'˜Humble' veteran dies 73 years and one day after he fought at D-Day

A 100-year-old World War Two veteran has died, 73 years and one day after he took part in D-Day.

Wednesday, 14th June 2017, 1:19 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 5:14 am
Ronald Meads turned 100 earlier this year and was awarded the Legion d'Honneur
Ronald Meads turned 100 earlier this year and was awarded the Legion d'Honneur

Ronald Meads, who earlier this year received the Légion d’Honneur for his service in the Royal Navy, died on June 7 at St Mary’s Care Home in Westbrooke.

Born in Pevensey in 1917, Ronald moved to Hove as a child where his father opened a drapery business.

After attending Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School, Ronald started working at an auction house, also joining the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Ronald’s son Steve, 67, said: “Ships were always his passion, going back to the old three-masted sailing ships and old fishing boats.

“He had pretty much joined up before war was declared.”

When war arrived in 1939 Ronald was dispatched to the Indian Ocean, aboard HMS Hermes.

Four weeks after he was transferred to HMS Cape Town to patrol the area around Madagascar and the Arabian Sea, HMS Hermes was sunk off modern-day Sri Lanka.

Never truly safe in war, HMS Cape Town was also torpedoed, this time with Ronald aboard.

Ronald survived the incident and helped guide the stricken vessel back to shore for repairs, but many men lost their lives.

Steve added: “He then was transferred to an armed trawler for North Atlantic convoys out of Liverpool.

“They were literally fishing boats with a gun stuck on.

“They carried depth charges to deter any U-boats that might prey on the boats – pretty hairy stuff.”

In 1944 Ronald was one of many sent to the Channel to join the preparations for the famous D-Day landings.

During the landings Ronald’s ship sailed ahead of the main force, searching for sea mines and other hazards that might hinder the soldiers landing on the beaches.

His paratrooper brother Dennis was killed in action at the Battle of Arnhem in Holland in September 1944.

Ronald returned to Arnhem in 1988 with his two sons and Dennis’ son to visit Dennis’ grave.

Discharged at the end of the war, Ronald – by that point a First Lieutenant – returned to Worthing, where his wife Cecilie lived.

Steve said: “He struggled for a while, he was a bit of a mess for a few years.”

Ronald eventually began working as a technical illustrator, drawing diagrams for manuals for ocean liners and submarines.

Ronald and Cecilie separated in 1958, with Ronald eventually remarrying.

But his second wife Doris fell ill and eventually died soon after Ronald retired.

He later moved into St Mary’s Care Home where he lived until his death this month.

Steve said: “We think the war was the highlight of his life, almost like a big adventure.

“Apart from the danger of it all I think he quite enjoyed himself, messing about in boats.

“His memory of it was very good, whereas his memory of more recent events was not so good.”

Ronald was awarded the Légion d’Honneur – France’s highest decoration – earlier this year.

Steve added: “He was very modest and humble.”

Ronald’s funeral will take place on Tuesday, June 20.