Farewell to Jack Woods: One of our last surviving Normandy veterans

Norwich Normandy veteran, Jack Woods, in Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: DENISE

Norwich Normandy veteran, Jack Woods, pictured in Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019 - Credit: Denise Bradley

One of Britain’s last surviving Normandy veterans who dedicated his life to making sure that his brothers-in-arms were never forgotten has died aged 98.

Just two days before the 78th anniversary of D-Day – a commemoration he always made a pilgrimage to Normandy to mark – Jack Woods passed away peacefully at the Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital on June 4.

Jack saw service with the 9th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment in Italy and France and took part in the fiercely-contested Battle of the Reichswald, as the Allies pushed into Germany in 1945.

He was the secretary of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association and organised an annual trip to France and the beaches where Allied forces landed in the summer of 1944, the last being in 2019.

In 2015 he recalled: "We sailed for Normandy during a storm and I was as sick as a dog: all I wanted to do was die as the LST (Landing Ship Tank) we were on did everything but sink.

“It didn't take long for me to realise that we were killing people that were just like us - ordinary young lads. I thought right there and then, 'this is not right'.

“When you live through something like that, it lives with you forever. I feel the presence of those who died there when I am in Normandy. I hear them. They do not want to be forgotten."

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Born in 1924 in Norwich, Jack enlisted as a 19-year-old and, after the war, was manager at The Federation Club (later The Talk in Oak Street) in Norwich before taking on a number of business ventures including a Great Yarmouth nightclub and a catering supplies company.

He had two children, Carol from his first marriage and John from his second to wife Hilda (who died in 1995) and two grandchildren Andrew, 28, and Bethany, 26. His partner Jean Chapman, who accompanied him to Normandy, passed away in December 2019.

“For as long as I am able, I will return to Normandy to make sure that those we lost and left behind are never forgotten,” Jack told me, in 2017.

In this respect, and in so very many others, he kept his word. Jack’s funeral will be at St Faith’s Crematorium on June 28 at 11.45am.

A full tribute to Jack will be published on Saturday.