Tributes paid to Dunkirk and D-Day veteran, who died at the age of 101

George Smith on his 100th birthday. Picture: Mark Bullimore.

George Smith on his 100th birthday. Picture: Mark Bullimore.

Tributes have been paid to a Dunkirk and D-Day veteran who has died at the age of 101.

George Smith during his war service. Picture: Submitted.

George Smith during his war service. Picture: Submitted. - Credit: Archant

George Smith was evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 and later returned to France as part of the D-Day invasion in June, 1944.

But he never held any grudges against the Germans, living for 27 years in Cologne after his wife died.

He remained a great patriot overseas and hoisted the Union Jack whenever he was celebrating landmark birthdays, such as his 85th and 90th.

He passed away while awaiting the Légion d'honneur medal, which is awarded to D-Day veterans by the French.

George Smith, right, and army friend Herbert Brown. Pictures supplied by Pat Wright

George Smith, right, and army friend Herbert Brown. Pictures supplied by Pat Wright - Credit: Archant


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His only child, Pat Wright, from Cromer, said she would remember him as a 'good man' who was 'interested in everything and everybody'.

She said: 'He got on well with everybody. It's terrible not to have him anymore, and I will miss him terribly.

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'He was proud of his Norfolk roots. He used to go swimming in Dilham canal and rode a Penny Farthing bike at Ludham.'

She added that her father often told them wartime stories, which reflected the horror of the campaign, but also the great friends he made.

She said: 'They were all boys in their 20s and they had great camaraderie. He had some great friends in the war and kept in touch afterwards.

'He was always an optimist. Anything a bit daring, he would do it. He went to South Africa 11 times on holiday and rode an ostrich. When he was in Germany, he walked across the river Rhine, during a dry spell.'

She attributed his long life to not smoking, leading an active life, and keeping his brain engaged.

'He was reading the EDP pretty much until the end,' she added.

Her husband Vernon Wright said Mr Smith was never a sad man, and added: 'He was remarkable and had a very sharp mind, although he did often say, when telling a story, that 'you might have heard this one before'.'

Born at Honing Row in Worstead on August 18, 1915, Mr Smith left the village school when he was 14.

He later wrote about his memories in the book Worstead Woven.

His first job was working at Holly Grove House doing general work in the gardens and house for Lt Col Bessant and then he went to Cliff House Hotel in Cromer, again doing general work.

It was here that he met his wife, Florence Balls, a local fisherman's daughter. They married at Worstead Church in 1936.

Mr Smith was then employed by Norfolk County Council highways working on road construction and maintenance, a job which he held, before and after the war, for 42 years.

After volunteering for the Royal Engineers, on June 1, 1940 he took part in the Dunkirk evacuation, returning home on board the destroyer Shikari.

He followed this up with three years' service in Northern Ireland, doing mainly construction work. He later returned to Northern Ireland and talked to people there about his role in laying drains during the war.

He returned to England in 1943 and in the summer of 1944 he sailed to Normandy with Montgomery's 21st Army Group and helped to bridge the Rivers Orme, Seine, Maas, Rhine and Elbe.

In August 1945 he went to Berlin and was demobbed in 1946.

After his wife died in 1975, aged 61, Mr Smith moved to Cologne, where he lived until his partner died in 2002. He then returned to live in Cromer.

In his younger life he engaged in running, boxing, fishing, swimming and in retirement enjoyed walking.

His daughter said that on one occasion, when he was in his late 80s, he went to North Walsham and missed the bus back to Cromer. He decided to walk the whole way home, which was about eight miles.

He died on February 26 at Clarence House in Mundesley, his home for the last four years of his life.

The funeral will be at Cromer Parish Church at 1.15pm on Tuesday, March 21, followed by interment at Cromer cemetery.

Would you like to pay tribute in the EDP to a lost loved one? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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