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Rushmere war veteran who went behind enemy lines to protect Britain honoured with medal

PUBLISHED: 16:13 02 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:08 02 October 2017

Sonny with his medal.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Sonny with his medal. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The outstanding bravery of a 96-year-old Ipswich man selected to join a secret unit formed by Winston Churchill during the Second World War has been honoured by the Norwegian government.

Sonny with Norway's Defence Attache to the UK and Ireland, Colonel John Andreas Olsen.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Sonny with Norway's Defence Attache to the UK and Ireland, Colonel John Andreas Olsen. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Charles ‘Sonny’ Wright, who lives in Rushmere St Andrew, was presented with a prestigious war medal and awarded a diploma from the Government of Norway at a special ceremony attended by representatives from the Norwegian Embassy today.

Joined by his children Marion Thoresen, John Wright, Clive Wright and granddaughter Solveig Rosenquest, Sonny – who had originally been in the medical corps – was rewarded for his “outstanding” bravery.

Now 96, Sonny began his military career early – joining the 161 field ambulance unit when he was 15, saying that he was 17.

Months after the outbreak of war, he was picked to join a secret unit formed by Winston Churchill to go behind enemy lines in Russia.

96-year-old war veteran Charles 'Sonny' Wright with all his family. From left to right: Christopher Wright (grandson), Clive Wright (son), Selina Rosenquest (great granddaughter), John Wright (son), Marion Thoresen (daughter), Solveig Rosenquest (granddaughter), Kaitlyn Thoresen Garcia (great-granddaughter) and John Thoresen (grandson).
 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN 96-year-old war veteran Charles 'Sonny' Wright with all his family. From left to right: Christopher Wright (grandson), Clive Wright (son), Selina Rosenquest (great granddaughter), John Wright (son), Marion Thoresen (daughter), Solveig Rosenquest (granddaughter), Kaitlyn Thoresen Garcia (great-granddaughter) and John Thoresen (grandson). Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

He said: “The conditions were very tough, there was a lot of snow and it was bitterly cold.”

Tasked with special operations in helping the Norwegians, he and his fellow soldiers battled through the snow and climbed mountains before being shipped back to Britain.

From there he travelled to mainland Europe, fighting the Germans and Italians during the Siege of Malta from 1940 onwards.

But he found himself a Prisoner of War when his squadron landed in Leros, a small Greek island.

Sonny's medal.    Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Sonny's medal. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Sonny added: “We were captured in Leros – we actually helped the wounded German soldiers who had been shot at from below as they parachuted in.

“What happened was we spent 13 days travelling to Germany on the railway, we went through Albania and then Hungary and ended up there.”

Dozens of people turned out to honour the 96-year-old, who has been a treasured part of the Rushmere community for several years, at the parish’s baptist church today.

Friends, family members and long-term supporters were among the guests, who listened to stories read out by Sonny himself and his granddaughter.

Presenting Sonny with his medal was the Norwegian Embassy’s Defence Attache to the UK and Ireland, Colonel John Andreas Olsen.

He said: “I am privileged to honour Sonny for his contribution. He risked his life and showed outstanding bravery.”

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