Sunderland war veteran honoured by university at grand old age of 101

Lieutenant Colonel Mordaunt Cohen
Lieutenant Colonel Mordaunt Cohen

A Second World War veteran from Sunderland has been honoured by the city's university at the grand old age of 101.

Lieutenant Colonel Mordaunt Cohen, a retired solicitor and decorated Jewish officer who served in Burma, has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of the his distinguished military career and his long standing association with Sunderland and its University.

Lt Col Cohen has enjoyed a 48-year association with the university and the award comes 25 years after his wife, Judge Myrella Cohen, was its first honorary award recipient back in 1992.

Born in Sunderland in 1916, 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.

He qualified as a solicitor aged 21, and set up his own practice shortly before war broke out in 1939.

After the war, Lt Col Cohen served on the local education board in the 1960s and in 1974 he and his wife made history, when they became the first husband and wife to serve on the judiciary.

He was also appointed the University’s first Chair of Governors.

Lt Col Cohen said: "When I was here last summer I never dreamt for one moment that I would be back here to receive the wonderful award of Honorary Fellowship from the University of Sunderland.

"When my eldest grandson told me that I would receive this honour I really was silenced and I didn't really know why I was deserving of this distinct honour.

"And then on reflection I decided that it must be because I am the grandfather of the University!"

Lt Col Cohen joined the Army after hearing stories of Nazi persecution by Jewish children who arrived in Sunderland from the Kindertransport and settled in a local girls’ hostel.

He was dispatched to Burma and was still posted there on VJ Day in 1945.

A former national chairman of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, he was mentioned in Dispatches for services in Burma when he arrived home after the war.

He joined a reformed Territorial Army back home after the conflict and was promoted to major within two years before being made a lieutenant colonel in 1954.

Today, he says nothing is more important to him "than seeing the community recognise VJ day”.