I had just watched 93-year-old Bernard Morgan hold a full classroom of RAF cadets entranced by his eyewitness accounts of the Second World War.
I asked the boys and girls of the Nantwich cadets for help in finding words to sum up the man who had just finished talking. Inspirational was the one that cropped up again and again. They were right of course but they only knew the half of it.
They had just heard Bernard’s first-hand description of manning a Bren gun on one of the small boats landing troops on the Normandy beaches during the D-day invasion.
Then he told the story of his main contribution to the war effort, operating one of the revolutionary decoding machines that sent and received the most sensitive messages between the allied commanders.
It meant Bernard knew when the war was going well and when it was going badly. He even knew when the conflict was about to end but could tell nobody other than his superior officer. Even his parents had no idea what his top-secret job entailed.
What Bernard’s young audience didn’t realise was that after the war he continued serving his country and his community in roles that were, in their own way, just as remarkable and he hasn’t finished yet.
Six decades of voluntary and charity work have seen him continuing to provide inspiration to generations of people in his adopted hometown of Crewe where he moved to work on the railways after leaving the RAF.
A keen sportsman, he helped out at Crewe Alexandra football club for 68 years and became a familiar face manning the turnstiles.
In his nineties this amazing man continues to be an enthusiastic cyclist. Encouraging others to follow his lead is another of his volunteer activities.
But his passion is passing on his wartime experiences, all those stories he wasn’t allowed to tell for so many years, to new generations.
“It’s important that what my generation went through isn’t forgotten” he says, quickly adding that the response and interest he gets from cadet groups and schools keeps him young.
What a character. Inspirational is exactly the right word to choose.
Culled from ITV.