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World War II Spitfire mechanic is spearheading Poppy Appeal in North Wales

A World War Two Spitfire mechanic is spearheading a call to support this year’s Poppy Appeal in North Wales.

Ernest Simmonds, 93, who prepared two of the iconic fighter planes that went over to France on D-Day, lives with his wife of 72 years, Gwyneth, also 93, at Pendine Park’s Hillbury House Care Home in Wrexham.

In the run up to Armistice Day, he has joined forces with care practitioner Louise Parry who is crocheting woollen poppies to raise money for the appeal.

After the war, Ern, as he is known, worked for many years as a crane driver at Brymbo Steelworks and was a stalwart of the Royal British Legion in Brymbo and Llay.

Before moving to the steelworks, he worked at the former Vickers aircraft factory where he met Gwyneth.

The couple have four children, Anne, Vera, Robert and Phillip, five grandchildren, six great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren.

Ern said: “During the war I was in the Fleet Air Arm and worked on Spitfires as a mechanic. I looked after two Spitfires that went over to France on D-Day but I never found out what happened to them.

“I then got posted to Australia with the Fleet Air Arm. I was only a young man. I did six months in the north and six months in the south of Australia. I then ended up in Sri Lanka and then went onto China.

“When I was demobbed I met Gwyneth at the Vickers aircraft factory We were never apart until Gwyneth moved into Hillbury House. Then I moved in and we have our own room. It’s wonderful. We will have been married 73 years soon.”

Daughter Vera, a civil servant, says her dad has always been involved in the Poppy Appeal and was at one time treasurer of the British Legion in Llay as well as being involved in the Llay branch.

She said: “Dad has always been a big supporter of the Poppy Appeal and the work of the Royal British Legion. He even insists our pet dog wears a poppy on its collar.

“As a family we are very proud of dad’s military service. And he always instilled in us the importance of the Poppy Appeal and the work of the British Legion.

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“He’s really pleased Louise Parry, one of the care practitioners here at Hillbury House, is making woollen poppies in support of the appeal.”

Vera added: “The whole family still lives in and around the Wrexham area. Dad was devastated when mum moved into Hillbury House in 2017 but she now has dementia and it just wasn’t possible for her to live at home.

“Dad visited her every day and moved in himself in January of this year. They have a shared room which is just wonderful.

“The first time I walked into Hillbury House, when I was looking for somewhere for mum, I knew it was just right. It’s so homely and the staff are amazing. It was perfect. Now dad has moved in and they are together it’s perfect.

“We had a wonderful family party at Hillbury House with mum and dad last year to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary, it was a really lovely occasion.

“Dad will be wearing his poppy with pride and will make sure we all do the same. He is an honorary lifelong member of the Royal British Legion. It’s always been something really important to him.”

Practitioner Louise Parry’s poppies

Care practitioner Louise Parry said: “It’s lovely having the connection with Ernest and Gwyneth. Ernest is clearly very proud of his military service and rightly so.

“Each poppy takes around 20 minutes to crochet. I have them on display at Hillbury House and people can take onE for a donation to the Appeal. I’ve also been making them for the parish church too.”

“I made some last year and as a result this year I have been inundated with requests for more. I’m just pleased people like them and whatever money is raised then it can only be a good thing.”

Hillbury manager Cindy Clutton said: Ernest and Gwyneth are a lovely couple and we are proud that they now call Hillbury Home.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Ernest for his service during World War Two and it is wonderful that he is still showing us a good example through his support for the Poppy Appeal.”

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