Lutterworth WWII hero who fought in the D-Day campaign has died aged 98

“My dad never ever described himself as a war hero – but he was always my hero"

A Second World War hero from Lutterworth who fought in the iconic D-Day campaign in Normandy in June 1944 has died aged 98.

Great-grandad Albert Tregoning, universally known as Jim, passed away in his beloved adopted hometown on Monday (January 31).

Sign up to our daily WarwickshireWorld Today newsletter

His daughter Gill Baxter, 66, has today paid a poignant tribute to her “hero” dad as she spoke to the Harborough Mail at length about the highly-decorated war veteran.

Albert Tregoning, universally known as Jim

Gill, who’d been looking after courageous wartime soldier Jim at her home in Lutterworth since just before Christmas, said: “My dad never ever described himself as a war hero – but he was always my hero.

“He was regularly hailed by so many people who knew him as one of life’s true gentlemen – and he truly was.

“Despite all he’d gone through my dad was always modest and humble – a proper gent,” said Gill, who’s married to Tony, 72.

She said Jim was born almost 200 miles north in Stanley, County Durham, on June 2, 1923.

Albert Tregoning pictured in Germany aged 21 in 1945 and his French order, Chevalier de la Legion D'honneur. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

He was one of the youngest of five brothers and two sisters born to Albert and Francis.

“My dad’s father was a miner and he moved his family south to Coventry so that he could work in a pit down here between the wars when my dad was 13 or 14.

“He left school at 14 and started an apprenticeship as a car mechanic in the city,” said Gill, who has three children, two grandchildren and a step-grandson.

“The Second World War broke out and my dad joined the Army in December 1942.

Albert Tregoning, universally known as Jim

“He went into the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) as a driver and mechanic fighting alongside the 43rd Wessex Division.

“Dad did his training as a soldier during 1943 and into 1944 as the Army prepared to carry out the Normandy landings.

“And he landed with his unit – on Gold Beach I think it was – on June 7, 1944.

“That was D-Day plus one, just 24 hours after the first landings were made in France,” said Gill, a retired radiographer.

Gill Baxter holds a photo of her father Albert Tregoning pictured in Germany aged 21 in 1945 and his French order, Chevalier de la Legion D'honneur. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

“It was funny because he’d been warned that he’d have to get ready for driving his truck off the landing craft into deep water before hitting the beach.

“But as it turned out he drove off into about three inches of sea water!

“He went on to fight in the very fierce battle against the Germans for the crucial Hill 112 near Caen, known as Operation Jupiter, in July.

“Dad also took part in Operation Market Garden, the famous campaign to capture the bridges in and around Arnhem in Holland, in September 1944.

“He went on to become one of the first British troops to go in to Germany,” recalled Gill.

“And Dad used to joke that when the Germans surrendered in May 1945 he was out there celebrating by drinking flat beer out of an old billycan with his mates!

Albert Tregoning, universally known as Jim, with his family

“Miraculously he managed to come through all this fighting unscathed.

“He saw some terrible sights in the war and some of his friends and comrades didn’t come back.

“And he hardly ever spoke about those days.

“It’s astonishing to look back now and talk about my dad taking part in the D-Day campaign, the most famous seaborne invasion of all time, as well as in other big battles.

“My dad was always a very proud soldier, justifiably proud of what he did for his country during the war.

“But when he used to go to the war memorial here in Lutterworth on Remembrance Day every year he’d always stand in the background out of the way.

“He always insisted that he wanted to go along to remember and salute the brave men who never made it home, it wasn’t about him,” said Gill.

After being demobbed soon after the war Jim returned to his old job, working as a skilled mechanic for high-profile British motor manufacturer the Rootes Group in Coventry.

“Dad used to work on Lotus sports and rally cars and loved it.

“He met my mum Beryl and they got married in 1947, she was the love of his life.

“He retired when he was 64 and they moved to Lutterworth in 1987 to follow us here.

“They weren’t here long before my mum sadly died in 1993 in her early 60s,” said Gill.

“My dad was very keen on gardening, he loved to go dancing with my mum and he tried bowling for a while.

“He also liked his football and hailing from the North-East he was a big Newcastle fan all his life.

“And we were all very proud when he was awarded the very prestigious Legion of Honour by the French government in November 2015 for his outstanding wartime service helping to liberate their country.

“He was always active and did ever so well living independently here in Lutterworth until he finally moved in with us on December 23, just before Christmas.

“Looking back over all those years my dad had an incredible life.

“He was hoping to get to 100 but fate was against him.

“He was an independent soul, totally dedicated to his wife and his family – he was such a fantastic family man,” said Gill, who was their only child.

“We will all miss him so much.

“But Dad leaves behind a treasure trove of golden memories – and we will never forget the man who was and will always be my hero.”