Tributes paid to Chapel-en-le-Frith war hero who has died aged 103

Tributes have been paid to a well known Chapel-en-le-Frith man after his death at the age of 103.

War veteran Derek Eley was highly regarded in the town, having been a founder of Chapel Football Club, the President of the Royal British Legion branch, and a keen supporter of Chapel Mobile Physio.

He died on Friday, August 13, leaving people in the town mourning one of its most popular residents.

Speaking to the Buxton Advertiser his son, Dr Robert Eley, who lives in Brisbane, Australia, has thanked the community for their support at this difficult time.

President of the Chapel branch of the Royal British Legion, Derek Eley, who has died aged 103

He said: “My dad had four loves; Chapel, football, the legion and people. He loved talking to people, holding court and chatting away.

"There have been so many messages, emails and phone calls since his death which shows just how loved he was by everyone who met him – no one had a bad word to say against him.”

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Derek was born in Matlock, on November 18, 1917 but soon moved to Chapel.

Derek Eley had a street named after him on a housing estate in Chapel-en-le-Frith

After leaving New Mills Grammar School he started working at Ferodo and was one of 40 employees who joined the Territorial Army in 1939. However, two days after the outbreak of war he joined the 2/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters with the TA and headed off to France.

Derek’s military career took him to Palestine, Italy and Egypt and he was discharged in 1945 as a colour sergeant having also been part of the 51st Highland Division.

He was awarded the British Empire Medal by King George VI for his work in the Mediterranean in 1946.

Derek had two children, Janet and Robert with his first wife, but after that marriage broke down, he later married second wife Mary in the 1970s.

Derek Eley

Robert, who as a medical researcher has lived overseas since 1973, said: “Dad and I lived very different lives but always spoke regularly at least every two weeks.

"I spoke to him six days before he died – his body was old and tired but his mind was still so sharp and we chatted and put the world to rights.

"He has been so supported by the community, by Derby County his football team, and has even had a street named after him which is an honour only given to most after they die but he got to see it happen and saw how much he meant to people.”

Sally Tideswell, secretary for the Chapel branch of the Royal British Legion, added: “He wasn’t a colleague, he was a friend to all and the head of our legion family.

"He will be so missed by everyone.

"He has been selling poppies for the legion since he left the war and for 20 years he’s been the familiar face in Morrisons so this year is going to be tough without him for a lot of people who have never known Chapel without him."

Derek’s funeral will take place on Friday September 10 when a horse drawn carriage will pass through the streets at 12.30pm before the military funeral service at 1pm at Town End Methodist Church. The service will be live streamed and played on speakers outside as there is still a limit on numbers due to the pandemic.

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