A D-DAY hero who served in Portsmouth has sadly passed away at the age of 96.
Len Perry was originally from London but was based in Portsmouth for much of the Second World War. At the age of 20, Len served as a stoker in a destroyer, charged with the task of supporting landing craft on the beaches of Normandy.
Son Robert Perry, 68, who lived in Emsworth for 30 years, said: ‘The first journey my father did contained journalists who were chronicling the war effort. They had to go to each of the Normandy beaches before heading back to Portsmouth. I remember him telling me about returning to Portsmouth and seeing young children playing on the beach and the contrast with the carnage witnessed across the channel.’
Len had to make several return trips with conveys of troops ready for deployment to the Normandy offensive.
‘On one of his trips a US landing craft was hit by a German torpedo boat. He had vivid memories of lifting injured people out of the water, lungs full of fuel,’ said Robert.
Before his heroic D-Day exploits Len had served in the Arctic Convoy missions to the Eastern Front to provide the Soviet Union and allies with supplies. He endured gruelling weather conditions and the constant threat of U-boat attacks.
Robert said: ‘The conditions were particularly extreme and they were constantly having to chip away the ice which caused the boats to become unstable. Len was particularly pleased when a campaign by The News and former navy commander, Eddie Grenfell, led to these men eventually getting the recognition they deserved with the award of the Arctic Star. He was presented with it by David Cameron at 10 Downing Street.’
Despite his advancing years, Len remained active and would regularly ride his 100-year-old Sunbeam motorcycle – even riding it to Omaha Beach for the 65th anniversary of the landings and more recently to Belgium.
Len passed away on Wednesday October 30, a day after celebrating his 96th birthday with family.
Robert said: ‘He really enjoyed the last couple of years – meeting new great-grandchildren and taking an active part in the D-Day 75 commemorations. My father had a fantastic sense of humour and was an amazing communicator with an ability to engage people.’
Family friend, and president of the Portsmouth Pensioners Association, Dr Alan Burnett, 79, added: ‘This is another example of a generation passing and it’s vital we remember the sacrifices made by people like Len.’