-one would see them, so that was the point?” explained health care assistant Susie Rogers, who works for Westmorland Homecare at Kendal and regularly visits the couple to help them to continue living independently.

That struck a sad chord with Susie, 43, who wanted to do her bit to make the day memorable for Jeff and Jennie. She has taken it upon herself to organise a special VE Day tea party for the couple this Friday (May 8).

“We are going to set up one of the Westmorland Homecare gazebos in the driveway and decorate it with VE Day celebration bunting and flags,” said Susie. “We shall have an old vintage tea set. We shall bake cakes and scones and do a party in the garden.

“Some of the neighbours have quite large gardens so they will be able to sit out, at a safe distance, and we shall leave food for them to collect on their garden walls. There is also a footpath nearby and some of the other neighbours will walk past and wave flags during the event.

“We have a sound system and will play a bit of music, including Glenn Miller and Vera Lynn and hopefully we shall all sing ‘We’ll Meet Again’ at the end.”

Why had she gone to all this trouble? “Jeff was sent to Palestine in 1945 as a teenager with the 53rd Air Landing Light Regiment Royal Artillery 6th Airborne Division,” she said.

“He went through some horrendous stuff out there. He told me he taught a young chap he trained with how to darn his socks using one of those old wooden mushrooms. In 1947 the young man was shot by a sniper and died.”

After leaving the Armed Forces Jeff worked at Heysham Power Station. He and Jennie, who is also 93, have known each other since they were four years old. They married in May 1965 and celebrated their golden wedding in 2015. Jennie worked as a social worker rehoming war orphans and then for the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registrar. The couple moved to Silverdale in the 1980s.

“They are totally devoted to each other,” said Susie. “Jeff does as much as he can in the house, including cooking and washing. He is incredibly proud, though he will let us help him.

“He says: ‘She is my wife, we are a team, it is my job to look after her’. They are the loveliest couple.

“He used to go to the Cenotaph in Silverdale every year but cannot do so now. His generation is dwindling now and he has few people to tell his stories to.”

She added that Jeff would wear his beret on Friday and put on his medals.

“When I told him about the tea party he said: ‘Very nice. Can we have spam sandwiches?’ So I shall be making some of those.

“Hopefully it will be a really lovely time for them both. They deserve the recognition."

Beyond Radio will be airing a special 2 hour programme to mark the VE Day celebration at 2pm on Friday afternoon. Hosted by local singer and Beyond Radio presenter Miss Harry Dene and presenter Chris Denerley, the show will feature music and information from the period."