LOCAL cricket watcher Cyril Elliott is a true survivor.
At the age of 99, Cyril is Treeton Cricket Club's oldest supporter after a life that has seen him survive the Blitz, the Normandy Landings and more recently a nasty fall at home which resulted in him being rushed to hospital.
Now fully recovered, Cyril turns 100 next month and his only regrets are that he won't be able to spend the time watching his beloved Treeton and enjoying a special party organised in his honour.
That will be held at a later date but for now Cyril is keeping safe and well during the lockdown.
“I have been watching Treeton for 11 years. I like the ground, the people and the players; they've got some really good ones,” he says.
“I used to watch Shiregeen and then one day when they were playing Treeton I got talking to (Treeton player) Chris Cobb.
“He invited me down to a match and I've been going ever since.”
Cyril still drives and when Saturdays come around he points his car in the direction of Treeton's Washfield Lane ground or further afield.
“When I can I got away from home to Wath, Elsecar, Whiston, Tickhill and Aston, so long as it's not too far,” he says.
“The pandemic of course means I haven't been able to go to matches and I do miss it. I'd rather watch cricket than namby pamby footballers. They earn too much money.
“I intend going for as long as I can.”
Treeton's Keith Haynes said: “Cyril is a remarkable gentleman who we love seeing down at the ground and long may it last.”
Away from cricket, Cyril is a man with a story to tell, still stored in his amazing memory.
He was just 19 when the Second World War broke out and was working as a blacksmith in the centre of Sheffield at the time of the Blitz, the name given to the worst nights of German Luftwaffe bombing in the city that took place over four harrowing nights in December 1940.
“I was in South Street post office when a landmine dropped,” remembers Cyril.
“I thought, 'I'm out of here,' so I walked up Charles Street and a bomb fell on the corner of The Empire.
“I made my way back down and finished up under the Central Library all night. Eventually, I walked home through The Wicker and I had to find my way through boulders because the Germans had dropped a bomb on the Wicker Arches. I touched some tram wires and I was terrified at that point. I thought they were still live.”
After a spell in the Home Guard, Cyril was called up for active service and of all the options he was given he decided to be a driver.
After learning to drive up and down dales in Derbyshire, he was posted to Bradford, where he met Lilian, his future wife.
They had a son together, John, who turns 71 next month and still lives with Cyril in Wincobank.
The soon-to-be centenarian and lifelong cricket lover is one of the last survivors of the Normandy Landings in June 1944 which led to the liberation of France and laid the foundations for the Allies' Victory on the Western Front.
Cyril's journey towards being part of history came when he was posted to a place near Margate where plans for the landing on the beaches in Normandy were being carefully mapped out.
Soon, Cyril was setting out on the first voyage of his life — and what a voyage.
“Straight away, on the first night, they put me on a watch duty, something I'd never done before,” he says. “It frightened me to death. What a sight! Seeing all those ships going down the channel heading for the beaches. Then we had to wait outside while they got a bridgehead on the beaches but they couldn't get the landing craft close enough to the beach.
“We'd waterproofed all the vital parts of the engine so that the water couldn't get in but the chap in charge of the landing craft said: 'for goodness sake, keep your foot on the accelerator pedal, I can't get close enough into the beach.’
“Then we had to strip all the waterproofing stuff off, otherwise it'd overheat. Eventually, we started advancing. There were loads of people lying about dead.
“Eventually, we got to a place called Vernon, on the River Seine. The engineers built a bridge over the river there; they'd just about got it completed, when it was hit.
“There was a barracks in Vernon where,the French resistance had been rounding up all the young ladies who had been fraternising with the Germans. They tied their hands behind their back and to a chair, and they shaved all their hair off. They were screaming and crying.”
Cyril and his fellow soldiers advanced to Brussels before pressing on through Germany, going through Dusseldorf, Duisburg and right up into Hamburg.
“I'd been driving an open fronted vehicle, no windscreen in it, so I had two coats on and my legs were wrapped up, balaclava round my head. Just after the war had ended I finished up with pneumonia.”
Nearly 20,000 Allied and German soldiers lost their lives in the D-Day Landings.
Cyril was one of the lucky ones and was sent from Hamburg, right back through Germany, Holland, Belgium and into France.
“We got as far as Lille when we were surrounded by the Germans, and the French people were shouting, 'Le borsch finir’,” he says. “From that, we presumed the Germans had surrendered. To this day it remains a miracle that we defeated them. They had superior equipment to ours, tanks, guns, everything.”
After two more years in Germany, Cyril came home to York to be demobbed and settled into family and work life.
Fuelled by his enduring love of life and cricket, Cyril is batting on despite a scare last New Year's Even when he fell halfway down the stairs at home.
His son John was there to help him and after being rushed to the Northern General Hospital, the old soldier recovered only to be stopped in his tracks, like so many others, by the pandemic.
“This coronavirus is more scary to me than chasing the Germans back home,” adds Cyril who, at 99, is aware he is more vulnerable to it than most.
“I'm looking forward to life getting back to normal again and getting out to see some cricket.”