Tributes paid to Suffolk D-Day veteran Alan King
A D-Day veteran, who was awarded France’s highest military honour for his service during the Second World War, has died.
Alan King was one of the last surviving soldiers of the Normandy landings, and was officially awarded the Legion D’Honneur back in 2015.
He died on Thursday after a short illness at his home near Eye, Suffolk. He was 97.
Having received his call-up papers at the age of 18, Mr King served as a wireless operator in the East Riding Yeomanry, a tank regiment, and went on to fight battles in Holland, Belgium and Germany.
Reflecting on his experiences, he said: “I came ashore on Sword beach at Lion Ser Mere, shortly after 7am on June 6, 1944. I was a wireless operator in a Sherman tank.
“For the Normandy landings, the East Riding Yeomanry, Royal Armoured Corps was part of 27 Armoured Brigade.
“After landing, we were deployed in numerous attacks aimed at containing German panzer units. We moved on to liberate an area around Cambes-en-Plein, and entered the battle of Charnwood on the western side of Caen. It was in this battle for Normandy that I lost my best friend and tank commander, Corporal Louis Wilkes.
“On July 18, we took part in Operation Goodwood on the outskirts of Caen, where thousands of our men and tanks were lost. This battle and the thousands of losses is hardly mentioned, or known about.”
After leaving the military in 1947, he went on to work as a wood turner and pattern maker, and later a steam engineer.
Speaking to the Diss Express in 2020, he recalled how he struggled to come to terms with the horrors of the Second World War.
“For the first 40 years, I felt completely numb,” he said. “I wondered if all those onlookers actually understood what we had been through.
“Now, all I can think about are my lost comrades, and what their lives could have been.”
For 10 years, he would make an annual trip to Normandy and the Netherlands with other veterans, visiting Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries to pay his respects to lost comrades.
Around 12 years ago, he received the maundy coinage from the Queen at a cathedral service in Bury St Edmunds.
After becoming a member of Hoxne Branch Royal British Legion, he later joined Stradbroke and District branch and more recently became the branch president.
“For me, the comradeship of my fellow veterans is still so important,” he said during an interview with this newspaper.
“We have a mutual understanding as we have all seen the same horrors and have the same nightmares 75 years on.”
On November 11, 2015, he travelled with his son Raymond and daughters Christine and Joyce to London where he was awarded the Legion D’Honneur – the highest honour given by France – by the French Ambassador.
Mr King had been widowed for 12 years, following the death of his wife, Nora Florence. He is survived by his three children, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.