TRIBUTES have poured in for one of the last surviving veterans of the D-Day campaign, who has died aged 97.

Bill Pendell, from Stanford in the Vale near Wantage and Faringdon, will still be the model for a garden commemoration in Royal Hospital Chelsea's grounds, ahead of the 75th D-Day anniversary.

The former parish councillor, who won numerous medals for his service, has been hailed as a 'kind, modest and wise' 'man of the village'.

Daughter Fay Pendell, 57, said: "He liked to meet people and was always friendly: a reasonably gregarious character - a bit of a maverick who liked to do his own thing.

Labelling him 'a bit of a cheeky chappy', Ms Pendell continued: "He liked to have a laugh and a joke and played football.

"He was very much a 'man of the village'. He knew everyone and they knew him and he was down the local social club weekly. Remarkable for his age."

Born in South Wales, Mr Pendell returned to Stanford after the war, having landed on Gold beach during D-Day as a 22-year-old despatch rider in the Royal Signals, 11th Armoured Division.

In 1945, he won the Military Medal for bravery in combat, before receiving the Légion d’Honneur – France's highest order of merit – two years ago.

The King of Belgium also presented him with a medal for his part in Antwerp's liberation; while he was part of a group which liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. But he never spoke about the war until about five years ago.

Victoria Phipps, from D-Day Revisited, hailed the veteran as 'kind, modest and wise, but also so full of fun'.

She said: “We will miss Bill very much, he was a wonderful character. His loss has strengthened our resolve to create this legacy at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and we’re thrilled that his daughter Fay and so many of his veteran pals are keen to come along in May in his stead.

"Next year’s anniversary will be the final opportunity for the public to come together and commemorate D-Day alongside a significant number of men and women who experienced it first hand."

A father of three, Mr Pendell is survived by three grandsons and four great-grandchildren.

He died at the John Radcliffe Hospital after a short illness on December 1.

Royal British Legion spokeswoman Gina Edwards said: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of Bill Pendell and our thoughts are with his family.

"Veterans such as Bill will always be remembered for their service and the 75th anniversary of D-Day will be made even more poignant.”