Radlett D-Day veteran dies just before 70th anniversary

Ernie Brewer and former St Albans Mayor Chris Oxley at the launch of the Return to Normandy exhibiti

Ernie Brewer and former St Albans Mayor Chris Oxley at the launch of the Return to Normandy exhibition in 2009 - Credit: Archant

A screening of D-Day 70 Years On live from the Royal Albert Hall at a local cinema tonight will be particularly poignant for Jean Brewer.

For her late husband Ernie, a stalwart of the Normandy Veterans Association in St Albans, was filmed for the commemoration before his death from cancer last month aged 89.

Ernie, of Willow Way, Radlett, did not live to see the commemoration of D-Day in which he took an active part but he had been involved in the early planning for the anniversary before his death.

Ernie was only 19 when he landed on Gold Beach in Normandy as a driver/operator with the 7th Armoured Division in the first wave of the invasion. He moved on to Caen and then by Christmas time he was in Holland where he and his comrades were warmly welcomed.

They moved on to Germany and for two years after the war he remained working in Berlin. Just before it was liberated, he went into the Belsen concentration camp – an experience which haunted him all his life. After the war Ernie went into local government, finishing his career as assistant director of social services in Brent in 1984 after working in several London local authorities.

He was involved in the St Albans branch of the Normandy Veterans Association from 1984 until it formally disbanded in 2009 although it remained as a social group. He served as both chairman and secretary during that period.

In 2009 when he was 84, Ernie became a Chevalier of the Legion D’Honneur.

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Retirement found Ernie enjoying his home, walking, fishing and gardening. Jean, who married him in 1958, described him as an ‘outdoor man’.

She added: “All the girls loved him. He just had charisma and children loved him too and used to gravitate towards him. He could talk to people of all ages.”

Ernie’s funeral was held in front of 55 people at West Herts Crematorium in Garston on Monday.

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