D-Day veteran dubbed 'Mr Never Surrender' dies, aged 97

Normandy veteran Alan King in the beautiful D-Day 70th anniversary ceramic poppy field on Arromanche

Normandy veteran Alan King has died aged 97. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Lovingly nicknamed 'Mr Never Surrender', one of the last surviving D-Day heroes who frequently returned to the beaches of Normandy with veterans from the region, has died aged 97.

Veteran Alan King served as a member of the East Riding Yeomanry, assigned as a radio operator to a Sherman tank crew, and battled his way across France, Holland and Germany.

Normandy veteran Alan King from Eye in Suffolk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Normandy veteran Alan King was a leading member of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association. - Credit: Denise Bradley

After landing on D-Day, several hours ahead of his regiment, he went on to take part in some of the most intense and harrowing battles of the Second World War.

In recent years he became a leading member of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association, joining a dwindling band of those who fought returning with their families to the beaches to pay tribute to fallen comrades. 

Normandy veteran Alan King, from the Norwich and District NVA, holds a photo of himself (front secon

Normandy veteran Alan King holds a photo of himself (front second left) and his comrades from B Company taken on VE Day 1945. - Credit: PA

"We weren't heroes, we were just boys. We were terrified. But you had your crew and your regiment and that's what you cared about,” he said when his wartime memories were highlighted by the Royal Mint in 2019 to mark the the launch of a £2 coin to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“Since our life expectancy after landing was just one hour, we kept each other going,” he added.

“After I got back, for the first 40 years I didn't think about it. Didn't want to. But it's important that people know about it. People now have no idea what we went through."

The proud Normandy veterans stand tall on Sword Beach in Normandy where they each carry the worst of

Normandy veterans on Sword Beach as part of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans group in 2015. From left, Alan King, Len Fox, Jack Woods, Peter Hemp, Neville Howell, and David Woodrow. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Mr King died on Thursday after a short illness at his home in Thornham Magna, near Eye, close to the Norfolk- Suffolk border.

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He was a father-of-three with seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

His daughter Joyce Cooper said her father had become known as 'Mr Never Surrender', both due to his grand old age and his love of impersonating Sir Winston Churchill.

“He was so much loved and is so missed by his family,” she said.

Normandy veteran Alan King among the graves at a War Cemetery in Normandy in 2015. Picture: DENISE B

Normandy veteran Alan King among the graves at a War Cemetery in Normandy in 2015. - Credit: Denise Bradley

“He had a unique sense of humour and was known as a wonderful Churchill impersonator. He kept us all amused on veteran trips. Rest in peace dear dad, forever missed.”

Mr King had completed underwater training at Fritton Lake in Norfolk and in Dunwich in Suffolk before the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, an operation that took three years of meticulous planning by the Allied forces.

Alan King, front row 2nd left, on VE Day in Holland with his comrades in the 1st East Riding Yeomanr

Alan King, front row 2nd left, on VE Day in Holland with his comrades in the 1st East Riding Yeomanry, 2 Troop B Squadron. - Credit: Submitted

In all, there were 6,939 vessels involved in D-Day: 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels gathered south of the Isle of Wight in preparation for landings at five Normandy beaches along 50 miles of the coast, at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

Mr King was part of the initial assault on Sword Beach just after 7am.

“The sea was wild on D-Day, we were deployed in numerous attacks aimed at containing German Panzer units,” he recalled in 2016, as he stood on the same beach where he had landed 72 years before.

Suffolk veteran Alan King salutes the grave Cambes-en-Plaine War Cemetery of his friend Cpl Louis Wi

D-Day veteran Alan King pictured in 2014 saluting the Cambes-en-Plaine War Cemetery grave of his friend Cpl Louis Wilkes who died in his arms in July 1944. - Credit: Denise Bradley

“We moved on to the area around Cambes-en Plein and that was the first time we faced up to the enemy. 

“That's when we grew up. Kill, or be killed. Somebody once said to me: 'How do you remember so much?' When you're sent to meet your maker, you don't forget the journey.”

In 2016 Mr King was also reunited with a Dutch woman whose life he had saved during a fierce battle when she was just four years old.

Normandy veteran Alan King from Suffolk on Juno beach by the memorial, where he landed on D-Day. Pic

Normandy veteran Alan King at Normandy memorial near where he landed on D-Day. - Credit: Denise Bradley

He was hugged by Toos Kockan, 76, at her home in the southern Netherlands after he attended the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem. 

He had raised the alarm to stop a tank reversing over the girl and her mother as they dodged shellfire between the Allies and German Panzers.

After he left the army in 1947, Mr King became an engineer.

He was awarded France's highest honour, the Légion d'Honneur, in May 2016 for helping to liberate the country from Nazi rule.

Alan King who has been awarded the Legion D'Honneur medal from France for his role in the D-Day land

Alan King was awarded the Legion D'Honneur medal from France for his role in the D-Day landings. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

EDP columnist Stacia Briggs, who travelled to Normandy from 2014 to 2019 with Mr King and fellow veterans, and who last saw him a few weeks ago, said: “Alan was a remarkable man, a quiet hero and a wonderful person to spend time with, full of stories and fun, and hugely generous with his time.

“My colleague Denise Bradley and I are so honoured and privileged that we got to spend so much time with Alan in Norfolk and in Normandy, and we will carry those memories in our hearts forever.”

Denise, a photographer for the EDP, added: "Alan looked for years trying to find the place in Normandy by a villa where he had spent several days in a ditch after the vehicle he and comrades were in was badly damaged. The enemy soldiers were surrounding them without knowing they were there. They had to lie low and quiet for a few days.

"When he found the place it was a moment where you saw the fortitude of these Normandy veterans, and how much of their heart and soul was affected by the things they had seen and taken part in. Each veteran left behind great friends and colleagues and Alan had to return each year to honour those he had stood beside and who were lost. A great gentleman."

• Stacia's own tribute to Mr King will be published later this week.

Normandy veteran, Alan King, lays a wreath at the service at the Green Howards Memorial. Picture: DE

Normandy veteran Alan King lays a wreath at the service at the Green Howards Memorial. - Credit: Denise Bradley


Alan King who has been awarded the Legion d'Honneur medal from France for his role in the D-Day land

Normandy veteran Alan King recalled his experiences of D-Day. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

Part of the D-Day invasion fleet

Part of the D-Day invasion fleet. - Credit: Imperial War Museum

Normandy on June 6, 1944 as Allied soldiers prepare to land on the beach (Picture: MGPhoto76 / Alamy

Normandy on June 6, 1944 as Allied soldiers prepare to land on the beach - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Veteran Alan King from Suffolk in the beautiful ceramic poppy field on Arromanches beach for the 70t

Veteran Alan King from Suffolk in the beautiful ceramic poppy field on Arromanches beach for the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014, with parts of the old Mulberry Harbour in the background. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014


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