Second World War veteran dies from coronavirus

One of the last remaining D-Day veterans has died from COVID-19.

Second World War hero Len Brace, 95, from Ilford, who joined the forces storming the Normandy beaches in 1944, died in King George Hospital on Saturday.

Mr Brace served as a British Army driver in the 11 Air Formation Signals Regiment.

His unit provided line communications for 83 Tactical Air Force after they landed on Gold Beach as part of Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944.

Five years ago he received the Legion d’Honneur, in recognition of his contribution to the liberation of France.

He had seven children, 13 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Two of his daughters died in recent years.

His son Martyn, 52, said: “Dad was a war hero and he was my hero. He was a very spritely 95-year-old.

“But we knew as soon we found out he had the virus his chances weren’t good. He got his nurse to text us just before he passed away to tell us he was going to die, that he loved us and that he was proud of us. It was a very hard message to read.”

After the war Mr Brace worked for Ford in Dagenham for 38 years. Because of the restrictions on funeral sizes, his family hope to hold a memorial service for him after the pandemic.

His son added: “My dad went through a lot in his life. He told us about rowing towards the beaches at Normandy with the bombs and bullets around him, writing out his will on a scrap of paper. It must of been absolutely terrifying.

“We lost my two sisters in 2002 and 2004 and then dad lost his partner, Mary, in 2017. That really took it out of him. But he was great man.”

Of the 61,000 British soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy, fewer than 500 are estimated to still be alive today.

Mr Brace often revisited France for the annual commemoration services in Normandy.

He worked with the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, sharing his war time experiences.

Taxi Charity vice president Dick Goodwin said: “Len was an authority on all thing World War II. He was very chatty and had so many stories about his time in Normandy and loved sharing them. He is going to be greatly missed by everyone who knew him.”

Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter