'It's up to us to celebrate his life' - D-Day hero remembered with poignant memorial
PUBLISHED: 17:25 03 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:25 03 July 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
A Second World War veteran who served on the beaches of Normandy was remembered with a poignant procession through his hometown.
Ivan Spall, who was born in Lowestoft and lived there for most of his life, died at the age of 98 on June 3 - just three days shy of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
In recognition of his service during the hard-fought campaign, Mr Spall and all surviving Normandy veterans were awarded the Legion d'Honneur - France's highest military order of merit - in 2015.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mr Spall was saluted by current and former members of the armed forces as a congregation, including his family, walked through Lowestoft before a service at Trinity Methodist Church.
Three of his sons, John, Derek and Jonny, paid tribute to a man who thought only of others and never himself.
"He would always tell stories about how he was involved in the D-Day landings and on Gold Beach," said John. "He'd talk about one friend who was fatally shot in Normandy but he dragged his body up the beach."
Derek added: "He loved his mates from the military, especially the ones that never came back."
"The timing of his death was such a shame because his only ambition was to be here for D-Day 75th anniversary," said Jonny. "It's up to us now to celebrate his life."
Mr Spall first joined the army in 1938 and, after initially training at Park Hall Camp in Oswestry, he joined an Air Defence Regiment equipped with anti-aircraft guns near Kilmarnock.
As the conflict of the Second World War took its stranglehold on Europe, a now Bombardier Spall was sent on secondment to the Royal Army Service Corps as a driver just before D-Day.
He went ashore at Normandy, driving a large American Mac vehicle loaded with 23 tons of ammunition. Having fought throughout the entirety of the campaign - including into and across and Germany - he was eventually discharged in August, 1945.
Amid the devastation of the war, Mr Spall had met his wife-to-be, Lillian.
With the conflict finally at an end, he moved to Lillian's hometown of Birkenhead before the pair returned to Oulton Broad to look after Mr Spall's mother and father.
They had six children together and were happily married until Lillian's death.
Mr Spall was later remarried to Jane - who survives him - and they had another two children.
Having left the army, Mr Spall spent much of his subsequent career as a bus driver, working for companies including Belle Coaches and Lowestoft Corporation Transport.
Away from work, he insisted on taking an active role in community activities, running Ashley Boys Football Club, calling out bingo numbers at Lowestoft Town Hall and helping out at his local church.
"Anything he could help with, he would," added Jonny. "As he got older and physically couldn't help anymore, it would annoy him so much because he'd been doing it his whole life."
Mr Spall's love and fondness for the armed forces never dwindled and he worked with the Royal Artillery Association (RAA) in Lowestoft for many years to help military personnel less fortunate than himself.
He became branch chairman for several years but ill health later forced him to step down. Not ready to bid farewell to this important facet of his life, Mr Spall instead took up the role of president.
Having received the Legion of Honour in 2015, he was also selected ahead of 1,800 other ex-servicemen to receive the RAA Certificate of Merit, presented to him with 30 ex-colleagues and family in attendance.
Allan Jacobs, current chairman of Lowestoft RAA, said: "Ivan was a real gentleman and a really nice bloke all-round. He was amenable, helpful and always liked a good laugh.
"He always told a really good story as well. He had lots to say about his time on the beaches of Normandy and his wartime experiences in Germany."