This guest story by Major (Retired) Eddie McMahon TD continues our series commemorating D-Day.
"Cyril Lancelot Askew enlisted with the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment in 1935 and served in the Second World War. Unusually, he served on both the Eastern and Western fronts. His service is described in an earlier story and in a temporar D-Day display at the Museum of Liverpool.
Cyril proudly wearing his Legion of Honour medal above his Second World War campaign medals. Image courtesy of the King’s Regiment Association.
I first met Sergeant Cyril Askew in 1975, while I was still serving with the King’s, before I became involved with the Regimental Association. I was intrigued by this interesting man kitted out in his Corps of Commissioners uniform, proudly wearing his medal ribbons. The Corps was set up to help ex-servicemen into employment after demobilisation and Cyril had welcomed people at many of Liverpool’s amazing buildings, including the Three Graces and The Liverpool Empire.
I listened to him talk about patrolling the dangerous Khyber Pass territory in India, or coming under heavy German fire in the weeks after D-Day while pushing inland. I remember him telling me about being upset when he was transferred to the Lincolnshire Regiment for the D-Day landings, and how he kept getting into trouble for continuing to wear his King’s Regiment cap and badge. Finally after another telling off from the Regimental Sergeant Major, he decided to obey orders and wear the correct cap, but being Cyril, he made sure he kept his Kingo badge with him in his backpack the whole time he was in France. Cyril could tell a great story and I loved his sense of humour.
Cyril photographed in India, shortly after he enlisted. Image courtesy of the Askew Family.
Over the years, we would sit together in the bar at Townsend Avenue Barracks after the Remembrance Sunday services and I learned a lot about his life in the Kingos. Later, when Cyril was a bit wobbly on his feet, he still insisted on attending the ceremony and I would collect him, so he could pay his respects.
In his later years Cyril moved in to the Woodlands Care Home in Southport and became a firm favourite. He is fondly remembered by staff as a kind gentleman with a mischievous sense of humour. In August 2017 we celebrated Cyril’s 100th birthday with a garden party at the Care Home with his wife Mary and their three children. It is a measure of the respect that Cyril commanded that the party was also attended by many people from the Armed Forces, and members of the civic community. Of course Cyril was made-up with his telegram from the Queen.
Later that year, Cyril was one of many surviving British D-Day Veterans awarded the Legion of Honour by the French Government; a thank you for their part in the landings in 1944. The Association proudly stood beside him when Cyril received the award from the Mayor of Sefton at Bootle Town Hall.
Sadly Cyril passed away in October 2018 aged 101. I had the duty of delivering his eulogy, a difficult task given how much this proud, distinguished, kind, funny man had achieved in his life. On 6 June as we commemorated the anniversary of D-Day and Operation Overlord, my thoughts and the thoughts of my fellow Association members turned to Cyril and his Comrades and their actions 75 years ago."
"At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them."
Cyril receiving his Legion of Honour from the Mayor of Sefton at Bootle Town Hall. Image courtesy of the King’s Regiment Association.