Tributes to former firefighter and war hero George Stokes after death aged 100
Tributes have been paid to a 100-year-old former firefighter and war hero who died after catching coronavirus.
George Stokes, from Bloxwich, died on April 29 at Walsall Manor Hospital after contracting the virus.
Firefighters turned out at Walsall Fire Station in full uniform at his funeral to honour the hero, who received the Legion D'honneur for his actions in Normandy
Mr Stokes, who went to Elmore Green School, joined the 5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment in 1939 and was posted to France.
The sergeant was later transferred to the Gordon Highlanders tank battalion, tasked with protecting allies as they advanced into Belgium and Holland.
The veteran also survived his tank blowing up, landing comfortably while others were badly wounded.
It led to him taking seven days off to deal with the shock before he returned to service.
His actions led him to be awarded France's highest honour in 2016.
Family friend John Cavill said: "I work as builder and I went to do a job for him and we remained best of friends.
"He was always the star of the party and he had all of his faculties about him – he new his football, his cricket, stocks and shares, and was a well-liked chap.
"We got on like a house on fire and he was smashing – you always had a good laugh with him.
"He loved a rib-eye steak and was always chatting to the barmaid or waitress wherever we went. He was a really nice character."
After being demobbed from the service, the war hero joined Walsall Fire Brigade where he met his wife Gwen, who worked on the switchboard.
The pair first met on a double-date to Blackpool and had a son and daughter David and Pat. Mrs Stokes passed away in 2003.
Mr Stokes was in the fire service or 25 years in total and spent the last seven years looking into the causes of fires.
The ex-serviceman was also a member of Fellowship of the Services – a group for ex-servicemen to come together and have a chat.
He and his wife were "very active" with the retirees and hosted a lot of coffee mornings and other events.
After his retirement, the father-of-two worked as an inspector for the Government to ensure buildings were safe.
The veteran was one of four sisters and two brothers and celebrated his milestone birthday on March 13, two days before his actual birthday.
He was joined by 25 friends and family at Calderfields Golf Club for the special occasion.
The funeral service was held at Streetly Crematorium, with numbers limited due to Covid-19.
Mr Cavill, aged 70, arranged the funeral on behalf of the veteran's family. Mr Stokes' son, David, unable to travel back from Canada.
He added: "The vicar was great but with the virus trouble you can only have 10 people, but it was a lovely service.
"And I have to say the fire brigade pulled out all the stops for him. I organised the funeral but when I went down there and told them, they just literally pulled out all the stops.
"They went to town for him."
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