PATRICK Churchill, who has died aged 94, was a decorated war hero and one of the first to land on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

Patrick Samuel Churchill was born in Oxford on March 29, 1924, the middle of three children to Edwin and Edith Churchill.

His father, an Oxford University Marshal, served with the Grenadier Guards in the First World War, seeing action at Ypres, the Somme and Passchendaele, and was seriously wounded on three occasions.

Patrick grew up in Swinburne Road, Iffley, and after leaving school aged 14 worked at Morris Motors, taking a job making parts for Hurricanes and Spitfires.

In his spare time, he volunteered as a messenger for the Air Raid Precautions organisation.

At weekends he would cycle over to the Bomber Command training station at RAF Abingdon in the hope of bagging a seat in a bomber as it flew around Oxfordshire.

With his sights set on becoming a fighter pilot, Mr. Churchill volunteered for the RAF in 1941 aged 17.

Although he was accepted after passing the medical, he was informed that he would have to wait until he turned 18 before being called up.

Fearful the war might be over before he’d had a chance to ‘do his bit’, he enlisted instead in the Royal Marines.

In the event, he received his call-up papers shortly after his 18th birthday in March 1942 and travelled down to Portsmouth. 

After six weeks basic training and further advanced training, he was posted to the Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation (MNBDO) stationed in South Wales, as an instructor in aircraft recognition to a searchlight battery.

Worried the war was passing him by, he volunteered for ‘Hazardous Service’ and was posted to Royal Marine Armoured Support Group.

Equipped with specially adapted Cromwell tanks called Centaurs, this unit’s task was to provide fire support to the assault troops as they established a beachhead on the Normandy coast.

The unit landed in the first wave of the assault on Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and Mr Churchill’s tank was the only one to make it off the beach unscathed. By the end of the day it had fought its way five miles inland.

He returned to the UK after a month in Normandy and was posted as a signaller with the French troops of 4 Commando – seeing further action in the assault on the Dutch island of Walcheren – known as Hitler’s Island Fortress.

His section become isolated and he defended his post for 36 hours. He was later awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery.

He returned to Oxford after the war and worked at Morris Motors until the 1970s when he joined Oxfordshire County Council.

In 1962 he met and fell in love with a German Red Cross nurse called Karin Busch, who was learning English in the city.

She had survived the bombing of Dresden in February 1945, in which her mother was killed and her twin brother blinded.

They were married in Munich in 1964 and settled in Garsington. They had a son, Francis, and later moved to Newland in Witney.

Aside from his work and war heroics, Mr Churchill co-founded the Oxford Aquatics Society, was an accomplished draftsman, painter and cabinet maker, and also looked after an allotment in Witney.

On the 60th anniversary of D-Day he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by French president Jacques Chirac in a ceremony attended by the Queen, President George Bush and Vladimir Putin.

He continued to make the annual pilgrimage to Normandy, most recently in June, just weeks before his death. He died on June 28 and, pre-deceased by his wife Karin, who died in January aged 87, is survived by his son Francis.

His funeral will be held on July 18 at St Mary the Virgin Church, Witney, at 1pm.