Sheffield D-Day veteran dies just weeks after completing age-defying charity challenges
A D-Day veteran from Sheffield has died just weeks after taking part in a series of age-defying charity challenges, aged 94.
Graham Bell, from Handsworth, was just a teenager when he took part in the 1944 Normandy landings, which marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War.
Having survived the ‘longest day’, when he was tasked with shooting down the V1 ‘Doodlebug’ flying bombs, he went on make the most of life.
The former steelworker has raised thousands of pounds for various good causes and was made an MBE for his charity work in 2005.
In 2012, he gained a French degree from the University of Sheffield, and in 2017, he was presented with the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest military distinction.
He completed his first marathon aged 60, was still running the Sheffield 10k in his 90s and only last year completed a fire and glass walk, treading barefoot over red hot embers and razor-sharp broken glass.
During lockdown, the Sheffield United fan emulated fellow veteran Captain Tom’s fundraising exploits by undertaking a triathlon in his garden in aid of Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (SRSB), covering 2.6 miles on a rowing machine, followed by the same distance on an exercise bike and by foot.
The charity today said: “We were devastated to hear the sad news about Graham. He has supported our charity for over 15 years and contributed his time and enthusiasm to several roles at SRSB, as well as to many other charities. But he has also become a friend to many of our staff, clients and other volunteers.
“We will miss his passion, his friendship and his genuine care for others. Graham was relentless in his charity work, he had led such a full life, and was a true inspiration and highly regarded by us all. We will never forget him and have many, many fond memories.”
Graham spent more than three decades working for British Steel in Rotherham after serving in the Royal Navy for four years.
He met his wife Mary, with whom he had three children, Ian, Karen and Fiona, after signing up to a farming scheme for ex-servicemen in Lincolnshire and lodging with her family there.
As he embarked on what would sadly be his last charity challenge, Graham said memorably: “The war lasted six years. This coronavirus, hopefully, will last less than a year.
“Having said all that, I prefer the war – at least I could see the enemy.”
Graham, who had six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, died on Wednesday, June 24 after a short illness.
His family said they were ‘very proud’ of all his achievements, especially his charity work.
“His optimism and positive outlook served him well right to the end of his life,” they added.
Graham Askham, secretary of Sheffield Normandy Veterans Association, said: “He was a remarkable man and a great charity worker, who was still running marathons at a ripe old age. He will be sadly missed.”
Graham’s family have asked for any donations in his memory to be made to St Luke’s Hospice Sheffield.