Remembrance @St Cuthbert’s. Laurie Cummings, a former sergeant in the DLI and well known retired Durham sports shop owner, lays a wreath in our Memory Garden.
Laurie Cummings, of Neville’s Cross, who is 90 and who 70 years ago, was in the hellishly bloody, months-long Battle of Monte Cassino which claimed tens of thousands of Allied casualties. Laurie was a sergeant in the DLI (Durham Light Infantry). You may also remember him as the owner of Cummings’ Sports Outfitters on Elvet Bridge in Durham. He set up in business in 1947, using the money he got from the army when he was demobbed. The shop eventually closed in 1989.
As he spoke today to the Journal, the Northern Echo and Tyne Tees TV, he was wearing his medals. But he told the reporters: “I’m not wearing these for me. I am wearing them for my mates.”
He said he only wore his medals once a year – at Remembrance time. He was honoured to lay a wreath for his mates. But he felt unworthy. He recalled his pals being killed and wounded in front of him.
We invited the Chairman of Durham County Council, John Robinson, whose own father, George also fought in the DLI at Monte Cassino to meet Laurie.
Laurie, who managed to run his business despite losing hearing when a shell landed close to him during the war, said: “Of course I am honoured to be asked.
“What I felt as I laid the wreath was personal. My mates – they are dead. The lot of them. That’s the feeling.” He was fighting his emotions. He had transported himself back to 1944. “I go back. Like that!” He waved his hand quickly.
“I don’t know I’m the only one that’s left – I might be. And has a wife living.”
Wife Joan, who we asked to lay a wreath on behalf of the hospice, said the two of them considered St Cuthbert’s Hospice “a great place.”
Laurie said “I can’t praise the hospice enough.” He said his coming here each Monday helped Joan too.
And reflecting on the day, an amused Joan said: “He’s kissed more girls than is normal.
“Shocking behaviour, mother,” joked son Philip.
“No, it’s natural behaviour for him because he loves kissing girls!”
And ninety year old Joan, possibly speaking for her bright but today, moist-eyed husband, added: “I’ve enjoyed my life. Everything’s been wonderful. I have four beautiful children – what more could you ask for. I’ve got ten great grandchildren and we’re not even dead yet!”