A Second World War hero from Co Down who passed away last week was “an incredible human being with a tremendous amount of courage and valour”, the mayor of Ards and North Down has said.
Alderman Bill Keery said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the death of Eddie Spence, a former Royal Marine who was awarded France’s highest honour for his actions during the D-Day landings.
Mr Spence, who was aged in his mid-90s, passed away in hospital on June 13 – a week after the start of commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings.
Mr Spence was awarded the Légion d’Honneur for his bravery during the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, which began on June 6 1944.
A family notice described Mr Spence, who lived at Greenwell Place in Newtownards but was formerly from the Shankill Road in Belfast, as the “dearly loved husband of Ruby and much loved father of Edward and Terry”.
The notice said he will be “sadly missed by his sons and the entire family circle”.
Paying tribute to Mr Spence, Alderman Keery said: “I am so deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mr Eddie Spence.
“As a council, we were honoured to have Eddie attend last year’s Veterans’ Parade in Newtownards. He was an incredible human being with a tremendous amount of courage and valour.
“As a former Royal Marine, he was just 19 when he landed on the beaches of Normandy and took part in D-Day.
“He and his comrades played a vital role in initiating the Western Allied effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi Germany.
“His efforts didn’t go unnoticed and it was wholly appropriate when the French government officially recognised his role by awarding him a Legion d’Honneur, the highest award that can be bestowed by the French government.
“Eddie and his comrades are owed so much gratitude for the acts of courage carried out in World War II for which we will be eternally grateful.
“On behalf of everyone at Ards and North Down Borough Council, I’d like to extend my deepest sympathy to Eddie Spence’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”
Mr Spence’s funeral was a private family service.