Watch inspiring 99-year-old Sunderland war veteran receive British Empire Medal
A 99-year-old war hero has spoken of his pride after receiving a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his community and voluntary service.
Len Gibson, from West Herrington, is a Second World War veteran and a former Far East Prisoner of War (FEPOW) who was forced to work on the infamous Mergui Road building the ‘Death Railway’ in Burma during his time in captivity.
He regularly leads prayers and readings in honour of fallen comrades at commemorative events in Sunderland, including the annual Remembrance Parade and Service in the city centre.
As part of his commitment to keeping their memories alive and raising awareness of their suffering and sacrifice while in service, he is also a speaker at community and fundraising events including his work with Age UK Sunderland and the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.
He is an official ambassador for Sunderland, a role which has seen him be a part of the bid for City of Culture in 2017 as one of the community’s ‘local heroes’.
He was presented with his British Empire Medal by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Mrs Susan Winfield OBE, in the Mayor’s Parlour at Sunderland civic centre on Friday, November 1.
The British Empire Medal is awarded to people in recognition for outstanding services to their country, community, profession and walk of life as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Mr Gibson said: “I have lived in Sunderland for almost one hundred years, in a city which I love surrounded by good friends and a marvellous family - what more could a man wish for.
"I am honoured to be awarded the British Empire Medal, and proud to accept not only personally but on behalf of the fallen friends and comrades whose memory and sacrifice I work with the people of Sunderland to remember.
"My only regret is that my dear departed wife isn't here to share this day, she would have been so proud."
The Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor David Snowdon said: “Mr Gibson is a true hero of his city, his community and his country and I was honoured to be able to join him and his family for the presentation of his British Empire Medal.”