'Modest and kind' D-Day veteran dies aged 96 on Christmas Day
- Credit: supplied by Jim McLaurin
One of Britain's last surviving D-Day veterans who was "too modest" to claim his service medals has died aged 96 on Christmas Day.
Horace James Minister, known as Jim, was aboard the first wave of landing units transporting tanks and troops to the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, witnessing the carnage first hand.
He missed death by inches that day, June 6, 1944, when an infantryman he was taking to battle was killed next to him.
He died peacefully at home in Scratby on Christmas Day, two years after receiving the service medals he thought unnecessary for "doing his duty".
Having always dreamed of joining the RAF he volunteered as an Able Seaman aged 18 immediately after seeing the film In Which We Serve at the cinema in Battersea, where he was born.
After numerous deployments abroad he was part of the amphibious invasion, codenamed Operation Overlord, transporting tanks and troops to three assault beaches Juno, Sword, and Gold, where casualties were high.
When one of the tank carriers was hit, his hand was badly scolded.
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He was treated by a US Destroyer and made hot chocolate laced with rum, and bread and butter pudding for the officers as a thank you using ingredients supplied by the Americans who had better stocks of food.
After D-Day he joined the troops on land.
He was discharged in 1946 and went on to work on the lightships, which meant long spells away from home.
In 1955 he joined the fire service in Cambridge. By this time he had met his wife Pauline and decided to move to the coast, transferring to Great Yarmouth and setting up home in Hemsby in1961.
They had two children Aly (known as Minta) and Robert, who died in his 40s. Although the couple divorced in the 1980s they remained on good terms until Pauline's death in 2019.
He didn’t take retirement at 65, remaining within the Fire Brigade as a fire hydrant inspection officer until 1989.
Mr Minister was born on March 10, 1925, in Battersea, London.
His father was chief fire officer in the Greater London Fire Service during the Blitz.
His mother was head seamstress to Princess Alexandra and there were frequent visits to Buckingham Palace and exotic travels.
Mr Minister's daughter's partner Jim McLaurin said he could recall all the events of D-Day in exceptional detail.
As a fireman Mr McLaurin said he had saved countless lives, carrying casualties down ladders over his shoulder.
In his 80s he took up painting, using his brushes to create vivid wartime scenes from memory - a depiction of the landings hanging proudly in his hall.
He had taken art classes classes in Scratby, and then Stokesby.
Mr McLaurin described him as "a lovely old gentleman" who was known for his generosity, compassion, and kindness.
He retained a love for the sea, enjoying sailing trips and walks with his beloved dog.
He was also a modest man who always maintained he was simply doing his duty and needed no reward or thanks for his D-Day service.
It wasn't until two years ago when his daughter took over his affairs that the family were able to apply for his service medals, something he had "never got round to doing".
Even when they arrived he questioned why he had them, his loyalty and service being freely given.
Up until a year ago he was still driving, but started to deteriorate in the last 12 months. He died peacefully in his sleep at home.
He was never one to dwell on his many achievements that sprung from a sense of duty and compassion for other people, Mr McLaurin added, hailing the resilience of all the D-Day veterans.
"Where they get their strength from is unreal," he said.
"I do not think many people would do that sort of thing today. He was a wonderful man."
Mr Minister's funeral service will take place on January 28, 2pm, at Holy Trinity Church, Caister. His medals and fireman's helmet will sit on his ensign-draped coffin.