A British veteran who took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy at the age of 15 died last week at 92 following a battle with COVID-19.
Jim Radford, who was born Oct. 1, 1928, in Hull, England, was most likely the youngest participant of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He was a 15-year-old “galley boy” with the Merchant Navy when he took part in the onslaught against the Nazi presence in France.
“It is with sadness that we share the news of the death of Jim Radford who died in Lewisham Hospital early this morning after several weeks in intensive care being treated for Covid-19,” wrote Veterans for Peace UK on Nov. 6, an organization of which Radford was a member. “Jim leaves behind his family and a huge number of friends, comrades and musicians, all of whom could recall a Jim Radford story.”
Writer Ben Griffin went on to recount his memories of Radford, writing in part:
Jim was born in Hull and recounted to me his experiences of the bombing of that maritime city and his youthful desire to join the fight against Nazi Germany. At the age of 15 he joined the Merchant Navy and sailed to Normandy on the rescue tugboat Empire Larch in direct support of the D-Day landings. After the war Jim went on to serve in the Royal Navy and it was during or shortly after that service that he developed an opposition to nuclear weapons.
I first met Jim in 2011 at an anti-war event hosted by the London Catholic Worker in an old church in Haringey. Later that year I got in touch with him to ask if he would join a new organisation; Veterans For Peace UK. He joined without hesitation and was steadfast from that day onwards.
At our first Remembrance Ceremony outside the Bank of England in November 2011, Jim was one of only three VFP members present. He brought along an old Ex-Services CND banner and not having a VFP banner at the time we marched under that. Jim brought a wealth of experience to our fledgling organisation, offering sound advice based on years of participation within anti-nuclear and peace [organisations].
Jim brought a depth of experience, know-how and common sense to our monthly meetings. He was involved in the planning of our first Remembrance Ceremony at the Cenotaph in 2014 and was one of only a dozen VFP who attended. We marched to The Cenotaph on that Remembrance Sunday without invitation or permission and Jim sang “1916” as crowds of people stood and watched in silence. Jim sang at The Cenotaph every year after that and our numbers grew.
Jim was well known for his singing and regularly contributed with anti-war songs at our actions and meetings. It was as a speaker that Jim impressed me most. His life experience and pragmatic anti-war position was free of complicated narratives or ideological rhetoric. Once in Los Angeles when questioned why he campaigned for peace for so many years without tangible results he replied simply that “it was the right thing to do.”
Radford soared to the top of the charts last year for his song “The Shores of Normandy,” which received a standing ovation in 2014 when he performed it in the Royal Albert Hall to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle.
Related: In Memoriam: Fiske Hanley, World War II Veteran And ‘Special Prisoner,’ 1920-2020