DOZENS of mourners gathered in Tonge Fold to pay tribute to Bolton war hero Ernie Tonge.

Friends, relatives and fellow former members of the Parachute Regiment of the British Army flocked to St Chad Church in Longworth Street to pay their respects to Mr Tonge.

The 95-year-old died on May 1 at his home in Dunstan Street where he lived for his whole life after being born two doors down on December 30, 1918.

His daughters Jean Leach, Christine Fitton and Lynn Farrell led the mourners at the service.

Army standard bearers stood on each side of the church during the service with a bugle call sounded as Mr Tonge, below, was commemorated.

Reverend Steve Whiting said: “This is a day when we say farewell to Ernie.

“He was a much-loved father, grandfather and great-grandfather.”

Mr Tonge went to Tonge Fold Secondary School and worked as a leather worker and chauffeur for William Walker’s Tannery.

During the war, he survived being shot in the neck as well as landing in the midst of a German patrol in France.

Mr Whiting added: “All that I have heard about Ernie indicates that he became a real gem of a man. I’m told that he had several sayings including, and this is my favourite — ‘I’ve got a wife, three daughters, the dog’s a bitch and the budgie’s a hen, what chance have I got?’.”

Ian Taylor, a friend and fellow former member of the Parachute Regiment, gave the first reading, with Mr Tonge’s son-in-law Ian Leach, husband of daughter Jean, giving the second.

The organ played wartime classic We’ll Meet Again, by Vera Lynn, as the service finished. Private Tonge landed in Ranville in northern France during the war and his 13th battalion of the Parachute Regiment played a pivotal role in the Normandy Landings.

He leaves behind Jean, Lynn and Christine, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

His wife of 59 years, Nellie, died in 2003. Mr Tonge was later laid to rest at Tonge Cemetery.