The family of a Sunderland war hero and well known businessman has paid tribute to a “wonderful, wonderful man” after he died, aged 94.
Charles Eagles was known across the city not only as a Second World War hero, but also for his photography shop.
The veteran from East Herrington launched camera shop, Charles Eagles and Son, in 1972 and the business is still operating today in Maritime Street.
In 2015, the East Herrington pensioner was awarded France’s highest military honour, the Legion d’Honneur medal to mark his role in helping liberate France from Nazi occupation.
He was a sergeant in the Durham Light Infantry when they took part in the D-Day Landings in June 1944.
After fighting in a number of fierce battles, the bomb disposal expert was injured by a land mine explosion the following month.
He was a wonderful, wonderful manLyn Eagles
His wife, Lyn, said Charles had been in a lot of pain in the past ten years, much of it due to the damage caused from the shrapnel wounds.
She said: “I don’t think people realised he was ill or in a lot of pain, because he used to try to hide it.
“He was a wonderful, wonderful man, very kind hearted.”
The 70-year-old, who has been married to Charles for 27 years, said: “Everywhere we went someone would know who he was.
“They would always say things like they remembered coming into his shop as children and he would give them a lollipop.
“It didn’t matter to him what walk of life anyone came from, if you were straight with him, he would do anything to help someone. He was an amazing man.”
Charles met his first wife, Irene, when he was in hospital after being blown up and the couple went on to have two children, Brian and Sandra.
It was after he was widowed that Lyn got to know Charles through their mutual love of photography and her being a regular customer in the shop, in Maritime Street.
She said: “He was romantic in many ways. I was secretary at Washington Camera Club and it was at the 25th anniversary night, where Charles and his family were guests, that he got up and proposed to me in front of everyone.”
Lyn said she is filled with pride for her husband and has been overwhelmed by all of the messages of sympathy she has already received since Charles’ death on January 19.
This includes a post on the store’s Facebook page, which says: “It was a privilege to have him as not just a boss but to have known him as a friend, a true gentleman and hero.”
Charles was just 19 when he landed on Gold Beach on June 6, 1944.
In an interview with the Echo a few years ago, he said: “I remember falling over dead bodies as I tried to run up the beach. I had nothing left, no gun or explosives. It was a terrible day, and I will never, ever, forget it.
“I lost a lot of friends during D-Day. I’ve returned to put crosses on their graves. It is important that we never forget the sacrifices they made.”
Lyn said she remembers being out with Charles one day when a stranger came up and asked if he was Charles Eagles, then thanked him for saving his dad’s life during the war.
Lyn said Charles, who has five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, was very much a family man and says the death of his grandson, also Charles, last year at 53, hit him very hard.
Charles’ funeral will be held on Wednesday, February 13, at 1pm at Sunderland Crematorium, and anyone who knew him is welcome to go along and pay their respects.