A 100-year-old D-Day veteran has urged the public to do their “duty” and follow coronavirus restrictions to protect the NHS.
Major Ted Hunt, who commanded landing craft on to Gold Beach in Normandy in June 1944, called on people to adjust their behaviour to support doctors and nurses.
A former Queen’s Bargemaster, he will be among the many elderly veterans unable to mark Remembrance Sunday in line with usual traditions this weekend, due to the coronavirus lockdown in England, as well as health concerns.
Speaking to the PA news agency from his home in Lancing, West Sussex, before the new lockdown came into force, Mr Hunt said: “On Remembrance Day I won’t go anywhere.
“At 100, I’m vulnerable as far as coronavirus is concerned, and with the safety of the nurses and doctors in mind I want to reduce my contact as much as possible.
“So on Remembrance Sunday I’ll be quite happy to be stuck here on my own in front of the television, listening to the mass bands, I hope, and the wonderful music, and I will think not only of my men who died on D-Day morning, I will not only think of my school class… I will think of the civilians.”
Born in Canning Town, east London, in 1920 to a “river family” whose heritage dates back to the 17th century, Mr Hunt was apprenticed as a River Thames waterman and lighterman.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War he enlisted with the Royal Engineers and served at the Battle of Narvik in Norway.
He later worked in London and East Anglia, preparing defences in case of a German invasion, and by 1944 he was a captain commanding 15 Rhino ferries on D-Day.
He said that in four months, 64 of these landing craft put ashore 93,000 units of tanks, lorries and other vehicles as well as 440,000 tons of military stores.
“Because at 100 I’m more vulnerable (than) most, thinking of the doctors and nurses, I owe it to them to reduce… my increasing the figures and that falls upon me to behave in a certain way,” Mr Hunt said, arguing that restrictions should be “severe”.
Asked what his message to the public would be, he added: “Accept the discipline that is required in you to behave properly, and properly means that you reduce the likelihood of… adding your name to the list of patients to be seen by doctors and nurses.
“That’s our duty. And we should do everything. So I cut my contact with others to a minimum.”
The grandfather-of-five continued: “The more patients there are, the more doctors and nurses will die seeing to them. That’s inevitable, isn’t it? And I want to do my best to reduce it.
“I’m quite happy with the discipline that requires me to do that.”
Mr Hunt said his “special mate” – fellow veteran Fred Glover, 94, who lived near Brighton – had recently died after contracting Covid-19. He had been in hospital after a few falls at home.
Mr Glover was just 17 when he joined the 9th Parachute Battalion during the Second World War.
He was wounded in a glider landing in Normandy and was taken as a prisoner of war until he managed to escape from a hospital.
He returned to the battalion and later saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, fighting against the last major German offensive of the war on the Western Front, and the Rhine crossing.
“Everybody loved Fred,” Mr Hunt said, adding: “It really knocked me out, I can tell you, I was in tears.
“But you have to get over it and dust yourself off and start all over again. I’m OK now, I’m surrounded by friends, I couldn’t have it better.”
Mr Hunt saw out the war in Europe working on the engineering of water crossings in the Netherlands.
Demobilised as a major he returned to civilian life as a college lecturer in navigation and watermanship at City and East London College in London from 1948 until 1988.
He became a Royal Waterman and was appointed Queen’s Bargemaster in 1978 and eventually retired from royal service as a Member of the Royal Victorian Order in 1990.