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Stand united during coronavirus crisis, urges Omagh war hero Bob Lingwood who is aged 101

Veteran who fought Nazis says: we'll get through this

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Bob Lingwood has urged the public to stick together during the current crisis

Bob Lingwood has urged the public to stick together during the current crisis

Bob Lingwood has urged the public to stick together during the current crisis

A 101-year-old war hero from Omagh who escaped from the Nazis during the Second World War has come out fighting against the Coronavirus with an impassioned rallying call to people in Northern Ireland to stand together to beat the disease.

Wheelchair-bound Bob Lingwood, who admitted that the virus is a more frightening enemy than Hitler, said: "With the help of God, we will come all through this."

Bob, who has gone into isolation in his home along with his 69-year-old daughter, Denise, added: "We can overcome the disease. Human nature is a wonderful thing and if we all work together and put aside our differences, particularly in Parliament and in the Assembly, we can win the day."

Bob's positivity has been an inspiration to everyone who knows him in Tyrone.

He explained: "Every morning when I wake up, I say to myself, 'That's another day nearer the end of the coronavirus'.

"That day will dawn. People are strong and when push comes to shove, we all do support each other in the main."

Bob, who received the British Empire Medal in 2018 for his charity work, mainly on behalf of people with disabilities, was an award-winning gardener and runner in his time.

He has reluctantly had to take a step back from the remarkable range of organisations which he helps. They include a churches group, a gardening society, the Royal British Legion and Probus, an organisation for retired business people.

He added: "Yes, I suppose you could say that I keep busy. Indeed I only stopped going to meetings last week because of the virus which halted all the gatherings.

"I will miss a lot of friends, but I know the societies will return."

Bob has no intention of cutting himself off completely from his wide circle of friends and contacts, isolation or no isolation.

Indeed Bob and daughter, Denise, who lives with him, are already part of a vital welfare lifeline for people who might be in need.

Denise said: "We have drawn up a list of names and we will be ringing around people on it regularly to make sure they are okay."

Her father also urged people to reach out the hand of friendship to their neighbours, even if they do not know them particularly well.

"Just make sure they're alright. That's the main thing," said Bob, who was born in London, but has spent more than half of his life in Northern Ireland which, he added, he was now proud to call home.

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Bob Lingwood has urged the public to stick together during the current crisis

Bob Lingwood has urged the public to stick together during the current crisis

Bob Lingwood has urged the public to stick together during the current crisis

Friends and carers are also looking out for Bob, who said: "We have brilliant carers who come in three times a day and it's a great reassurance to know they are there.

"Another lady has been doing our shopping for us. And that's a great relief, too."

Ironically, Denise put her back out when she was unloading groceries from the boot of a car recently, though Bob stressed it was not panic buying she was bringing home.

"I can't stand the stockpiling. If people didn't do it, there would be plenty to go around," said Bob, who added that he had no real worries about what the virus could mean for him.

"We are complying with all the requirements about washing our hands and so on and I am having to stay indoors because I am 101.

"But I am feeling pretty good really. And I like to think if I got the virus, I might have a fair chance."

But Bob, who was born just weeks before the end of the First World War, said the coronavirus which is spreading at breakneck speed around the world was a "terrible, terrible thing". "I went through World War Two and I don't think I was ever frightened, but this is scary," added Bob, who served with the Royal Signals during the Second World War and was captured in Belgium, but managed to escape under fire from his Nazi captors.

Bizarrely, Bob was held for four days by the British after he reached their lines because they thought he was a German spy and his detention made him one of the few soldiers ever to be arrested by both sides of the war on the same day.

Later on, Bob was injured as he tried to clamber on board a boat at Dunkirk, but he recovered and in recognition of his wartime efforts, he was presented with the Military Medal by King George the sixth at Buckingham Palace.

Shortly afterwards, he was sent to serve in Northern Ireland, where in Lisburn he met his future wife, Emma, whom he married two years later.

Bob and Denise have been trying to draw up a schedule to keep themselves occupied.

"We'll play cards and also take the opportunity to de-clutter the house," said Denise, who described her dad as "a great, great man" who set up a shoe company in Omagh and who has led Armistice Day parades in the town.

But another drawback of the coronavirus shutdowns for Bob has been of a sporting nature because the lifelong Chelsea fan will not be able to follow the fortunes of his favourite team.

Bob, who was brought up a mile from Stamford Bridge, once played for Chelsea Schoolboys and was a ball boy at the senior team's big games in his youth.

"The Blues will eventually be back in action, too," he added.

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