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Manchester-born WW2 glider pilot dies aged 100

Ralph Norbury in his RAF uniform. Credit: MEN Media

A Second World War glider pilot who was one of the first to cross the Channel on D-Day has died aged 100.

Ralph Norbury's family said he was the last surviving glider pilot to land in all four of the major airborne assaults on Nazi-occupied Europe.

He enlisted in Harpurhey - and went on to become an active peace campaigner in later life in London.

Towed into the air by planes, wooden 'Horsa' gliders were released behind enemy lines to deliver platoons of soldiers and equipment to precise landing spots, day or night, with the huge advantage of silence.

Ralph took part in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, where many pilots drowned as gliders landed in the sea, and was part of the 6th Airborne Division which famously landed near the village of Ranville in Normandy, France, at the very beginning of the D-Day operation.

Credit: MEN Media

Ralph, a staff sergeant with the Glider Pilot Regiment, also fought in the Battle of Arnhem and Operation Market Garden in September, 1944 and Operation Varsity over the Rhine in Germany in March, 1945.

Ralph, who died in hospital on January 15, didn't talk at length about his experiences of the war, according to his family.

His daughter Maggie said: "There was one story he would tell - that during one flight he had to sit on his steel helmet due to the anti-aircraft fire coming up from below.

"He would tell us the funny stories - nothing ever scary."

Maggie said her dad never returned to Manchester in the years after 1945.

He worked as a machine minder in Andover, Hampshire, then lived with his family in Tooting, London.

His daughter said he was a pacifist and staunch anti-war campaigner who supported many charities and community groups and also campaigned for trade union rights and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Credit: MEN Media

Maggie added: "He gave his pension every week to help the striking miners in 1984.

"He was an amazing man: kind, thoughtful and polite.

"He was always so well and we just thought he would be here forever. But sadly he had a fall and could not get over it. He will always be remembered by his proud family."

He leaves three children, six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

The family will hold a celebration of his life on March 29, which would have been his 101st birthday.