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Second World War veteran performs with choir at the Menin Gate

30 October 2012

Second World War veteran, Charles Benford, 93, travelled to Belgium with the Leigh Orpheus Male Voice Choir, performing in front of visitors at Tyne Cot and the Menin Gate.

Charles fought on the Normandy beaches in June 1944 and continued through France, Belgium and southern Holland with the 49th West Riding Division, rising to the rank of Sergeant with the 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment.

Charles took the opportunity, during the Choir's trip to Belgium, to visit Essex Farm Cemetery and Tyne Cot Cemetery and place poppy crosses on the graves of many soldiers of the Essex Regiment.

While at Tyne Cot, the choir performed 'Close Thine Eyes', in front of an audience of visitors from across the world.

The choir also attended the  Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres, where they once again sang 'Close Thine Eyes' and the famous Welsh hymn, 'Gwahoddiad' - despite an unfortunate power cut. 

During the ceremony, Charles stood alone and called out the 'Exhortation'  and the 'Kohima' after the Last Post and Reveille had sounded.

Choir member Fred Schofield said: "Everyone in the choir, and that includes many who were unable to be present on the tour, felt so proud of Charles and the way he did what he thought he should do, to remember the many who were lost in such a tragic way. A grand old man who has served this country well."

A photo album of Charles' trip with the choir can be found here via our Facebook page.