Highly decorated Todmorden D-Day and Dieppe war veteran passes away

Top Honour: Mr Johnson pictured with his Legion d' Honneur
Top Honour: Mr Johnson pictured with his Legion d' Honneur

A soldier who served in many of the major theatres of the Second World War, was a part of the D-Day landings and had been on the Dieppe raid, has passed away at the age of 98.

Mr Robert Johnson, of Walsden, was a Royal Marine for 14 years, service taking in campaigns in Africa and Europe which saw him decorated with the 1939-45 Star, the Africa Star, the Atlantic Star, the France and Germany Star with clasp, the Defence Medal, the Victory Medal and, many years after he landed on Sword Beach in June 1944, possibly as a Commando with comrades 30 minutes before the main attack to secure the beachhead, France’s highest award the Legion d’ Honneur.

Service: Mr Johnson in his Royal Marine days

Service: Mr Johnson in his Royal Marine days

His funeral is on Thursday, November 8, at 1.45pm at the Old Chapel, Broadstone Street, off Cross Stone Road, Todmorden, followed by cremation at Burnley (3pm). Royal British Legion branch secretary Darren Widdup said he hoped forces veterans and townspeople would give one of Todmorden’s most decorated war heroes a fine send-off.

After his military service, which included the wartime convoys, the terrible Dieppe raid, operating behind the lines in Africa, surviving the assault at Sword beach on D-Day and fighting in the battle for Caen, Bob went on to continue serving in civilian life 26 years with the West Riding Fire Service and later West Yorkshire Fire Service at Slaithwaite, Brighouse and Elland and standing in at Halifax when required.

He told the Todmorden News after receiving his Chevalier (Knight) in the Ordre National de la Legion d’ Honneur in 2016: “You could say I spent all my life in uniform - I loved the fire service, helping people, I’ve enjoyed what I have done.”

He married his wife Mary in 1941, who passed away ten years before he received that award, and their family includes three sons and a daughter.

As a Royal Marine, Bob was promoted to Corporal in 1942 and Sergeant a year later. He served in several units including 40 Commando (Royal Marines), the first full Commando unit, formed in 1942 from volunteers. As a Royal Marine he also served on ships including HMS Eagle, HMS Duke of York and HMS Unicorn. He learned to glide while a Fleet Air Arm pilot, was a MENSA member, played bowls, learned marquetry and calligraphy, and participated in tai chi - all symbolic of a rich and varied life.