A Desert Rat, William Bennett, who was twice decorated for his part in two decisive battles in the second world war, has died aged 93.

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He received the Military Medal after the Battle of El Alamein in 1942 from General Bernard Montgomery, who commanded the Eighth Army, and won a second Military Medal after D-Day in 1944.

A former manager of Dereham’s gas works, he also served as a chairman of the former East Dereham Urban District Council after moving to the town in the 1950s.

Robert William Bennett, who grew up at Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham, moved to Leicester to work as an analytical chemist in the coal-gas industry.

After war broke out, he joined the Royal Corps of Signals. He was posted to North Africa, serving at Mersa Brega, in Libya, as the second Battle of El Alamein raged between the Allies and Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

He was awarded the Military Medal for performing his duties as a wireless operator with “calmness and efficiency” while the Royal Signals were under heavy shell fire. He suffered knee injuries during the battle, which led to the capture of Tripoli in January 1943 and was presented with his medal by Gen (later Field Marshal) Montgomery.

He was awarded a second medal after he drove a command vehicle beyond enemy lines on D-Day in Normandy. With his crew, he helped maintain the entire and only communications for 30 Corps.

His citation for a second medal noted his conspicuous bravery under the most dangerous conditions, initiative and leadership.

After D-Day he served in Italy, Sicily, Malta and occupied Germany. Demobbed as a lance-corporal, he joined the Army Reserve and moved back to Leicester, where he worked for the gas board.

Mr Bennett, who had married Kitty, in 1941, in Leicester, moved to Dereham in the mid 1950s, setting up home in Gas Works House, in Yaxham Road. He was also a former master of the Sondes Lodge Freemasons, Dereham Rotary Club and the golf club.

His daughter Linda said that for all his wartime exploits and his medals he had remained a modest man.

Mr Bennett and his wife moved to Toftwood in 1981. His wife died in 2004 and he leaves two daughters, two granddaughters and six great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at St Faiths Crematorium, on Tuesday, September 18 at 11.45am.

Sophie Wylie

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