Sunderland war hero to collect top honour today

A Wearside war veteran will be rubbing shoulders with royalty today at Buckingham Palace.

Friday, 1st June 2018, 10:12 am
Updated Friday, 1st June 2018, 10:17 am
Lieutenant Colonel Mordaunt Cohen who will be presented with his MBE today.

The 101-year-old Second World War veteran, Lieutenant Colonel Mordaunt Cohen, will be at the palace to be presented with an MBE.

He was named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for his work in re-telling the horrors of conflict to younger generations.

Now, Sunderland-born Lt Col Cohen, is set to be given his award at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

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He is the most senior Jewish officer who served in the war still alive, and plays an active and pivotal part in educating people.

The former officer spends a large amount of his time touring schools, places of worship and other forums where he can speak of his experience.

Speaking to the Echo when his award was announced, 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.”

Lt Col Cohen 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 and 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.

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.

Last 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.