WWII naval veteran, Len Hobbs, 98, died peacefully at home on Monday 31 October with his daughter Elizabeth at his side.
Born on 1 August 1924, Len Hobbs from South Woodham Ferrers, near Chelmsford, joined the Royal Navy in 1943. After completing his basic training at HMS Ganges, he was sent to the Isle of Man to learn how to operate radar (then known as Radio Direction and Finding, or RDF) - first ashore, then at sea, aboard HMS Pollux.
After a spell at HMS Chatham, Able Seaman Hobbs was drafted to HMS Fernie, which at the time was assigned to coastal convoy escort duties until she was called upon for Operation Neptune, the D-Day landings, shepherding ships across the Channel.
Hunt-class destroyer, HMS Fernie, was part of the ring of steel thrown around the invasion armada, with Len charged with monitoring the display for signs of Luftwaffe attacks. However German naval forces – midget submarines and fast-moving torpedo boats – proved an even greater threat.
On June 11, two E-boats evaded the defensive screen and struck frigate HMS Halsted, blowing off her bow. HMS Fernie was sent in to rescue survivors.
Len was an active participant in Normandy reunions and a supporter of the Spirit of Normandy Trust. He regularly returned to the beaches with old comrades – including a trip only last autumn to see the magnificent new British Normandy Memorial, built overlooking the very landing grounds his ship helped protect.
Len said he was “amazed” by the lasting tribute to the 22,442 under British command who were killed in the liberation of Normandy from Nazi oppression.
Len commented: “I’m just pleased I lived to see it opened – a lot of poor devils on D-Day never even got ashore.”
Richard Palusinski, Chairman of the Spirit of Normandy Trust, said: "It is with sadness that we record the loss of another veteran of D-Day and the Normandy landings. Len Hobbs never forgot his comrades from the "great adventure" and regularly returned to Normandy, initially with the Normandy Veterans Association and, more recently, with the Spirit of Normandy Trust. Len will always be remembered as someone of great character, with a great sense of humour, a ready smile and an infectious laugh. Len was one of two veterans who launched the D-Day 75 series of postage stamps for Royal Mail. He will be sorely missed by his family and many friends. He has served faithfully and may he now rest in peace."
Dick Goodwin, Vice President of the Taxi Charity, said: "Len held the position of President of the Southend Royal Navy Association and was the former chairman of the Southend Branch of the Normandy Veterans Association. A very humble man with a great sense of humour, who was always positive and an absolute joy to have with us on our trips to Normandy. RIP, sir. You will be missed.”