One Chapel-en-le-Frith war hero tells of life on the front line

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After joining the army on his 21st birthday, one Chapel man reflects on his time in the Second World War.

Derek Eley, 98, was told by a spiritualist in 1937 that she could see him in a military uniform, but he also had a guardian angel looking over him.

He said: “Throughout the war I was so lucky, I never got any life-changing injuries and I’m still here to tell the tale today, so maybe someone was watching out for me.”

The colour sergeant, who was honoured with a British Empire Medal by King George VI for his work in the Mediterranean, signed up in May 1939 as part of the Sherwood Foresters regiment.

He received the blue letter calling him to war one Friday in September 1939.

After arriving in France at the end of the year he was told to get in a truck which would take him to his station point.

“They said it could take 40 men or eight horses,” he explained. “I just wish I had taken a clothes peg with me as it still smelt like horses when we got in!”

For two months nothing happened as the Maginot line and the Siegfried line of allied and German troops were in stalemate.

Derek recalls: “One time the church bells started going off and we thought, this is it.

“However, the man who rang the bells had got stuck in the ropes so it was just a false alarm!”

Derek’s military career took him to Palestine, Italy and Egypt - he had separated from his regiment after returning to England for a small operation.

The massive Derby County Football Club supporter said that when he was travelling out to Singapore to rejoin the Foresters he got word most of them had been captured.

The battalion started out with 901 men, and by 1945 when peace was declared only 456 had returned.

Since being discharged on December 23, 1945, Derek joined the Chapel branch of the Royal British Legion, and is currently their president .

The father-of-two added: “I am one of the fortunate ones who were able to walk away from the war unharmed. I am one of millions and nothing special I was just fighting for my country.”