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'The perfect gentleman' - Ipswich war veteran passes away

PUBLISHED: 07:29 06 January 2020

Norman Kent, who has died age 96. Picture: IPSWICH WAR MEMORIAL AND CENOTAPH

Norman Kent, who has died age 96. Picture: IPSWICH WAR MEMORIAL AND CENOTAPH

IPSWICH WAR MEMORIAL AND CENOTAPH

Ipswich D-Day veteran Norman Kent, who was awarded the Legion d'Honneur for his role in the liberation of Nazi-occupied France, has died at the age of 96.

Norman Kent was one of six World War II D Day veterans from Ipswich were awarded the Legion DHonneur and to receive it from Claire the Countess of Euston and Lord Lieutenant for Suffolk in 2015. Picture: LUCY TAYLORNorman Kent was one of six World War II D Day veterans from Ipswich were awarded the Legion DHonneur and to receive it from Claire the Countess of Euston and Lord Lieutenant for Suffolk in 2015. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Norman Kent was one of six Ipswich war heroes to be awarded France's highest honour in 2015.

In 2006 he was also awarded the "Thank You Liberators 1945" medal by the Netherlands.

Liza Stewart met Norman in 2019 when he was admitted to the Willows care home in Crabbe Street.

She was his key worker and quickly became fond of Norman, who she called "extremely humble, with no airs or graces".

Norman, second left, with Winifred Bugg BEM, Malcolm Moles, and Anthony Booth and Vinnicombe Court manager Lesley Goodwin at an armed forces day celebration. Picture: LUCY TAYLORNorman, second left, with Winifred Bugg BEM, Malcolm Moles, and Anthony Booth and Vinnicombe Court manager Lesley Goodwin at an armed forces day celebration. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

"Norman was a lovely gentleman, courteous and polite to the end," she said.

"He loved nothing more than company, a hot cup of tea and biscuits - he had a very sweet tooth."

Norman was born in 1923 in Lewisham in London.

His father died when he was barely a year old and he had just one sister who also passed away, meaning he had very little family around him.

Before being called up to serve in the war Norman was working as a surveyor with the Prudential Assurance Company.

In 1941 he joined the army, serving in the 294th Field Company, Royal Engineers, part of the 49th West Riding Division which was known as the 'Polar Bears' because of its emblem.

He rose to the rank of sergeant and on D-Day landed on Sword Beach, where he took command when his officer was shot in the head.

Norman remained with the Royal Engineers until the end of the war - which brought him to Berlin where he met Jean, his wife.

They married in 1951 and lived in Surrey for a few years before moving to Felixstowe and later Ipswich, where Norman returned to the Prudential and with which he continued to work until retirement in 1982.

After several more years in Felixstowe they moved to Vinnicombe Court Residential Home in Ipswich.

Although Norman and Jean were not blessed with children, they enjoyed many lovely holidays together to various European countries.

Among Norman's interests were his love for Golden Retrievers and his enjoyment for playing his accordion.

His first love however was being a Church Warden.

During his life he served in Canterbury Cathedral, Felixstowe and in Mary Le Towers in Ipswich.

Jean died in 2014 and Norman moved to the Willows residential home in 2019 where he died peacefully on Saturday, December 7 2019.

Liza had left the Willows by then but she and her partner had continued to visit Norman regularly.

Speaking of his death, Liza said: "My partner and I will miss him very much and his death is such a huge loss of yet another part of history.

"No one can imagine the life that he lived, the sacrifices he made or what he went through whilst serving in the forces and I am sure that our country has a lot to thank him for."

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