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Villagers applaud couple at special VE Day tea party

Mr and Mrs Ashworth celebrate with Westmorland Homecare assistants

An Armed Forces veteran and his wife were greeted with cheers and applause by neighbours at a special VE Day tea party in their honour.

Jeff Ashworth, 93, who lives with his wife Jennie at Emesgate Lane at Silverdale, was able to wear his medals with pride at the event, which was organised by Kendal-based Westmorland Homecare.

Jeff Ashworth displaying his medals

Jeff was called up in 1944 and served during the conflict in Palestine between 1945 and 1947. He had feared that, because of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, last Friday would be a day like any other – and there would be no point wearing his medals as no-one would see them.

But health care assistant Susie Rogers, who works for Westmorland Homecare and regularly visits the couple to help them to continue living independently, had other ideas.

Jennie Ashworth with Westmorland Homecare assistant Susie Rogers

She decided to organise a special VE Day tea party for the couple in their garden. It included a gazebo, Union Jack flags, a vintage tea service, food and music. She set it up with the help of fellow health care assistant Michelle Duckett and other colleagues. Everything was done with strict social distancing rules in place.

“It was fabulous,” said Susie, 43. “The weather was absolutely glorious and the event could not have gone better.

“Jeff looked a little worried when we arrived and I got him to admit that he thought we had gone to too much trouble and he did not deserve it – he was really humble. But I said: ‘It’s just a bit of lunch, Jeff!’

“Jeff was dressed in his best suit and military tie and his medals were pinned on to his blazer jacket. Jennie was wearing her best Sunday skirt.

“All the neighbours had gathered outside – in a socially distanced way – and as they came outside with Glenn Miller music playing, they got a round of applause. They were in complete disbelief. Jennie, who has not been outside for about a year and a half, started to give a bit of a royal wave. It was just phenomenal.”

Food included Spam sandwiches and Susie had been up until 1.30am that morning baking treats, including miniature scones, served with jam and cream, chocolate-dipped shortbread and chocolate cakes. A friend had baked a Victoria sponge and another Westmorland Homecare member of staff brought some banana bread.

Susie explained some local children had drawn VE Day pictures featuring the couple, who married in 1965 and are totally devoted to each other.

Villagers taking their exercise on a nearby footpath cheered and waved from a distance and everyone started dancing to the music.

“It was so nice,” said Susie. “You could feel the positivity in the air.

“Jeff is a man of few words but afterwards he said it had been absolutely wonderful and that he could not believe how much effort people had gone to.”

Mr Ashworth was sent to Palestine in 1945 as a teenager with the 53rd Air Landing Light Regiment Royal Artillery 6th Airborne Division. After leaving the Armed Forces he worked at Heysham Power Station.

He and Jennie, who is also 93, have known each other since they were four years old. They celebrated their golden wedding in 2015. Jennie worked as a social worker rehoming war orphans and then for the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registrar. The couple moved to Silverdale in the 1980s.

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