The son of a Second World War veteran was overwhelmed when a bench was installed in a Rickmansworth park in honour of his late father.

John Nicholls lived in the Rickmansworth area his entire life until he died at the age of 85 four years ago.

Mr Nicholls’ only son, Gary, thought he was going for a Sunday stroll with his wife, Suzy, when family and friends surprised him in Fortune Green.

The park bench is located under the Weeping Beech Tree that the late Mr Nicholls planted decades ago while he worked for Rickmansworth Urban District Council as a groundsman, before the local authority merged with Three Rivers.

His son, who is buildings manager at The Bushey Academy, said: "I knew Suzy was arranging something but I didn’t know what it was. I had no clue.

"The bench was a complete surprise. We were walking into Rickmansworth and, as I approached the bench, all my family were hiding behind the tree. They all hopped out. It was really overwhelming."

The 53-year-old added: "Suzy had gone to all that trouble and it was so thoughtful. It was a very special occasion. We’ve been back to the bench a few times. Last week when we went to Ricky Week we used that as a rendezvous point."

Mr Nicholls was the youngest of 13 and was born in Norfolk Road. He joined the army in 1942 and married a couple of years after the war ended.

He worked as a groundsman for the council for about 40 years and in the 1950s he planted the Weeping Beech Tree under which the bench sits.

The tribute on the bench reads: "John Nicholls. A twin, 7th son and youngest of 13. A lucky man."

Mr Nicholls said his father’s lucky number was 13 and that he and his six brothers not only all fought in World War Two, but all came home.

Watford Observer:

John Nicholls's family on his bench.

Mr Nicholls, who lives in Langley Way, Watford, added: "He was a real Rickmansworth man, born and raised in Rickmansworth and he lived there all his life.

"I know this would have been something that dad would have been very proud of.

"He was proud of the things he did in Rickmansworth and maintaining the parks. It was a bit of a legacy.

"This is something for him but also becomes part of the Rickmansworth landscape. I know he would have loved that and it would have made his day."