Last surviving D-Day veteran dies at 97 after fighting in Normandy

Tributes are paid to one of the last surviving D-Day veterans who has died aged 97 nearly 80 years after he cheated death as teenager during fighting in Normandy

  • Ray Lord, from Hull, was a boy soldier at the age of 14 before being discharged from war service in 1939 as he was too young, so he worked as a joiner
  • Enlisted in the East Yorkshire Regiment in a combat role , he was one of thousands who landed on the beaches of France on 6 June 1944
  • He nearly died when he was injured by a mortar bomb outside Caen went off, where his radio took most of the blast, and likely saved his life

Tributes have been flooded in to one of the country’s last surviving D-Day veterans, who has died aged 97.

Boy soldier Ray Lord, from Hull, cheated death nearly 80 years ago as a teenager during the fighting in Normandy.

He had been in uniform since the age of 14 and joined the East Yorkshire Regiment’s 4th Territorial Army Battalion aged 15 as a signaller.

After being discharged from war service in 1939 as he was ‘too young’, Ray instead worked as a joiner repairing blitz damage in his home town of Hull, East Yorkshire, one of Britain’s most bombed cities. 

He signed up for a combat role as soon as he turned 18, in 1943, and was enlisted to the East Yorkshire Regiment again.

Ray Lord, who has died aged 97, pictured centre with fellow veteran John Ainsworth as they meet Prince Charles during a trip to Normandy

It was then when he narrowly-missed death when he was injured by a mortar bomb outside Caen, where his radio took most of the blast, and likely saved his life. 

He was one of thousands who landed on the beaches of France on 6 June 1944. 

After spending several weeks in a hospital in Leeds, he returned to the battalion for the remainder of the campaign in North West Europe and was in Bremen on VE Day, 8 May 1945.

The battalion went to Palestine and then Egypt where Ray served until he was discharged in 1947.

After the war, he married and owned and ran a newsagent in East Hull.

In an interview before his death, Ray recalled landing on the Normandy beaches on D-Day in 1944.

‘I was green as grass. It was a big adventure to me,’ Ray said.

‘I was sick as a dog going across, of course, because the sea was rough.

‘As soon as I landed, I was up to my thighs in water as we waded ashore.’

Mr Lord was a leading member of the Normandy Veterans’ Association and took part in commemorations of the liberation of Europe in France and the Netherlands.

Ray Lord, pictured on Sword Beach in Normandy, with John Ainsworth, in 2016, after being awarded the Legion D’Honneur, France’s top honour

His son, Robert Lord, called him as a ‘very proud hero of Hull’, adding: ‘It’s very difficult to imagine what it was like for that generation.

‘He joined up – he was wanting to join up – and I think he wanted do his bit for the country.

‘I think if he could have gone earlier, he would have done.’ 

His son said it was only in later life that Mr Lord got involved with veterans’ groups.

‘Growing up as a kid, if you asked him, “What did you do in the war, dad?”, he was a bit reluctant to open up, to come forward,’ he said.

‘I think it’s the horrors of what they’d seen, and you hear it from a lot of that generation who went through it.’

Lord was awarded France’s top honour, the Legion D’Honneur in 2016, alongside comrade John Ainsworth, who died in 2019 aged 98.

D-Day: Huge invasion of Europe described by Churchill as the ‘most complicated and difficult’ military operation in world history

Operation Overlord saw some 156,000 Allied troops landing in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

It is thought as many as 4,400 were killed in an operation Winston Churchill described as ‘undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place’.

The assault was conducted in two phases: an airborne landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6.30am.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing. Some 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. 

US Army troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Normandy’s ‘Omaha’ Beach on D-Day in Colleville Sur-Mer, France June 6 1944. As infantry disembarked from the landing craft, they often found themselves on sandbars 50 to 100 yards away from the beach. To reach the beach they had to wade through water sometimes neck deep

US Army troops and crewmen aboard a Coast Guard manned LCVP approach a beach on D-Day. After the initial landing soldiers found the original plan was in tatters, with so many units mis-landed, disorganized and scattered. Most commanders had fallen or were absent, and there were few ways to communicate

A LCVP landing craft from the U.S. Coast Guard attack transport USS Samuel Chase approaches Omaha Beach. The objective was for the beach defences to be cleared within two hours of the initial landing. But stubborn German defence delayed efforts to take the beach and led to significant delays 

An LCM landing craft manned by the U.S. Coast Guard, evacuating U.S. casualties from the invasion beaches, brings them to a transport for treatment. An accurate figure for casualties incurred by V Corps at Omaha on 6 June is not known; sources vary between 2,000 and over 5,000 killed, wounded, and missing

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing. Some 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved.

The landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

The assault was chaotic with boats arriving at the wrong point and others getting into difficulties in the water.

Destruction in the northern French town of Carentan after the invasion in June 1944

Forward 14/45 guns of the US Navy battleship USS Nevada fire on positions ashore during the D-Day landings on Utah Beach. The only artillery support for the troops making these tentative advances was from the navy. Finding targets difficult to spot, and in fear of hitting their own troops, the big guns of the battleships and cruisers concentrated fire on the flanks of the beaches

The US Navy minesweeper USS Tide sinks after striking a mine, while its crew are assisted by patrol torpedo boat PT-509 and minesweeper USS Pheasant. When another ship attempted to tow the damaged ship to the beach, the strain broke her in two and she sank only minutes after the last survivors had been taken off

A US Army medic moves along a narrow strip of Omaha Beach administering first aid to men wounded in the Normandy landing on D-Day in Collville Sur-Mer. On D-Day, dozens of medics went into battle on the beaches of Normandy, usually without a weapon. Not only did the number of wounded exceed expectations, but the means to evacuate them did not exist

Troops managed only to gain a small foothold on the beach – but they built on their initial breakthrough in the coming days and a harbor was opened at Omaha.

They met strong resistance from the German forces who were stationed at strongpoints along the coastline.

Approximately 10,000 allies were injured or killed, including 6,603 American, of which 2,499 were fatal.

Between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops were killed – and it proved the pivotal moment of the war, in the allied forces’ favour.

The first wave of troops from the US Army takes cover under the fire of Nazi guns in 1944

Canadian soldiers study a German plan of the beach during D-Day landing operations in Normandy. Once the beachhead had been secured, Omaha became the location of one of the two Mulberry harbors, prefabricated artificial harbors towed in pieces across the English Channel and assembled just off shore

US Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings at Pointe du Hoc. At the end of the two-day action, the initial Ranger landing force of 225 or more was reduced to about 90 fighting men

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