Goodbye, Edmund Purser, British WWII Hero Who Led First D-Day Landing Craft Ashore (1919-2014)

WWII veteran Edmund Purser, a British WWII hero who led the first landing craft ashore on Sword Beach during the D-Day Landings and was ‘mentioned in dispatches’ for getting his boat home in spite of it taking a direct hit rendering in unseaworthy, has passed away recently at the old age of 95.

According to his family, WWII veteran Edmund Purser defined his life by the years he spent serving the Navy.

It was late in 1940 when Edmund Purser enlisted in the service and joined HMS Raleigh as a trainee. Later on, he got involved with the 1918 Destroyer HMS Vanquisher during its convoy duty in the North Atlantic. This assignment took him from Iceland to the Azores.

Commissioned in 1942, Edmund Purser trained to sail a landing craft which had the capability of bringing infantry ashore. These said crafts would later play vital roles during the D-Day Landings.

For this, the training Edmund Purser went through involved sailing the said landing craft from Scotland for beaching exercises into the mud Chichester Creeks.

Before the D-Day Landings took place, however, Edmund Purser was also involved in the Sicily Landings. He took command of a landing craft which took troops to shore as well as helped in the efforts of relieving the Channel Islands from the Nazis.

Edmund Purser went on to sail the Lead Landing Craft (LCA) which carried soldiers belonging to the Assault group during the D-Day landings, June 6, 1944. His boat was directly hit and some of the crew who were with him got killed as they were approaching the beach. However, Edmund Purser, known as ‘Tommy’ to his comrades, managed to get his boat back home.

This feat got him a war medal.

After his craft was repaired, Edmund Purser went on to carry more troops to Normandy for the invasion.

Edmund Purser married Pam, a wren in the Royal Navy. After WWII ended, he pursued a career in accountancy. In spite of this, he never forgot sailing. He was even part of the sailing club in Topsham, Exeter where he settled with his family.

WWII veteran Edmund Purser and his wife, Pam.
WWII veteran Edmund Purser and his wife, Pam.

Edmund Purser is survived by his wife, who is now 91, two sons, Simon and Stephen, and two grandsons, Paul and Mark. Mark followed in the legacy of his grandfather and saw active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland with the army.

Goodbye, British WWII hero Edmund Purser!

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE