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Historic link broken as D-day hero dies aged 97

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: January 15, 2013

D-Day veteran John Hodgkin

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A SECOND World War veteran who survived the D-Day landings has been remembered as a ‘hero’ following his death at the age of 97.

Lance Sergeant John Hodgkin, of Pensgreave Road, Outwoods, was commemorated by the Royal British Legion after dying peacefully in his sleep at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital.

“He was a remarkable person, a lovely chap and a very brave man,” said the legion’s Burton branch secretary, Anne Compton, who had known the Irish Guardsman since the mid-1990s.

“He never thought of himself as a hero and thought ‘it’s my job, I will get on with it’.

“But of course John was a hero and was instrumental in saving a lot of lives.

“He was a link with what happened and there’s not many of them about now who can recall as vividly as he did.

“It’s very sad, but John will be reunited with his wife and son.”

Born in Oak Street, Burton, Mr Hodgkin was the son of a housewife and World War One veteran who worked as a foreman at Bass’s Brewery.

One of five siblings, including two others who served in the military, he was educated at Uxbridge Street School between the ages of four and 14.

An accomplished sportsman, Mr Hodgkin left school at 14, following his father to Bass’s, before volunteering for the Army at 24 after failing in bids to enter the Air Force and Navy.

He came close to death when an 800lb unexploded bomb detonated and covered him in mud, an event which earned him a medal for bravery and the nickname ‘The Black Bomber’.

On June 6, 1944, Mr Hodgkin took part in the D-Day landings - the Allied land, sea and air invasion of France.

“It wasn’t easy – it was hell on Earth. The fighting was terrible,” he told the Mail in July 2011.

Mr Hodgkin saw 500 comrades mown down by German guns in just 30 minutes at Falaise Gap.

The former stretcher bearer’s war ended when he too was targeted after walking across exposed ground.

“One big piece took half my backside away. Another went into an arm,” he told the Mail.

After the war, Mr Hodgkin returned to Bass before working as a steel erector, plater, boiler house worker and chain maker, retiring at 65.

Decorated with 10 medals, he was married to Lillian, whom he married two months before D-Day.

They lost their only child after just two months.

Mr Hodgkin’s funeral will be held at 1.30pm on Thursday at St Chad’s Church, in Hunter Street.

The ceremony will be followed by his burial at Stapenhill Cemetery.

Legion members will honour Mr Hodgkin during the proceedings.

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