When Chris Bell turned 75, he thought he would be celebrating his birthday with a visit to Orchard House in Scarborough.
Owner June Stephenson told him to dress up to the nines as Mayor of Scarborough Cllr Joe Plant was due to inaugurate the centre’s new extension.
As he later found out, though, it was all an excuse.
The Mayor did come on Thursday afternoon, but did so to present him with a veterans badge in recognition of his loyal service in the Army.
Chris’ military career started in September 1960 when he became an apprentice soldier.
After training for two years in the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Carlisle [the Royal Engineers], Chris was sent to Germany where he served until 1969.
He was then posted to Cyprus for a six-month emergency tour of duty with the United Nations Peace Keeping Force after which he was rewarded with the United Nations Cyprus Medal.
After returning to the UK he was officially discharged in the rank of Corporal in February 1971.
“I served for 10 years and 204 days,” he said proudly, “I really enjoyed it.”
The surprise ceremony was organised by his wife Lynne who spent months planning every minute detail, helped by Carers Resource, the First Light Trust and Royal British Legion.
“It all came about by accident,” she said. “No-one had realised that there was a veterans badge that he could have so the thought of having one presented to him was really nice.
“All these years Chris has been a rock for all his family, an absolute rock, and we wanted to do something special for him.”
On the day, Lynne told Chris not to get the bus back to their Bell Close, Seamer, home as she would be in the area to pick him up due to an appointment that had been brought forward.
In reality, she and the other guests, including Chris’ children Tim and Nina, were hiding in the cloakroom at Orchard House, the day care centre in Scalby Road, waiting for the Mayor to arrive.
“I don’t know how she kept it a secret,” added Chris. “It means a lot to me.”
Orchard House owner June, who contributed to the success of the party, said: “Lynne is obviously so proud of Chris and it’s important here at Orchard House to recognise that the person you see today is not the person they’ve always been.
“Chris has been an active young guy, he served his country, he travelled with Lynne, he’s been a scuba diver, and Lynne in her caring role is so supportive of Chris and still enables him to live life to the full.”
The Scarborough News wants to hear about any veterans, especially from the Second World War, who deserve recognition that perhaps they don’t already have.
If you know of anyone email firstname.lastname@example.org