Veterans

Veteran Plans VE Day Walk To Save Original 'Tommy' Club In Flanders

George Sutherland, 98, will walk over two miles in Belgium to raise money for Talbot House.

A 98-year-old war veteran is planning a VE Day charity walk to help save an everyman’s club, originally used by personnel in the First World War.

George Sutherland will walk over two miles from Lijssenthoek military cemetery to Talbot House in Poperinge, near Ypres.

Founded in 1915 by British Army chaplains, the house became a home away from home for half a million personnel and inspired 500 branches to emerge throughout the post-war Commonwealth.

The listed building will host a livestream of the fundraising walk, having closed for the first time since 1944 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The veteran is helping the venue reach target of £100,000 - taking inspiration from Captain Tom Moore, who raised over £32 million for the NHS.

In wartime Talbot House was a space for friends to socialise, write letters home, play piano and pray in the attic chapel.

Mr Sutherland represents the second of four family generations in Poperinge - his father marrying a his mother, a local girl, at the end of the First World War.

Narrowly escaping the German invasion of Belgium in 1940, George made his way to Britain. He returned to the town after joining the RAF in Edinburgh and soon married.

After the Second World War he joined the Commonwealth War Graves Commission after the war - George, his father and his son all having worked at the Lijssenthoek military cemetery.

This VE Day, which has seen a range of adaptations due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Mr Sutherland will make his way from the military cemetery to the house he has continued to visit.

Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Sutherland said:

“I hope I can do it. VE Day is not long now. But I’m fit. I’m not 100 yet you know.”

Members of the public can follow his walk on social media, using the hashtag #WalkWithGeorge. A Talbot House spokesman said: "As the years passed by, George took countless pilgrims and school parties round Lijssenthoek.

“He remains a regular guest at Talbot House and is very keen on the Talbotousians brunch and garden party. 

"Although according to George, the place may look cleaner today, the tea and warm welcome is the same.”

Cover image: George Sutherland  (Picture: Commonwealth War Graves Commission).