John Brunel Cohen OBE DL’s father, Major Sir Benn Jack Brunel Cohen KBE, who lost both legs on 31 July 1917, the opening day of Passchendaele during the Great War, was the founding chairman of the Not Forgotten Association. Sir Benn went on to become a Conservative Party politician and campaigner on behalf of disabled people. He was MP for Liverpool Fairfield for 13 years from 1918 to 1931 and his son John, now aged 93, followed in his footsteps and will be part of the 10,000 strong Cenotaph Parade this morning. John is also a past Chairman of the Not Forgotten Association, a Royal Marine D-Day veteran and is currently one of the NFA’s Vice Presidents.
On 6 June, 1944, the 93-year-old was a Royal Marine Lieutenant in charge of a number of LCM (Landing Craft Mechanised) that were used on Juno Beach. And last year on 6 June, he attended the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings which saw 156,000 Allied troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Free France and Norway begin the liberation of France which eventually helped lead to the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Last night, he addressed the 60-strong troops who will be part of the NFA’s contingent in today’s Remembrance Day parade and he told the Bulletin that today is a day they all look forward to. However, before that, he was keen to point out that he has known the Daily Bulletin for many years.
"I’ve known your paper virtually from the start. A good friend of mine many years ago built the first villa in Puerto Andratx near the yacht club, and I came out to the island every year for 40 years. Then there was a break, but we returned last year to near Pollensa. I love the island," he said. "And we are all so pleased with the relationship the island has developed with the NFA," he added.
The Bulletin for the past five years has been actively involved in helping bring groups of wounded war veterans and their partners out for a week’s holiday to give them a change of scene and get them away from their routines of rehabilitation etc, and this year, a group of wounded vets began their training for a charity climb of Mount Kilimanjaro on the island. All but two made it last month.
"These events and expeditions are vitally important for the men and women," John explained. "While we do our very best to make sure that these fine men and women are not forgotten once they leave the forces having been wounded, be it physically or mentally, we also make sure that they keep active and we do everything we can to organise as many events as we can. Many of them are active challenges because that is what most of those who can, enjoy. But we also look after those ex-servicemen and women on pensions, we provide TVs, whatever is needed, and I am glad to say that the association is very popular at the moment and financially we are in good shape and able to pretty much achieve our goals every year. It certainly was not like that when I was chairman, we struggled for funding, but at the moment, we are enjoying a great deal of support.
"A few years back, there did seem to be a bit of apathy towards the armed forces. However, over the past few years, on Remembrance Day, we have noticed the number of the general public coming out to support us grow significantly. And that is extremely uplifting. I think last year the crowd was a good fifteen deep and they applauded for the entire parade, and that’s about three hours. But it’s great for all of us on parade, whatever our age, and when we get back to Horse Guards Hotel for lunch, their is a great sense of relief but also satisfaction that we have done our job, completed our mission for another year," John, who this year will have to be on parade in a wheelchair, said.
"Before there is always a great sense of anxiety that something may go wrong, but once we see the pubic and their response, it makes one so proud to have served one’s country and we hope people do not forget that."