Tributes paid to Islington D Day veteran who spearheaded Normandy landings

Ken Watts in 2016 at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium

Ken Watts in 2016 at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium, dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown - Credit: Dick Goodwin

Tributes have been paid to a D Day Veteran from Islington who has died aged 96.

Ken Watts served in 18 Platoon, D Company, 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment for four years during the Second World War, and on June 6, 1944 he was amongst the thousands of men and women involved in Operation Overlord, landing in Normanday on D-Day.

The invasion marked the beginning of the liberation of German-occupied Western Europe from Nazi control.

In 1947, Ken was demobbed and returned to work at York Way Motors near to Kings Cross, where he had started working eight years before. 

He went on to work there for more than 50 years, a member of the Islington Veterans Association and was involved with the London Taxi Trade, selling cab parts from the 1950s until his retirement. 


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He was also one of the longest serving veterans of the Taxi Charity, which is run by volunteer London black taxi drivers and has been supporting thousands of veterans of all ages since 1948. It arranges free trips to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, for acts of commemoration and days out to museums, concerts, or fundraising events in the UK, to catch up with friends and comrades.

An officer who later served in the same regiment as Ken paid tribute to his bravery. He said: "The 2nd Battalion of The Devonshire Regiment formed part of 231 (Malta) Brigade which had already taken part in the invasions of Sicily and Italy and was specially selected by General Montgomery as one of the two 'Spearhead Brigades' for the invasion of Normandy for its spirit and fighting prowess.

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"The Battalion suffered 35 dead, and 66 wounded on D-Day alone. Later in the war the 2nd Devons were the first battalion to cross the Dutch frontier, ending their war deep inside Germany.”

Graham Pike, London cabbie and Taxi Charity volunteer, added: “Ken was a very quiet unassuming gentlemen who had been part of our fundraising collection team since the team was formed ten years ago and will be missed by everyone at the Taxi Charity.”

Ken leaves behind his wife of 10 years Eileen.
 

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