United Kingdom

D-Day hero, 97, dies of coronavirus in hospital

Tributes have been paid to a D-Day veteran who died after testing positive for coronavirus while being treated in hospital.

Harold Pearsall, aged 97 and from Tamworth in Staffordshire, died at Sutton Coldfield's Good Hope Hospital on Sunday, the 1944 Alliance Normandy-Market Garden veterans association said.

The Royal Artillery veteran, who received the Legion D'Honneur in December 2015, landed alongside Canadian forces during the Normandy campaign.

Harold Pearsall, 97, from Tamworth, Staffordshire landed on Juno Beach alongside Canadian troops on D-Day with the Royal Artillery. He tested positive for coronavirus in hospital and died on Sunday

The 97-year-old veteran met Prince William during last year's 75th anniversary of the landings at the National Memorial Arboretum

Mr Pearsall was involved in a major Allied operation in Caen where he was ambushed by Germans who attacked his unit with phosphorous bombs and grenades

He landed on Juno Beach on D-Day and met Prince William during last year's 75th anniversary of the landings at the National Memorial Arboretum. 

A statement issued on Facebook by the Market Garden Veterans Association said: 'It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of our dear friend and brother veteran Chevalier Harold Pearsall la Legion d'honneur age 97 yrs.

'Our prayers and thoughts are with Harold's family and friends. RIP Harold, duty done.'

Association secretary Peter Lloyd said Mr Pearsall, who is survived by two sons, was proud of his service, friendly and always 'very smart'.

Mr Lloyd added: 'He was very active through the years with the associations.'

In a statement, The lord mayor of Birmingham, Mohammed Azim, expressed sadness at the veteran's death and offered his sincere condolences to his friends and family.

In 2005 Mr Pearsall spoke with the BBC about his time in Normandy. 

He said he and his unit were moving from Bayeaux towards Caen on the morning of July 8. 

The area was still held by German forces and his unit was ambushed by phosphorous bombs and grenades in a wood near St Contes. 

He said four of the guns in his unit were knocked out without firing a shot. The final gun fired one round before it was blown up. 

He said the unit's commander, Major Marsh, rallied his remaining troops and routed the Germans. 

Mr Pearsall said the New Zealand officer told them: 'Come on lads, we all know the British can take it. Now let's show them we can dish it out too.

'He was a very brave man.'

Mr Pearsall said his unit lost 75 per cent of their strength that day. 

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