Sidmouth veteran remembered for living 'life to the fullest'
PUBLISHED: 15:12 25 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:12 25 May 2017
A Sidmouth veteran, who received France's highest military honour, has been remembered for his unique character, wit and for being one of life's gentlemen.
Derek Pedder died at Sidmouth Nursing Home on May 16, at the age of 92.
Born in London, Derek was evacuated to Ilfracombe and started his own branch of the Home Guard before returning to enlist in the army.
Following training, he was sent to France and took part in the D-Day landings as a tank commander in the Tank regiment.
Last year, the Winslade Road resident received the Legion d’honneur, France’s highest military honour.
His wife of 31 years, Madeleine, said her husband would never talk about his experience after suffering shell-shock when blown out of his tank.
The couple met in 1982 after their cars collided in Honiton library car park. To make up for the incident, Derek took his future wife for tea at Combe House and they married three years later in Exeter.
Madeleine said: “He was very a independently-minded person. He liked to do something for the community. He loved to dance and organised dinner dancers for various causes and organisations.
“I couldn’t take him anywhere because he would always make everyone laugh. He would make jokes and it would lighten the tone.
“Having nearly being killed in the war, he lived life every day. He lived it to the fullest.”
Derek started teaching after leaving the army and began his career in Middlesbrough, where he met his first wife. He moved to Somerset before taking a post as education counsellor at Sidmouth College.
Deerek retired at the age of 56 and joined a number of organisations. He obtained the rank of major in the Territorial Army.
He also became president of Sidmouth Fencing Club, Sidmouth Rotary Club, probus, the East Devon Luncheon Club and the Past Rotarians Club - the latter of which he was also national president of.
In 1981, Derek joined St John Ambulance and taught first aid. In 1993, he was made Commander St John – a promotion approved by the Queen.
He also starred as an extra in the film The Apple Tree and was a member of Mensa International.
A funeral service will be held at East Devon Crematorium, Whimple, on Tuesday, May 30, at 12.15pm. Family flowers only, but donations if can be donated to the British Heart Foundation or Sidmouth Hospiscare c/o Northcott Brothers in Temple Street.