VETERANS and military personnel's family members joined forces over the festive period to enjoy a Christmas lunch with two of the borough's greatest soldiers meeting for the first time.

Armed forces charity Shoulder to Soldier invited the group to the Miller and Carter Restaurant in Lowton which was attended by far east prisoner of war Tom Boardman, 99, from Leigh, and Burma Star veteran Jack Gordon, 94, from Ashton-in-Makerfield.

Tom was serving in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in February 1942 in the far east when his regiment surrendered to the Japanese.

As well as contracting malaria 32 times and shrinking to six stone in weight during his three-year captivity when he was forced to work on the Burma railway, Tom became well-known for playing his ukelele to keep his fellow troop's morales high.

The ukelele is now on displayed at the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester.

Jack served served as a Royal Navy armourer from 1941 to 1945 and his ship, HMS Indomitable, repeatedly came under fire from suicide bombers.

After Japan had been defeated in World War Two, Jack failed to believe his enemies had been defeated as he witnessed how hard they had fought- including the last day, VJ Day- when his ship was attacked.

The pair enjoyed an afternoon of swapping wartime stories with Jack also mentioning to Tom that he may be entitled to another medal which will be followed up by Shoulder to Soldier.

Founder and trustee of Shoulder to Soldier Linda Fisher said: “Spending time with these two greats of World War Two was priceless.

"I have known them both for some years and wanted to introduce them to each other- we owe them so much.

"It was a great get together and everyone had a lovely time.

"Some of our armed forces families find it hard at this time of year so it was a chance to be spoiled and to say thank you for everything that they have sacrificed and done for us."

Charity Forever Manchester provided funding for the meal.

Shoulder to Soldier has also announced three events in the New Year to support its armed forces family.

On Monday January 22, the charity has hired a screen at Leigh Cineworld at 5.30pm to provide entertainment for 113 armed forces family members where they will watch the new Winston Churchill biography The Darkest Hour.

On February 23, there will be a performance of World War Two play Someone's Son at 7pm at Whelley Ex Service Mens Club in Wigan, which is based on a true story when German soldiers were taken to a prisoner of war camp in Leigh.

A hot pot supper will also be served at the event.

Wigan Ukulele Band will be playing at 7pm on March 30 at Culcheth Village Club as well.

For more information about the events and to book tickets contact 07515 892720.

As well as holding drop in-sessions at Tesco in Leigh, the charity will also be holding them at The Pelican Centre in Tyldesley and Dorset Road Community Centre in Atherton in 2018.

For information about the schedule of the sessions visit

To find more about Shoulder to Soldier visit