D-Day hero John Gardiner, from Sidmouth, laid to rest
- Credit: Graham Hunt/BNPS
A D-Day hero who helped liberate the Belsen concentration camp has been laid to rest.
Coronavirus restrictions meant that just a small gathering of eight family members could attend the funeral of John Gardiner at East Devon Crematorium
John, who awarded the Legion d’honneur – France’s highest military decoration – for helping to liberate the country from the Nazis, died on May 4 from kidney failure. He was aged 95.
His widow Joan led the small gathering at the funeral that also included his son, Rufus, and daughter, Terina, and three grandchildren.
His other son Miles was prevented from attending as he lives in Germany, so watched the funeral on a live stream along with other family and friends.
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Mrs Worrell added: “Dad will be mainly remembered as a quiet, gentle, kind, generous and helpful gentleman.
“He was always happy to help others and was a very humble person with a quiet humour. He enjoyed gardening and had a collection of tortoises in the garden too.”
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John, from Sidmouth, Devon, was just 18 when he landed on the beaches of Normandy.
He served with the 12 Battalion Devonshire Regiment, part of the 6th Airborne Division.
After landing on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944, John fought his way inland and helped hold Pegasus Bridge that had been famously captured a few hours earlier.
During his time in France he was required to crawl along roads feeling for mines laid by the Germans. If an area was clear he had to lay a path of masking tape so he and other colleagues knew the safe route to take.
He was promoted from Private to Corporal before he was posted back to England.
Later in the war he fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium to help quell Hitler’s last major offensive of the World War Two.
In March 1945 he was flown by glider 50 miles behind the German lines to help secure strategic river bridges as part of Operation Varsity.
His unit made their way across Germany towards the Baltic coast and three weeks later he and a senior officer stumbled across the horrors of Bergen-Belsen.
They were the first Allied soldiers to enter the notorious camp after the German guards had fled.
His family has set up a fundraising page in his memory in aid of the armed forces charity Help for Heroes.
Visit justgiving.com/fundraising/terina-worrall to donate.