A memorial service is to be held in honour of an ex-East Durham army recruiter who created what became known as “Pad’s Army”.
Staff Sergeant Paddy Fox, who died last month aged 82, enlisted 2,000 people during his years in the district - earning a British Empire Medal from the Queen for his work.
Now Maureen Taylor-Gooby, who was mayor of Peterlee when Paddy left to become a Chelsea Pensioner in 2001, has organised a memorial for him this Saturday at St Cuthbert’s Church.
“Paddy will always be remembered with affection in this area. Many people owe a debt of gratitude to him for the help he gave them in organising their lives and careers,” she said.
“Above all he was such a courteous man. We are all very sad to hear of his death, and I am pleased a memorial service is to be held. He was a faithful member of St Cuthbert’s Church.”
Paddy was born at a racing stables near Clonmel, County Tipperary, but joined the 15/19th Hussars in May 1951, at 17 - training as a radio operator before being posted to Germany.
He went on to serve as a TA instructor in Londonderry, as well as a radio instructor in Barnard Castle - and even made regimental history once during a training trip to France.
“I lost my troops in a nudist colony in France. Two of the soldiers had to be taken to hospital with burns on their bottoms because of the strong sun!” he recalled in the Echo in 2001.
Paddy moved to the North East as an Army recruiter in 1968 and, such was the care and attention he lavished on his recruits, the new soldiers nicknamed themselves “Pad’s Army.”
It was for his exceptional recruiting work - the highest number of recruits in the country - that he received the BEM - but modest Paddy was far prouder of his recruits than himself.
“Many reached top ranks in the army and several still serve as officers and senior non-commissioned officers. Others have now gone into the police force,” he recalled in 2001.
Paddy retired from the Army after 38 years, at the age of 55, with the rank of staff sergeant, and went on to work as an usher at Peterlee’s Magistrates Court for 12 years.
He was also involved with St Cuthbert’s Church during his time in Peterlee, serving as church warden and verger, but ill health finally prompted him to become a Chelsea Pensioner.
“I was engaged three times, but never married. I regret it sometimes, but it wasn’t to be. I was married to the army, so it will look after me in old age - like a good wife!” he said.
“I arrived in Peterlee with everything I owned packed in my VW Beetle. Becoming a Chelsea Pensioner is a new start, a new life, but I’ll miss the North East and the people.”
Peterlee Town Council presented Paddy with several gifts of thanks before he moved down south and, once settled in London, he carved out a new - and prize-winning - life for himself.
Indeed, Paddy became the chief tour guide at Royal Hospital Chelsea - giving talks about Chelsea Pensioners to dignitaries from around the world - and met the Queen on “numerous” occasions.
He also got to know Princess Beatrice after forging links with her school, promoted the local Poppy Appeal and helped the Royal Hospital Chelsea win an award at Chelsea Flower Show with two allotments he set up.
Finally, in 2010, he even achieved national fame and a place in the pop charts - singing in a seven-strong group of Chelsea Pensioners on the album Men in Scarlet.
Paddy’s sister, Edie, said: “I’m very proud of him. He was a positive, cheerful person, and also so kind and thoughtful. He was so proud to be a Chelsea Pensioner and wear the uniform.”
* Paddy’s funeral was held with full military honours at Chelsea Hospital on January 28. His memorial at St Cuthbert’s Church, Peterlee, will be held at 11am on Saturday. It will be conducted by Canon Keith Woodhouse, assisted by councillors and the British Legion. All welcome.