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WWII vet celebrates 108th birthday with hundreds of cards from strangers

“Donald was completely overwhelmed by the support and number of cards he received."

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Donald Rose on his birthday with members of the Ilkeston Royal British Legion branch who set up the card appeal. (Canal Vue Care Home via SWNS)

By Sophie Watson via SWNS

A World War II veteran has celebrated his 108th birthday surrounded by more than 160 cards from complete strangers following an appeal from a nursing home.

Donald Rose said he felt overwhelmed by the kindness of well-wishers after people from across the whole of the UK sent him a greeting card to mark his milestone.

The Royal British Legion launched an appeal on Facebook to encourage people to send the widower a card to celebrate the occasion and also his achievements during the war.

War hero Donald, a former sniper and Desert Rat who also served with the Queen’s Royal Regiment, was awarded a number of medals during his service.

Donald Rose and Kayleigh Callaghan, head of care at Canal Vue Care Home where he lives. (Canal Vue Care Home via SWNS)

This includes the Legion D'Honneur - France's highest honor and one of the most famous in the world.

The appeal was supported by Canal Vue Care Home, in Ilkeston, Derbys., where Donald lives, and on December 24, he awoke to find 50 cards from generous strangers.

But over the next seven days, cards continued to arrive addressed to the pensioner and by the end of the week, he had received over 160 - including one from King Charles III.

David Rose, 74, Donald’s only child, said he got a lump in his throat when he saw how many cards his dad had received for his 108th birthday.

The former NHS hospital technician from West Hallam, Derbys., said: “My father went through a lot in the war and saw a lot of things we couldn’t even imagine.

The card Donald Rose's got from King Charles for his birthday. (Canal Vue Care Home via SWNS)

“He is the gentlest man you will ever meet and would do anything for anyone.

“Me and my wife Sue, and Donald were so overwhelmed. We didn’t know it was going ahead until the day.

“It was very unexpected and brought a lump to my throat because the gesture was so thoughtful.

“People sent him cards and they didn’t even know him. Even the local Morrisons sent him a card all signed. He also had one from a commander of the Desert Rats.

"My dad has always been a hard-working man. He always worked to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.

"I remember this was especially hard during food rationing in the 1950s, where he used to work 24/7. He is just a gentleman really and deserves this."

Sprightly Donald has lived at the care home since 2020 and has one grandchild and three great-grandchildren.

Some of the cards and balloons addressed to Donald Rose. (Canal Vue Care Home via SWNS).

Before arriving at Canal Vue, he had lived in Westcott, Surrey, with his late wife Jeannette of 55 years before moving to Derbyshire in 2000 when she passed away.

Surrey-born Donald was born on Christmas Eve 1914 and signed up to the British Army in 1939, aged 25.

He served in the Queen’s Royal Regiment, in Guilford, with the 7th Armoured Brigade and fought on the front line during World War Two.

During the conflict, Donald also joined the Eighth Army as a "Desert Rat" under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery in Africa and as part of the liberation of Italy and France.

He also trained to become a sniper and served in North Africa, Italy, France, Normandy, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

After the war ended, Donald was awarded the Legion D'Honneur - France's highest honor medal for his services.

Natalie Summerfield, the activities coordinator at Canal Vue, described Donald as ‘one of a kind'.

The 32-year-old said: “He’s a fantastic, marvelous man and really one of a kind.

“We were all in shock when the cards started flooding in.

“Donald was completely overwhelmed by the support and number of cards he received.

“They came from all over the UK and were coming in so quick and fast.”

Donald Rose with the medals awarded to him after WW2 including the Legion D'Honneur. (Canal Vue Care Home via SWNS)
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On his birthday, Donald’s family, members of the Ilkeston Royal British Legion, Mayor John Sewell, local councilor James Dawson, and members from the Long Eaton Sea Cadets joined in the celebrations at the nursing home.

On Facebook, the Royal British Legion branch in Ilkeston said: “Happy Birthday Donald Rose – 108-years-old today.

“What a great man – he deserves all that heads his way. An extremely brave and caring man throughout his life.”

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