Tributes have been paid to a World War Two Spitfire mechanic who has died at the age of 93.
Ernest Simmonds, who prepared two of the iconic fighter planes that went over to France on D-Day, lived with his wife of 72 years, Gwyneth, also 93, at Pendine Park’s Hillbury House Care Home in Wrexham.
He passed away after a short illness at Wrexham Maelor Hospital on Monday, December 9, and his funeral will be at Pentrebychan Crematorium at 10am on Monday, December 23.
Earlier this year he spearheaded a call to support the annual Poppy Appeal
In the run up to Armistice Day, he joined forces with care practitioner Louise Parry who crocheted 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 had four children, Anne, Vera, Robert and Phillip, five grandchildren, six great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren.
Hillbury manager Cindy Clutton said: “We were deeply saddened when Ern passed away.
“He was a real life hero who played a vital role in the Second World War and we owe him a great debt for what he and his comrades – many of whom did not come home – did to protect us from the scourge of the Nazis.
“Ern was a brave and thoroughly decent man who will be great missed here at Hillbury, by residents and staff alike.
Speaking in October, 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.”
Like the rest of the family daughter Vera, a civil servant, was heartbroken when Ern passed away but also hugely proud of his role during the war and afterwards.
He had 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.
Vera said: “Dad was always been a big supporter of the Poppy Appeal and the work of the Royal British Legion. He even insisted our pet dog wore 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.
“He was so pleased Louise Parry, one of the care practitioners here at Hillbury House, made woollen poppies in support of the appeal.”
Vera added: “Dad was devastated when mum moved into Hillbury House in 2017 but she 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 had a shared room which was just wonderful.”