Youngest surviving veteran of D-Day landings granted his dying wish

·3-min read
The funeral of John Cornwell, who was the the youngest survivor of the D-Day Normandy landings takes place at St Mary's Church in Prestbury. Mr Cornwell was carried in by six riflemen from 1 RIFLES in Chepstow -  SWNS
The funeral of John Cornwell, who was the the youngest survivor of the D-Day Normandy landings takes place at St Mary's Church in Prestbury. Mr Cornwell was carried in by six riflemen from 1 RIFLES in Chepstow - SWNS

The dying wish of the youngest survivor of the D-Day Normandy landings was granted on Thursday as six serving soldiers carried his coffin at his funeral.

John Cornwell, who was just 17 during the Allies' invasion of France in June 1944, died peacefully last month, aged 94.

He had expressed his dying wish was to be carried into St Mary's Church in Prestbury by serving members of the military.

Members of Chepstow-based 1 Rifles stepped up to act as pallbearers while buglers from the battalion were also present to sound the Last Post inside the church.

John, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, enlisted with the military in 1942, aged just 15 ½.

Mr Cornwell was carried in by six riflemen from 1 RIFLES in Chepstow after asking that “soldiers carry me into church when it's my time”. - SWNS
Mr Cornwell was carried in by six riflemen from 1 RIFLES in Chepstow after asking that “soldiers carry me into church when it's my time”. - SWNS

Less than two years later he was fighting his way up the beach in Normandy on his way to the town of Bayeux as part of the Glosters' 2nd Battalion, 56th Infantry Brigade.

He was the youngest surviving veteran of D-Day and was a long time member of the Royal British Legion.

Chair of the Royal British Legion in Cheltenham, retired RAF wing commander Roy Roberts, said: "John was a long-time member of the Royal British Legion and a poppy seller.

"His earnest wish, expressed to me and his family, was that 'soldiers carry me into church when it's my time'.

"Accordingly, we arranged for six riflemen from 1st Battalion, The Rifles in Chepstow to act as pallbearers, in full uniform, to carry the coffin from the hearse into the church.

"Also, three buglers from the battalion will be present to sound the Last Post inside the church."

In addition standards from Royal British Legion branches Cheltenham and Woodmancote & Bishop's Cleeve were paraded and preceded the coffin procession.

John's platoon landed behind the Royal Hampshire Regiment on a section of the beach called Jig Green before advancing to Bayeux.

John Cornwell, who at 17 was the the youngest survivor of Operation Overlord  -  SWNS
John Cornwell, who at 17 was the the youngest survivor of Operation Overlord - SWNS

In 2016, he was awarded France's highest honour, the Legion d'honneur.

John's family confirmed he passed away peacefully at his home on Wednesday, May 19.

In the order of service, the family published a thank you for all the support they had been shown.

It read: "Betty, Jeff, Dave and Roger thank you all for attending the service today and for your kind words of sympathy and support at this difficult time.

"Special thanks go to Commanding Officer 1 Rifles; Royal British Legion, Cheltenham and Woodmancote and Bishop's Cleeve branches and Bristol Normany Veterans.

After the church service, John was laid to rest at Cheltenham Cemetery and a wake was held for him at Bartholomew's Cottage.

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