AN ANDOVER veteran who survived one of the most important battles of the Second World War has died aged 96 while still waiting to be awarded a medal for his bravery.

Thomas Waite passed away on November 17 following a long illness.

The grandfather served with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Hampshire Regiment (the Tigers), and spoke to the Advertiser earlier this year to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, which helped liberate Europe.

However, he was never awarded the Legion d’honneur for his part in the landings, which the French government announced in 2014 would be given to all veterans who took part in the military operation.

Tom was among the Allied forces who took part in the landings on June 6, 1944 when thousands of soldiers joined the largest seaborne invasion force in history, setting sail for France on a mission to liberate the continent, carrying the world’s hopes for freedom with them.

If they didn’t succeed at this crucial point during the war, Hitler would have the chance to launch his new V-weapons against Britain, in a bid to save Germany.

But the operation, which laid the foundations for victory, did not come without significant loss.

Tom previously recalled men falling around him as he ran onto a beach given the code name Sword.

He said: “One chap played the trumpet and he took it with him everywhere. He was killed that day. They buried him with his trumpet.”

Despite the imminent danger, Tom said he was focused on the task ahead, explaining: “I ran as fast as I could and dug a hole as deep as I could. I ran up the beach and dug a hole and people were shouting at me.

“I didn’t feel anything. You were so into it you didn’t feel frightened. We wanted to get from one side to the another.”

The veteran, who was awarded five medals for his service, was in France for a few days before he suffered a malaria relapse – he first picked up the disease while serving in North Africa earlier in the war – and was sent back home for the rest of the war.

Tom suffered a shrapnel injury during the D-Day Landings, but a mix-up with another man with the same name resulted in his family believing he had died.

He had happy memories of the end of the war, recalling: “I remember when the chaps surrendered, I sat on the kerb with my dad and drank a beer.”

Tom, who was born in August 1932 in Poplar, signed up to the army in 1940 and was a private as the army battled through North Africa, Sicily and then into Italy before he and his comrades flew home to prepare for D-Day.

After the war Tom worked for Kelsey Hayes Wheel Company, a subsidiary in Ford, Dagenham.

He was based there for around 14 years before becoming a postman, first based in London then Andover, where he moved in 1972.

The great-grandfather married his second wife Christina in 1964, and the couple were together for 41 years before she died in 2005.

Tom performed as a pub singer, and enjoyed entertaining residents at his home in Andover, singing war-time songs.

His step-son, Dennis Kenway, paid tribute to his father, saying: “He has left a very large space in our family circle.

“He rarely spoke about the war, but when he did just once his stories were listened to with so much interest by those listening.

“He really was a one-off, and the mould has been broken he was a great living human being.”

Thomas’ funeral is on Tuesday, leaving from the Royal British Legion in Andover at 12.15pm followed by a service at St Mary’s Church in Andover at 1pm.