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Canterbury Normandy veteran Albert Figg honoured by Prince Edward at funeral in the city

By Gerry Warren

The coffin of an 'extraordinary' Normandy veteran has been carried through the streets of Canterbury today on a Second World War gun carriage.

Dozens of veterans joined family and friends for a poignant service at the chapel at St Edmund's School where the life of 97-year-old former gunner Albert Figg was celebrated.

It included a message from Prince Edward who recently unveiled a memorial in Normandy which had been inspired by Mr Figg, who lived in Rough Common near Canterbury.

Normandy veteran Albert Figg who has died
Normandy veteran Albert Figg who has died

He was a sergeant in the Royal Artillery who laid his life on the line numerous times during the campaign, including during a victorious assault on a German stronghold against mighty SS Panzer divisions near Caen in July 1944.

After the war, he became one of the most prolific campaigners for Normandy veterans, in particular for his fight for memorials to honour the sacrifice of his fellow soldiers during operations to conquer at what was known as 'Hill 112'.

At the ceremony, family and friends paid tribute to the veteran for his character, determination, never-say-die spirit and fun.

Albert Figg's coffin arrives at St Edmund's School chapel on the back of a gun carrier
Albert Figg's coffin arrives at St Edmund's School chapel on the back of a gun carrier

He arrived at St Edmund's - his coffin painted with scenes of poppy fields and the Royal Artillery badge - on 'quad and limber' gun carrier of the type he used in Normandy, Arnhem and Germany.

He was received by a guard of honour formed by the Royal Artillery and Canterbury Royal British Legion and carried into the chapel to the nostaligic, musical recreation of wartime favourites by The Swingtime Sweethearts

The congregation was welcomed by chaplain to the Normandy Veterans, Mandy Reynolds whose own father was a veteran of the conflict.

She said they had come together to remember "a character they knew and loved".

Albert Figg's coffin is carried from the chapel
Albert Figg's coffin is carried from the chapel

The congregation also watched a short film in which Mr Figg talked about his life, war service and passion to create memorials to his fallen colleagues.

His efforts are largely why a restored Challenger tank and the stature of an infantryman are sited at Hill 112, which he campaigned and raised funds for.

Albert Figg as a young sergeant
Albert Figg as a young sergeant

Just this month, but sadly after his death on July 3, a memorial in the form of a Maltese cross of trees was also opened at Hill 112 by the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward.

And the Royal also penned a letter of sympathy to the family after being told of Mr Figg's death.

Mr Figg's daughter Annette read the letter at the service in which Prince Edward praised her father's effort saying: "The memorial owes it existance to your father and your entire family should be very proud."

In her eulogy, Annette Figg said her father had "amazing tenacity, drive and enthusiasm".

"He would never take no for an answer but was also charming and persuasive and like a people magnet with his sense of fun, she said."

"He was determined to keep the legacy of his fallen friends alive," she added.

Pall bearers lift Albert Figg's special coffin from the gun carrier
Pall bearers lift Albert Figg's special coffin from the gun carrier

There was also a tribute from history teacher Nic Dinsdale who got to know Mr Figg well from the numerous school trips to Normany on which he accompanied staff and pupils.

"He was an extraordinary man who the pupils loved and the memorials he campaigned for will be a lasting legacy."

After the service, Mr Figgs was taken on the back of the gun carrier to Barham for cremation.

After the war, Mr Figg worked as a landscape gardener but in his retirement he focused his efforts on raising awareness and fundraising for the Hill 112 memorials.

He also wrote a book called The Ups and Downs of a Gunner, which vividly tells of his early days in Sussex and Berkshire and childhood memories, such as seeing the R101 airship.

See next week's Kentish Gazette for the full story.

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