U’s stalwart is laid to rest to sound of chanting fans

Oxford Mail: The coffin of D-Day veteran and lifelong Oxford United fan, George Bateman is carried into the chapel at Headington Cemetery, Oxford The coffin of D-Day veteran and lifelong Oxford United fan, George Bateman is carried into the chapel at Headington Cemetery, Oxford

A D-DAY veteran and Oxford United fan was laid to rest yesterday to the sounds of the chanting crowds he knew so well.

Oxford Mail:

Family, friends and Royal British Legion (RBL) members paid their respects at Headington Cemetery to George Bateman, above, who died on April 24, aged 96 .

A coffin draped in the Union Flag and adorned with yellow flowers, the colour of his beloved U’s, was carried inside by pallbearers and the hymn Abide with Me was sung.

Tributes were led by his nephews Nigel, 57, Keith, 60, and Harry, 69, and niece Sheila, 62.

Harry Wharton said: “I can recall many of the times he snuck me into the Manor, by any means to avoid having to pay for another ticket.

“And of course he loved a pint and could always be found down at the Butcher’s Arms in Wilberforce Street.

“To us he was an uncle, to the RBL he was a poppy seller and to United he was a steward.

“But to all he was a good man.”

Mr Bateman, who lived in Bateman Road, Oxford, was conscripted into the Army in the Second World War and joined the Royal Pioneer Corps.

He was among the men who landed on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day on June 6, 1944, setting up vital supply lines, clearing mine fields, laying vehicle tracks and building bridges.

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He also witnessed the horrific aftermath of the Nazi concentration camp Belsen.

After the war he became a great supporter of the RBL and Poppy Appeal.

Colleagues at the Morris Plant, where he worked for most of his life, recalled he could often be seen making thousands of poppies to be sold.

Mr Bateman was also a life-long Oxford United fan and has been a steward at the Manor Ground from 1959 to 2001.

During the service a video was played of trips Oxford United stewards of the old Manor Ground had taken together and a recording of I’m Oxford ’til I Die was also played aloud.

Former Headington United player Dennis Maskell, now 83, also paid tribute to Mr Bateman.

He said: “George was a real football fanatic.

“If I had a bad game he’d come and tell me off and I wouldn’t blame him.

“But if we’d had a good game he’d come a slap you on the back too. He wanted us to win all the time.”

Members of the Oxfordshire RBL also attended.

Chairman Jim Lewendon said: “George was one of our oldest members and I have known him for more than 50 years.

“He was a good man for the Legion. He always turned out for remembrance services and was one of our best poppy sellers.

“George was the tops. We had a lot of time for him here.”

After the service in the Headington Cemetery chapel, Mr Bateman was laid to rest in the cemetery grounds.

Mr Bateman never married or had any children.

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