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Popular WW2 veteran in Swanley Village makes final journey in a wheelbarrow

By Daniel Green

Michael Rooke jokingly said to his father, Eric, a Second World War veteran who fought at Dunkirk, that when he died, his body should be taken from the village pub to his grave in a wheelbarrow.

The 96-year-old, who was born in Swanley Village and died at his home in Swanley Village Road, loved his local, the Red Lion, so much, he had his own personal armchair there.

And so, in his will he requested that his body be taken away just as his 70-year-old son had suggested.

Eric Rooke's order of service. (Front)
Eric Rooke's order of service. (Front)

Mr Rooke told Michael: “I wouldn’t mind, but leave the top of the coffin off so I can see where I’m going.”

The “Eric-esque humour,” as St Paul’s Church’s vicar Steve Browning described it, was one of the many reasons the whole village came to a standstill on Thursday at 11.30am to pay their respects to the avid Manchester United fan as his coffin was pushed from the pub to the church, with a Union Flag draped over it.

Mr Browning paid tribute to Mr Rooke – an honourable member of the Cerberus Motor Cycle Club as he was always there when meetings were held at the pub – at his funeral at the church, which was packed with around 200 people.

Funeral of 96 year old Dunkirk veteran Eric Rooke Procession from the Red Lion to St Paul's Church.
Funeral of 96 year old Dunkirk veteran Eric Rooke Procession from the Red Lion to St Paul's Church.

He said: “Being of the war generation, he was called up to do his bit for Queen and country. He worked hard for his family.

“Eric’s own health was excellent, except he lost his ability to remember names which meant he didn’t go anywhere without his trusty notebook.

“A lovely and generous man, he was friendly, talkative and laughed in his own Eric-esque way with a deep sense of humour.

“He was a Swanley man through and through, whose death we will mourn but life we will celebrate.”

Funeral of 96 year old Dunkirk veteran Eric Rooke Procession from the Red Lion to St Paul's Church.
Funeral of 96 year old Dunkirk veteran Eric Rooke Procession from the Red Lion to St Paul's Church.

Hymns sung were Abide With Me and Jerusalem while Henry Scott Holland’s poem, All Is Well, was read out by Mr Browning.

Last Post was then sounded before Mr Rooke’s coffin was carried out of the church.

When Mr Rooke was young he went to St Paul’s Primary School before leaving at the age of 14 to work on a farm.

Before he went off to war, Mr Rooke met Edith Duhig who he married in 1942, in the church where his funeral was held.

He then worked for the Southern Eastern Electric board for 38 years before retiring and spending his days watching village teams play football or in the Red Lion, where he was fed each evening.

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