Salute to a hero..
Despite the current Lockdown situation, Ilkeston people turned out to bid farewell to Beechcroft Care Home resident Pete Watkins, as this video from Brian Shelton shows.
The former Arnhem war veteran had become the face of the campaign to keep the home open.
He lost his final battle against Covid-19.
The 97-year-old tested positive for the virus on the anniversary of Victory in Europe Day this year – Friday, 8th May and passed away just over three weeks later on Saturday 23rd May at the home in West Hallam.
In better days he still wore his maroon beret of the Parachute Regiment with pride and although being struck with dementia in his last few years, he kept his memories of life in the Armed Forces and was known by staff at the Nursery Avenue home as a caring, thoughtful and cheerful resident.
Mr Watkins was a private in the 10th Battalion, Parchute Regiment. He was involved in the Battle of Arnhem, known as the deadliest airborne operation of World War II.
He counted himself ‘lucky’ to be among only 50 in his battalion to survive.
The big battle was designed to quickly end the war but it turned into a disaster and more than 1,500 troops were killed and 6,500 taken prisoner.
In September last year Mr Watkins was presented with the 75th Anniversary Battle of Arnhem Badge by Arthur Norman and Paul Scott of the Ilkeston Branch of the Royal British Legion at Beechcroft.
His step-daughter Lynne Thornley said that before his health deteriorated Mr Watkins would spend a lot of time in his allotment where growing runner beans was his speciality.
Between 2002 and 2009 he worked with excluded students at the former pupil referral unit in Duffield Road, Derby where he was seen as an ‘inspirational role model’
Well over a hundred people expressed their sorrow on our Facebook page and even more lined Nottingham Road to pay their last respects as the funeral cortege passed slowly by..