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WW2 veteran who attended fallen soldiers’ funerals dies – now family want to see him off in style

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Tom Culshaw
Written by Tom Culshaw

For more than a decade, he travelled across Yorkshire to attend the funerals of fallen young soldiers and console their loved ones.

The family of Harry Thrush, who died aged 92 on Christmas Eve, are calling for people to pay their respects by attending his funeral

Harry Thrush passed away at the age of 92

Re-post from the Mirror Online.

But on Christmas Eve, World War Two veteran Harry Thrush, from Robin Hood, Leeds, passed away at the age of 92.

Now, the grandfather of five’s relatives are appealing for those whose lives he touched to pay tribute to his loyalty and kindness – by attending his funeral.

Mr Thrush’s daughter, Janet Farr, exclusively told the Mirror Online: “My dad used to go to the funerals of young soldiers who had been repatriated from Afghanistan and Iraq.

“He would watch TV news reports and make a note, or look in the paper and highlight the news of a young soldier’s death. And then he’d get up and go to the funeral.

WW2 veteran who spent 10 years consoling families of fallen soldiers
Proud: The former gunner (pictured displaying his medals) passed away aged 92 on Christmas Eve
Army veteran who consoled families of fallen soldiers
Paying tribute: Mr Thrush is pictured at Mirfield Remembrance Parade in November

“Even at his age, he would just leave a note saying he’d gone here or there.

“One of the funerals he attended was that of Jake Hartley, who was one of the youngest soldiers killed at 20 years old.”

She added: “My dad turned 92 a couple of days before he passed away on Christmas Eve.

“Lots of people knew of him – or had seen him at the soldiers’ funerals – so it would be nice if they knew about the service.”

Ms Farr said one of her father’s wishes was to have a military-style send-off, with a Union Jack flag draped over his coffin and soldiers and veterans in attendance.

Army veteran who consoled families of fallen soldiers
Couple: The veteran is pictured (foreground) with his late wife on their honeymoon
Army veteran who consoled families of fallen soldiers
Beaming: Mr Thrush’s daughter, Janet Farr, said her father’s wish was to have a military-style funeral

“My brothers and I are trying to do what he wanted,” she told the Mirror Online.

“He’d always said he wanted an official send-off. He was very popular in local military circles.”

Ms Farr said she has made contact with the Wakefield branch of the Royal Artillery Association in a bid to get some military representation at her father’s funeral.

She said she has already received numerous messages from veterans across Yorkshire who are desperate to attend the service, while a Leeds-based Army recruitment officer has arranged to bring at least eight servicemen with him to the funeral.

“We’ve received lovely messages from veterans all over who are trying to come,” she said.

WW2 veteran who spent 10 years consoling families of fallen soldiers
Serving his country: Mr Thrush and his late wife were lifelong supporters of Leeds United Football Club
Army veteran who consoled families of fallen soldiers
In good spirits: The grandfather-of-five beams as he is driven around at the Mirfield Remembrance Parade

“The attendance of members, active or veterans, would make our family eternally grateful and an old soldier would have been very happy.”

Ms Farr and her two older brothers – who often went fishing with their father – have arranged for a black carriage with horses to carry his coffin, as he asked for.

The procession will set off from the veteran’s bungalow in Robin Hood and travel to St Mary’s Parish Church in Beeston, Leeds for a service on Wednesday afternoon.

His coffin will then be taken to a nearby crematorium, Ms Farr said.

After that, a wake will take place at a suite at Elland Road – because Mr Thrush and his late wife were lifelong supporters of Leeds United Football Club.

“We are holding the wake there because he and my mum were lifelong supporters and my dad sold fundraising tickets every week for LUFC many years ago,” said Ms Farr.

Army veteran who consoled families of fallen soldiers
Appeal: Mr Thrush’s relatives are appealing for those who knew him to attend his funeral on Wednesday

“He was also a regular at 1940s events across the region, where he always sang a rendition of ‘D-Day Dodgers’ with the 1940s singer Paul Harper and his daughter Natasha.”

Touchingly, the father and daughter singing duo have agreed to perform at Mr Thrush’s wake.

Mr Thrush, who was called up to the Army aged 18 in 1942, served as a gunner with the 7th Mountain Regiment during the Second World War.

He took part in the Allied invasion of Italy around Salerno in Campania.

During his service, he saw hundreds of men killed – and once used his jacket as a stretcher when two of his colleagues were fatally injured in an explosion.

But even after the war ended, Mr Thrush took his legacy seriously.

For more than 10 years before his death, he travelled across his home county of Yorkshire, attending the funerals of both young and old soldiers who died abroad.

WW2 veteran who spent 10 years consoling families of fallen soldiers
Gift: In 2014, Mr Thrush received this special photo of Camp Bastion as a thanks for his service, featuring dozens of British servicemen beaming in their uniforms

After the services were over, he would personally meet the victim’s relatives and comfort them.

Just months before he passed away, Mr Thrush attended the Victory in Europe (VE) 70th anniversary celebrations at Westminster with Ms Farr, where he was delighted to meet Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

A year earlier, he had received a special photo of Camp Bastion as a thanks for his service, featuring dozens of British servicemen beaming in their uniforms.

The image, which was arranged by his son Geoff’s partner Joanne Holmes, was accompanied by a message wishing him a ‘wonderful’ birthday.

It read: “FAO Gunner Thrush, of 7th Mountain Regiment, Salerno war veteran.

‘Happy 90th birthday. Have a wonderful birthday night celebration. We and all the trauma team and soldiers out in Afghanistan send our best wishes.

‘We have the utmost respect for you and many thanks for your service.

“Best wishes, Role 3 Hospital Doctors, Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.”

The veteran later said he was ‘really proud’ to have received the photo.

  • Mr Thrush’s funeral will take place at St Mary’s Parish Church on Town Street in Beeston, Leeds, at 12.45pm on Wednesday.

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