One of the few remaining Lancashire D-Day veterans has been described as a “true British hero” after passing away at the age of 94.

Gerard Rogerson, from Longridge, was 18 when he took part in the Normandy beach landings in June 1944, during which he regularly had to wade out into the sea to bring supplies ashore – even though he couldn’t swim.

His service and bravery were recognised when he was presented with the Legion D’Honneur – France’s highest military commendation – at a special ceremony in 2016.

Mr. Rogerson died peacefully earlier this month after a short illness – just weeks before he would have celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary with his wife Freda.

He had never left Lancashire before being embarking on his military duties, which ultimately saw him dispatched to the frontline in France as a member of the Royal Engineers during the latter days of World War Two.   It was there that he took part in Operation Overlord, during which Allied forces stormed five beaches, including one named Juno,  where Mr. Rogerson landed and spent more than a month under near-constant attack.

Stephen Canavan got to know the “quiet and unassuming” ex-serviceman as fellow member of the congregation at St. Mary’s, Fernyhalgh and Ladyewell Church in Fulwood.   He says that the modesty of the man belied his bravery.

“He didn’t like to talk about the war – I think it was like opening up an old wound.

“He had to go out into the waters at night and climb up netting on the side of the ships to get the supplies that the troops needed.   He saw some men being cut in half by boats.

“Although he didn’t speak about it very much, you could tell he was proud of his service and doing his bit to secure our freedom,” said Stephen, adding that Mr. Rogerson had taken particular pride in being a member of the Royal Engineers’ Association, acting as its president for the past two years.

He regularly revisited Normandy for the annual commemorations, meeting Prince Charles at last year’s event.

After the war ended, it would be more than two years before he returned to his Lancashire roots, via a period stationed in India.   It was during that time that he started corresponding with Freda, who would be by his side for the next seven decades.

After his homecoming, Mr. Rogerson put his sense of commitment and dedication to duty to good use in the more peaceful surroundings of Whittingham Hospital, where he spent almost half a century tending the grounds, rising to the role of district garden superintendent.

He was still driving until last year and passing around the collection plate at St. Mary’s – he really did remain sprightly,” recalled Stephen.

“He was a warm, kind man – a true British hero – the kind of person who you felt blessed for having met.”