ONE of the last surviving local heroes of D-Day has passed away at the age of 87. Joe Hall survived the horrors of the Battle of Normandy to go on to become one of the first Allied soldiers to be given permission to marry a German civilian after the war.
The 19-year-old Gloster, from Kingswood, was one of the first wave of soldiers storming Sword Beach on June 6, 1944.
His landing craft ran aground on a sandbar off the coast and Joe and his fellow soldiers – who were laden with heavy packs – were forced to jump into neck-high water to make for the beach.
"I remember seeing people trapped in the barbed wire," he later recalled. "Many people lost their lives."
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Following the end of the conflict, Joe found himself based in Germany, where he met his future wife, Lisa Meyer.
He was one of the first Allied soldiers to be given permission to marry a German civilian after the end of the war.
The couple settled back in Joe's home city, and went on to have two sons and two daughters, and later four grandchildren.
Joe, a former Cadbury Heath School pupil, had worked for the Parnall Aircraft Company as a factory policeman before the war.
But on returning to Bristol after the conflict he joined the Robinson's Wax Paper factory in Fishponds, where he worked for 27 years as a printer – eventually leaving to become a full time union official with the National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants (NATSOPA).
Joe volunteered with the St John Ambulance Brigade from 1954 until 1990 – becoming Chief Area Superintendent for the charity. He was awarded the Order of St John by the Queen in 1976 for his commitment to the organisation.
He also served as a magistrate in the city for a number of years.
After his retirement Joe continued to live an independent life, even after the death of his wife eight years ago, living in Kingswood just a few miles from where he was born.
But growing increasingly frail, he moved to Blossom Fields Nursing Home in Winterbourne earlier this year, and passed away last week after a short illness.
Mr Hall will be buried at Mangotsfield Cemetery in Downend on Friday at 10.30am.