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Tribute to 101-year-old veteran, Hector Duff

Hector Hugh McDonald Duff OBE, BEM, MM, TH, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, WWII veteran and retired police sergeant, has died on the Isle of Man.

The Taxi Charity for Military Veterans was saddened to hear of the death of one of the veterans they have recently supported, 101-year-old, WWII veteran Hector Duff.

Dick Goodwin, Taxi Charity vice president, said: "Hector joined the Taxi Charity on its annual visit to Normandy in 2018, accompanied by his son Tony. He had served with both the 7th Armoured Division in North Africa and the Royal Tank Regiment - part of the 50th British Division - which landed on Gold Beach in Normandy in 1944. He was a true gentleman who made a big impression on everyone he met. He was awarded many gongs during his lifetime, but we will remember him as a very humble man who extended the hand of friendship to everyone he met. The charity sends our condolences to his family and friends."

Richard Paulinski, chairman of the Spirit of Normandy Trust, said: "Hector's military record is impressive. 7th Armoured were a battle-hardened group who fought in all the main European theatres of the Second World War, and for many, there seemed to be no end to the fighting that they had to endure. Alongside that, Military Medals were not handed out simply for turning up. To have won a Military Medal would have taken an extraordinary level of courage and determination.

"These experiences of the hardest and most challenging sides of life did not make Hector a hard and unfeeling person. He was always warm and considerate, and a true gentleman. Even when in a wheelchair, he would insist on standing when approached by a lady. Hector set an example to which many could only aspire. His work with children was exemplary and it is a fitting tribute to his lasting memory that he sponsored the Hector Duff prize for the best entries from Manx schools in the annual Young Historians competition, run under the auspices of the Spirit of Normandy Trust.

"Hector stood as a shining exemplar, showing just how to set a positive example in today's world. His passing leaves an unfillable gap, and he will be sorely missed. In the words of a poem of tribute written recently by a serving Major General, "Farewell old friend, sleep well, you can stand down, but your memory will live on".

Gary Roberts, chief constable of the Isle of Man Constabulary, said: "Hector was many things to many people: father, friend, police officer, driving instructor, passionate worker for ex-services personnel, guardian of war memorials, forceful advocate for veterans and their widows on the war pensions committee, brilliantly articulate storyteller who used his powers to tell young people of the horrors of war, twinkle-eyed networker and, of course, tremendously brave soldier.

"In company with many of his peers, Hector seldom, if ever, spoke about his wartime experiences until he was in his 60s. It was then that he chose to start talking to young people about war; about its horrors and about its futility. Articulate and passionate, he made war real for young people and he made them realise that it is not like a film or a computer game. He made them know that it needs to be prevented. He used to tell them that he never hated the enemy, that they were young men just like him, who had families at home and who were just doing their duty. It was not just young people who heard this from him. He could bring a room full of adults to a damp-eyed silence when he was talking about war."

Tony Duff, Hector’s son, said: "The response from the people on the Isle of Man has been overwhelming, which shows just how much he was loved and admired."

About Hector Duff

Born in 1919 in Ballaugh in the Isle of Man, Hector joined the army shortly after war broke out. He fought across North Africa, winning the Military Medal in 1943 for running towards a German machine gun nest, armed with a Bren gun; he fought through Italy; landed in Normandy on D-Day; was one of the first soldiers to enter Belsen after its liberation and was present for part of the Nuremburg war trials.

After the war, Hector returned to Isle of Man and joined the police force. He remained a police officer until 1972, when he retired as a sergeant and became a driving instructor

Hector was hugely decorated for his war efforts, but also for what he contributed to the Isle of Man community. He was awarded the Military Medal for his action in North Africa; given the British Empire Medal for his work in schools; became an OBE this year, and he is one of a handful of people to have been given the Isle of Man’s highest award, the Tynwald Honour.

About the Spirit of Normandy Trust

The Spirit of Normandy Trust was founded in 1994 by the late General Peter Martin CBE to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Normandy campaign. The Spirit of Normandy Trust strives to ensure that every one of the individuals involved in D-Day and the Battle for Normandy, and their dependents, receive the support they need in their advancing years, and that their service, which had such a significant impact on world history, is never forgotten.


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