D-Day veteran Major Ken Mayhew dies aged 104

Major Ken Mayhew landed with Ist Battalion The Suffolk Regiment on D-Day

Major Ken Mayhew landed with Ist Battalion The Suffolk Regiment on D-Day and served continuously with the battalion until February 1945. - Credit: Mayhew family

A D-Day veteran who was one of only four living people to receive the highest honour of the Netherlands, has died aged 104. 

Major Ken Mayhew, who lived in a village close to Norwich, died at home on Thursday, May 13, having played a pivotal role in the liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi occupation.

In 1946, Major Mayhew was knighted by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, the great-grandmother of the current monarch, King William-Alexander.

He was awarded the Knight fourth class of the Military William Order, the Dutch equivalent of the Victoria Cross and the Légion d'Honneur. The Order's motto means bravery, leadership and loyalty.

Major Ken Mayhew

Major Ken Mayhew, who has died aged 104. - Credit: Mayhew family

On his 100th birthday, Major Mayhew said of the honour: "It is something that has completely changed my life. I never looked for any fuss. But the hospitality and the friendship I have been shown by our Dutch friends has been overwhelming."

Born in Helmingham in 1917,  Major Mayhew was a keen sportsman representing his school, regiment and county in cricket, hockey and squash. 

He joined the Territorial Army in April 1939 and was commissioned into the Suffolk Regiment in May 1940.

There he was ordered to collect 150 recruits from Warley and take them to the 1st Battalion in Somerset to join the remnants of the battalion who had escaped from France at Dunkirk.

Most Read

The battalion started training as one of the assault divisions for the eventual liberation of France.

Three and a half years later Major Mayhew landed with 1 Suffolk in Normandy on D-Day when he was a Captain commanding the carrier platoon.

He served continuously until February 1945, apart from three weeks of recovering from his injuries.

In Normandy he took part in the battles for Hillman on D-Day, Chateau de La Londe and the Tinchebray crossroads.

He commanded three sections of his carrier platoon “Ken Force”, he was part of the vanguard to liberate the town of Flers, subsequently receiving the Freedom of Flers from a grateful town.

After the war, Major Mayhew built successful grain and transport businesses.

In January last year the Canaries fan was awarded with a special shirt from the club for his 103rd birthday during a Tottenham Hotspur match. City goalkeeper Tim Krul, a Dutch international, described meeting him as "an honour".

He is survived by his wife Trish.