WWII naval veteran Len Hobbs, 98, died peacefully at home on Monday 31 October with his daughter Elizabeth at his side.
Born on 1 August 1924, Len Hobbs from South Woodham Ferrers, near Chelmsford, joined the Royal Navy in 1943 and after completing his basic training at HMS Ganges was sent to the Isle of Man to learn how to operate radar, (then known as Radio Direction and Finding, or RDF) first ashore, then at sea aboard HMS Pollux.
After a spell at HMS Chatham, Able Seaman Hobbs was drafted to HMS Fernie, which at the time was assigned to coastal convoy escort duties until she was called upon for Operation Neptune, The D Day landings, shepherding shipping across the Channel.
Hunt-class destroyer HMS Fernie was part of the ring of steel thrown around the invasion armada, with Len charged with monitoring the display for signs of Luftwaffe attacks. However German naval forces – midget submarines and fast-moving torpedo boats – proved an even greater threat. On June 11, two E-boats evaded the defensive screen and struck frigate HMS Halsted, blowing off her bow. HMS Fernie was sent in to rescue survivors.
Len was an active participant in Normandy reunions and supporter of the Spirit of Normandy Trust. Len regularly returned to the beaches with old comrades – including a trip only last autumn to see the magnificent new British Normandy Memorial, built overlooking the very landing grounds his ship helped protect. Len said he was “amazed” by the lasting tribute to the 22,442 under British command who were killed in the liberation of Normandy from Nazi oppression.
Len commented “I’m just pleased I lived to see it opened – a lot of poor devils on D-Day never even got ashore.”
Richard Palusinski, Chairman, Spirit of Normandy Trust, said, “It is with sadness that we record the loss of another veteran of D Day and the Normandy Landings. Len Hobbs never forgot his comrades from the “great adventure” and regularly returned to Normandy, initially with the Normandy Veterans Association and, more recently, with the Spirit of Normandy Trust. Len will always be remembered as someone of great character, with a great sense of humour, ready smile and an infectious laugh. Len was one of two veterans who launched the D Day 75 series of postage stamps for Royal Mail. He will be sorely missed by his family and many friends. He has served faithfully and may he now rest in peace.
Dick Goodwin, Vice President, Taxi Charity for Military Veterans said, “Len held the position of President of the Southend Royal Navy Association and was the former chairman of the Southend Branch of the Normandy Veterans Association. A very humble man with a great sense of humour, who was always positive and an absolute joy to have with us on our trips to Normandy. RIP Sir. You will be missed.”
To find out more about the support the Taxi Charity offers to veterans or to donate visit www.taxicharity.org
About the Taxi Charity
The Taxi Charity is run by volunteer London black taxi drivers and has been supporting thousands of veterans of all ages since 1948. The charity arranges free trips to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, for acts of commemoration and days out to museums, concerts, or fundraising events across the UK, to catch up with friends and comrades.
The charity was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in June 2021.
In 2023 the charity will be celebrating its 75th anniversary.
To fund and facilitate their work, the charity is reliant on donations, grants and sponsorship.
About the Spirit of Normandy Trust
The Spirit of Normandy Trust strives to ensure that every one of the individuals involved in D Day and the Battle for Normandy and their dependents, receive the support they need in their advancing years and that their service, which had such a significant impact on world history, is never forgotten.