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Tributes to D-Day veteran who 'taught peace' to children

By Paul Heaney
BBC News

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media captionD-Day veteran "taught peace" to children

Tributes have been paid to a D-Day veteran who spent decades teaching "peace and reconciliation" to children in France and Wales.

David Edwards, 95, had a French school named after him for his work promoting peace and understanding.

Mr Edwards died at home in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, leaving Diane, his wife of more than 70 years.

One of his sons, Chris, described him as his "hero" and vowed to continue his work with schools.

"Dad always said 'freedom' was a very powerful word, but the first four letters - free - is a bit of a misnomer, because he said freedom will always cost," he said.

Caroline de Pechy, a head teacher from Normandy, first met Mr Edwards in the summer of 2000, when her new school in Mondrainville, near Caen, was named after the Normandy veteran and fellow ex-soldier Tom Griffiths.

How a photograph led to a four-decade friendship

image captionThe photograph of the house sparked a four-decade friendship

His link to the village stretched back decades - to a photo in the rubble of a farmhouse, just after D-Day in 1944.

Mr Edwards had signed up at 19 and joined 2nd battalion Monmouthshire Regiment, 53rd Welsh Division, and was one of thousands who fought to liberate France.

Sheltering in a ruined building, he spotted a photograph among the devastation.

"I just picked it up and kept it, you know as a kind of souvenir of the war, something to remember the place by," he said in 2014.

He was wounded in 1944, but returned back to his unit to fight through into the Netherlands and Germany, and was later sent as part of a peace-keeping force to the former Yugoslavia, before returning to Abergavenny in 1946.

After a 30-year career in the police force, Mr Edwards retired and went back to Normandy with Mr Griffiths for the 40th anniversary of D-Day.

The pair decided to try to find the house in the photo - and villager Jean-Louis le Goffe recognised it as his family's home.

It led to a four-decade friendship between the men, the village and the local school.

'A beautiful soul'

image copyrightCaroline de Pechy
image captionCaroline de Pechy and David Edwards at one of his many visits to the school

Mr Edwards would regularly come back to speak to the pupils about his time fighting to liberate their country.

Ms de Pechy, head teacher of the Edwards-Griffiths school, said: "I hope that in his heart, every single smile on our pupils' faces lightened the weight of the sacrifice they made.

"He was a beautiful soul and no doubt a great man - he leaves a legacy of tolerance and I think his legacy continues for many, many years."

Wayne Jones, head of Llanyrafon Primary school in Torfaen, where Mr Edwards also gave talks to pupils, said: "David spoke about peace and reconciliation as much as the events of those dark days of the war.

"David was, quite simply, a hero and - at the same time as we send our deepest condolences to his family - we also celebrate the life of an exceptional man."

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