Tributes for Northampton sailor who served on D-Day landing and helped sink the Bismarck

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A sailor from Northampton who helped to defeat the mighty Bismarck battleship has died, aged 98.

Leslie Edwards, known as ‘Norman’, was a leading torpedo operator during World War Two on the HMS Norfolk, which fired the first shots that led to the defeat of the iconic German vessel.

Living in Fullingdale Road, The Headlands, until recently, Mr Edwards also served on the treacherous Arctic Convoys taking supplies to Russia on what Churchill described as the “worst journey in the world”.

Speaking to the Chron in 2001, Mr Edwards said he had not set out to be a hero.

He said: “I left my house on June 17, 1940 and shouted ‘see you in six months’.

“Little did we know that it would be five and a half years until the war was over.

“Although we had some hard times, my experiences on the Norfolk taught me a great deal and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.”

Carrying more than 50 guns, the recently commissioned Bismarck was the German navy’s most feared ship so its destruction on its first proper mission was a huge propaganda coup for the Allies.

Mr Edwards and his fellow HMS Norfolk crew members were part of a force sent to shadow the battleship near Denmark.

Not only did the Norfolk engage with the Bismarck but, after a week-long pursuit, surrounded it with several other Royal Navy ships, who fatally damaged it.

It eventually sunk - many historians think deliberately by the Germans when they realised it was defeated - on May 27, 1941 with the loss of more than 2,000 lives.

The victory was celebrated all the more by British sailors because the Bismarck had days earlier sunk the chasing HMS Hood, killing all but three of a crew of 1,419 men.

Mr Edwards said in 2001: “When I heard about Hood I could have cried.

“I can’t really remember our instant reaction when we realised the Bismarck had been sunk.

“We must have shouted and cheered a lot because at the time they were the enemy.”

Aside from the battle with the Bismarck and Arctic convoys, Mr Edwards also served on the HMS Venus, which bombarded Juno beach during the D-Day landings.

He also took part part in the sinking of the last enemy ship of the war when the Haguro was torpedoed by Mr Edwards’ flotilla near modern day Malaysia.

After the war he returned with his late wife Renee to Northampton where he worked in the shoe industry and raised two daughters, Jan and Lesley.

Son-in-law Tony Stevenson said: “He was a very well-respected man and we all knew what he did in the war entitled him to that respect.

“In so many ways he was a battler and a warrior.”

Mr Edwards passed away on July 24 at Ecton Brook Care Home.