The man who helped to liberate a Sicilian town

A proud Kenilworth veteran has been thanked for helping to liberate the people of Sicily over 70 years on from his very first wartime beach landing.

Bernard Stone joined the Royal Navy aged just 17 and spent four years bridging communications between ships and soldiers on beach landings during the Second World War.

His journey started on July 10, 1943, when his beach signals unit arrived in Messina.

Now, 71 years on, Kenilworth has friendship links with the town of Roccalumera - less then 20 miles up the Sicilian coast.

As a result, the 91-year-old hero has been praised for his efforts to help liberate their island on the anniversary.

The father of three was presented with a plate and note of thanks from the mayor of Roccalumera, Gaetano Argiroffi, during the most recent visit with the Kenilworth Twinning Association(KTA).

The honour was handed over by KTA social secretary Gino Bonnarigo during a week long visit of 19 residents of the town earlier this month.

Accepting the memento at a ceremony dinner for the two towns, Mr Stone said it brought back all the memories from that very first posting.

Speaking about his time in Sicily, he said: “We landed on the beaches in the morning, I remember it well.

“I was in the first assault and we were under fire as we went into Messina that day.

“Sicily was the first place I was sent and now, all these years later, we have a friendship link with them. It really is quite something.”

“I’ve always joked about how I liberated their town. But this really was a surprise. I was certainly not expecting it.”

Bernard, who now has three sons and two great grandchildren, said it was simply about getting a job done.

“I was just doing my job. It was a war that had to be fought,” he said. “I always think of a hero as someone who does something heroic, but it didn’t feel like that at the time.”

The holiday resort of Roccalumera is the hometown of Mr Bonnarigo, who described the token as the perfect way to cement friendship and praise the efforts of all allied soldiers.

“I have always wanted to give Bernard something and show the importance of what he did,” he said. “And this is an ideal way to do it.”

Bernard who now lives at Faircroft, went on to work at Owen Owen department store in Coventry where he met his wife of now 35 years, Barbara.

They have been actively involved with the KTA for over three decades but ill health means they are unable to visit the Sicilian town.

The association hopes to make a trip to Roccalumera in 2015 and members described the third visit to Kenilworth this month as “excellent”.

To join the KTA, contact the social secretary on 858629.