Yorkshire veteran, 101, tells William and Kate about 'secret' Churchill messages

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were amused by stories of Churchill’s “secret” birthday message to his son when they chatted to a 101-year-old Yorkshire-born Second World War veteran about his memories.

William and Kate made a video call on Wednesday to residents of an East Sussex care home to listen to them reminisce about the day the war ended in Europe on May 8 1945.

William praised the efforts of the wartime generation, and told them: “Because we can’t be together, everyone’s still thinking of you all today, and are very proud of everything you’ve all achieved.”

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Kate revealed Prince George and Princess Charlotte have been asked by their teachers to learn Dame Vera Lynn’s famous wartime anthem.

The Duchess of Cambridge in Yorkshire. Picture: Simon Hulme.

The residents had started their VE Day anniversary celebrations early, and when the royal couple asked what they would do when the Covid-19 outbreak was over, the sprightly group said they would hold VC Day - “Victory over Coronavirus”.

With a glass of bubbly nearby, Charles Ward, the oldest resident at Mais House, a Royal British Legion care home in Bexhill-on-Sea, joked about how he served tots of rum to fellow servicemen on VE Day.

“We were in Greece at the time, and I had to go round early in the morning with rum for all the men,” he said with a laugh.

William replied: “I bet you were the hero of the time there Charles, delivering rum out to everybody.”

Mr Ward, aged 101, had a varied military career during the war and, after first being called up into the London Irish Rifles, he later served in North Africa before joining the Special

Operations Executive to encrypt, or cipher, messages from British agents parachuted into France and Italy.

The veteran, from South Kirkby in Yorkshire, told the Cambridges about working on “secret” messages from wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill.

He said: “The message came from Churchill, I had to decipher it, re-encipher it and send it to his son in Yugoslavia to say, ‘Happy Birthday’. And then there was another one from the son to Churchill himself to say congratulations on your speech in Parliament. When I told William and Kate that story, they giggled.”

Various members of the royal family have this week spoken to veterans.