24/04/08 - Harry Martin - Glowing tributes to a Normandy veteran

FRIENDS and family have paid tribute to a Normandy veteran who won numerous medals and fought tirelessly for the recognition of his fallen comrades.

Corporal Harry Martin fought at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 with the Royal Welch Fusiliers and earned a Grand Cross of Honour from the American Army after saving a group of soldiers stranded in a minefield.

In 1994, he arranged the largest ever parade of veterans to take place in Leicester to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second World War.

In a note he wrote before his death Mr Martin described his proudest moment and one of the most important jobs in his life as the inauguration of a monument at Hotton in the Ardennes, Belgium, in 2000. The monument is dedicated to the 53rd Welch Division and to his colleagues who lay there. It was Mr Martin's battalion that captured the village from enemy hands.

In 2002 Mr Martin travelled to Vesstem, in Holland, to place a memorial he designed himself in honour of two of his fallen comrades, who he fought with to liberate the village in 1944.

He was also secretary of the Leicester branch of the Normandy Veterans' Association for 12 years and secretary of the Royal Welch Fusiliers for about 12 years.

The great-grandfather, who was born in Melton in 1916, died from a heart attack at his home in Evington on April 5, aged 91. He left two children, Stephen and Barbara, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. His sister, Eileen Taphouse (82), who lives in Melton, said he was well known in the area.

Mr Martin's son, Stephen (59), from Thurmaston, said: "He was a very private man who cared deeply about what he did and got on with it quietly but effectively.

"He would put himself out for anybody regarding the Normandy veterans who needed help, and he was totally dedicated to the cause."

Mr Martin was manager of the Co-op store in Houghton-on-the-Hill until he retired in 1981 but devoted the majority of his time to honouring the fallen.

Stephen added: "He always maintained that he was motivated to achieve this because, according to the Americans, the British were never there but he knew they were and wanted it recognising."

Ken West (85), secretary of the Normandy Veterans' Association Leicester Branch, said: "Harry did a tremendous amount of work for us, for which we're very appreciative. He was a comrade and a friend and it's a sad loss."

lMr Martin's funeral will be held at Gilroes Crematorium on Tuesday. The family has asked that donations be made to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Call the Co-operative Funeral Services, Humberstone Road, Leicester, on (0116) 251 6906.