Jewish war veteran, 101, receives MBE from the Queen

Jewish war veteran, 101, receives MBE from the Queen

Sunderland-born centenarian Lt. Col. Mordaunt Cohen is 'deeply humbled' to be awarded the honour for services to education

Lieutenant Colonel Mordaunt Cohen receiving his MBE from the Queen
Lieutenant Colonel Mordaunt Cohen receiving his MBE from the Queen

The most senior surviving Jewish officer who served in World War II has received his MBE from Her Majesty The Queen for his services to education.

Sunderland-born centenarian Lt. Col. Mordaunt Cohen said he was “deeply humbled” to have been awarded an MBE for a lifetime teaching in schools across the country about the history and legacy of the war.

“When I was commanding troops many miles from here, in very tough conditions, never did I even imagine that aged 101, I would receive such an honour,” he said when he heard he had been honoured.

“As the years go by, there are less of us around to tell our story. I look forward to continuing to educate as many people as possible in the years ahead, health permitting.”

Cohen said he was “especially proud of the immense contribution made by the 60,000 Jewish soldiers who served our country in World War Two,” adding: “I dedicate this award to the soldiers who didn’t come home.”

Born in August 1916, the oldest of four children, he became a solicitor aged 16 and set up his own practice in Sunderland town centre a year before the war broke out. He soon saw Jewish girls being brought over on Kindertransport and learned from them the great suffering that was going in Europe, so in 1940 he decided to enlist.

He began army life as a gunner but in 1942 he received his commission as an officer and was sent to Nigeria to command mainly Muslim troops. He spoke to them about Obah Ibrahim (Father Abraham) and they referred to him as the “White Muslim.”

In 1943 he went to India then on to Burma, where the fighting against the Japanese was “particularly brutal” in “extreme climatic conditions”. He survived and returned home to military honours, resuming his legal career and life in the north-east.

He got involved in local politics (as a Conservative) and Jewish communal organisations, with leadership positions at the Sunderland Hebrew Congregation and the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen (AJEX).

But it has been his stories of the war that have had the biggest impact, with an educational video about his time fighting the Japanese having been viewed more than 170,000 times.

He said: “It is my mission to make sure that future generations will understand what our armed forces went through, so that we can all live freely and in peace in this country.”

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