Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

War Veteran (94) Tells Pupils of His Exploits

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

War Veteran (94) Tells Pupils of His Exploits

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Lognonne Education reporter ruth.lognonne@ncjmedia.co.uk

A WAR hero who helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp in 1945 has enthralled pupils at a Jewish school on Tyneside.

Dickie Atkinson, of the Durham Light Infantry, spent three hours at Gateshead Jewish Primary School, in Bensham, talking to around 40 Year 4 pupils about his first-hand experience of the Second World War.

The 94-year-old, who now lives at Whitley Bay, fought at Dunkirk, D-Day, Sicily and the battle of El Alamein, which was fought in the deserts of North Africa.

He was also part of the British-Canadian unit that famously liberated Bergen Belsen in April, 1945.

When British and Canadian troops entered the camp they found over 13,000 unburied bodies and around 60,000 inmates, sick and starving.

The prisoners, many of whom were Jewish, had been without food or water for days before the allied arrival.

When Private Atkinson paid a visit to the Gateshead school, hundreds of pupils formed a guard of honour and gave him a hero's welcome.

Dovid Katz, administrator at Gateshead Jewish Primary School, said every child in the school wanted to show their appreciation for what Private Atkinson had done during the war years.

"We were very honoured to have such an esteemed visitor come to us," he said. "The children wanted to show their appreciation for everything he had done during the Second World War and so they formed a guard of honour as he walked into school.

"The Jewish community is proud to be British and we are proud to belong to this region.

"Dickie brought what the children had been learning to life and he brought something none of the teachers could have done. The children were enthralled and have been asking when he's coming back.

"He is articulate and his memory is as sharp as a needle. He knows all the dates of when everything happened. He was wounded four times and was involved in a lot of fighting.

"It's the first time we've had a war veteran in school and the children were so proud and grateful for him being there. …

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