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  • Mark Forsdike

Cecil Deller

On the day after Boxing Day, I received the hugely sad news that Suffolk Regiment veteran, Cecil Deller, had passed away peacefully, aged 98.

Cecil was called up in late 1943 and joined 1/Suffolk as a reinforcement in July 1944 at Sanneville and baring a slight wound at Venray, he served right through until Bremen where just before VE-Day, he caught jaundice and had to be invalided to a hospital in Brussels by air. After he recuperated, he was sent to join the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in Palestine until he was demobbed in May 1946.

Cecil was a man whom one could really only describe as ‘quiet.’ He shunned publicity at every level refusing to be filmed or interviewed as to his wartime service, despite several recent offers.

In 2016, Cecil came on a tour I organised to Holland along with his son and daughter-in-law, but in 2019, when they were unable to come with him, he asked if I’d take him back. At 93 years old, I think it was a watershed moment for him to finally close the door on that chapter of his life and I felt privileged that I was the one he chose to accompany him.

Myself and my good friend Steve spent almost a week touring his old battlefields and attending ceremonies where he was the guest of honour. He confided much to us of his wartime service that he had not spoken of to others and being able to jog his memory with a place or a name, led to an reminiscence from the past and a story that we had not heard previously.

I had sat with him on many occasions and had recorded several hours of interviews, but I feel it was that final trip to Holland where he paid his respects to his old chum buried in Venray, that yielded so many reminiscences. I feel he had laid that ghost to rest.

Cecil was a modest and very self-effacing man, who very much shunned publicity. I remember in 2019 when he was given a standing ovation at Hamont, he turned and said to me “I don’t know what all the fuss is about” I said to him on the ferry home that he was a hero to them; the last living link to their war, and the  very last of their liberators from 1944.

When I visited him, he always served me tea in a cup and saucer, made from a teapot that we usually drank dry and he latterly, he used to refer to me ‘mate.’ Quite often he would say do you remember when…’ speaking to me like a fellow veteran who had been there with him at the time; an honour perhaps I never fully appreciated until I played back the interview tapes last night and realised just how much of a bond we had.

Farewell, old chum. I will miss you enormously.


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