Tributes to war veteran Ron, the man in the last tank on D-Day at Normandy's Gold Beach
- Credit: SHAUN COBBOLD
Tributes have been paid to a war veteran who played his part in the liberation of France and the Netherlands.
Stowmarket man Ron Ablewhite was among the crew of the last tank to venture ashore during the D-Day landings at Gold Beach in Normandy in June 1944 and witnessed much of the carnage unfolding ahead as the landing forces were attacked by German gun positions.
The sapper in 79th Armoured Division watched as two tanks exploded ahead of him after coming under fire and later recalled the fear and dread that he could be next, not to mention the sea sickness and lost sleep.
He died at home aged 98 on March 30 and was well known for his involvement in local Salvation Army bands as he had a passion for music.
On the day of the landing, he was driving a Churchill Mk V tank and went ashore at King Red sector just to the west of La Riviere.
His grandson Shaun Cobbold said: “His lasting memory was of suffering from seasickness and losing two days of sleep.
“He also said to me how scared he was and how he was just praying for it to be over. He said he was very, very scared.”
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Mr Ablewhite, who grew up in Dedham, also suffered shrapnel injuries in Blerick near the River Maas in the Netherlands during a German attack when he went to rescue a steel tow rope used to pull stricken tanks, which had become stuck.
For much of his life, he worked as a carpenter and he was twice married, first to Muriel Spiers, then to Joyce Wainwright. He also enjoyed watching football.
He leaves a daughter, Pamela Cobbold, 77, son-in-law Ron, 79, two grandchildren, Shaun, 50 and Martin Cobbold, 53, two step-grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, step-daughter Carole and two great grandsons.
Shaun added: “He was a really quiet man, but he loved his banding. He was in quite a few bands over the years, especially with the Salvation Army.”
His funeral will be held at Salvation Army Hall in Violet Hill Road, Stowmarket on Thursday, May 5 at 2pm.