A 101-year-old Second World War veteran is to be honoured with an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for his work in re-telling the horrors of conflict to younger generations.
Sunderland-born Lieutenant Colonel Mordaunt Cohen is the most senior Jewish officer who served in the war still alive, and today he plays an active and pivotal part in educating people.
He spends a large amount of his time touring schools, places of worship and other forums where he can speak of his experience.
Lt Col Cohen recently featured in the publicity for the 70th anniversary for VJ day, where he spoke in a highly viewed video about his time in the war.
He has been extensively involved with the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, firstly being National Chairman and thereafter Vice President. In addition to this, he was Honorary Life President of the Sunderland Jewish community. He is also involved in the annual Jewish Ex-Servicemen’s Parade which he led for approximately 60 years, only stopping recently.
Lt Col Cohen was a Deputy Lieutenant in Tyne and Wear from 1986 to 1990.
Despite his age, his energy and workload are immense and it is not unheard of him to speak in multiple places on the same day.
He qualified as a solicitor aged 21, and set up his own practice shortly before war broke out in 1939.
Lt Col Cohen joined the Army after hearing stories of Nazi persecution from Jewish children who arrived in Sunderland from the Kindertransport and settled in a local girls’ hostel.
He served in Burma, where he commanded Nigerian volunteers as part of an anti-aircraft unit defending RAF air strips and, during his service, survived being struck down with both malaria and hepatitis.
After the war, Lt Col Cohen served on the local education board in the 1960s and in 1974 he and his wife Myrella made history, when they became the first husband and wife to serve on the judiciary.
Earlier this year he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Sunderland University in recognition of the his distinguished military career and his long standing association with the city.
Speaking to the Echo, he said: “When I was commanding troops many miles from here, in very tough conditions, never did I even imagine that aged 101, I would receive such an honour.”
“As the years go by, there are less of us around to tell our story.
“I look forward to continuing to educate as many people as possible in the years ahead, health permitting.
“It is my mission to make sure that future generations will understand what our armed forces went through, so that we can all live freely and in peace in this country.
“As a British Jewish veteran from Sunderland, I’m especially proud of the immense contribution made by the 60,000 Jewish soldiers who served our country in World War Two.
“Finally I would like to dedicate this award to the soldiers who didn’t come home and who sadly paid the ultimate sacrifice.”