Funeral held for D-Day war hero Jim Booth who was a spy on the beaches of Normandy
Watch Ben McGrail's report.
The funeral has been held for Taunton's D-Day veteran Jim Booth, who died in December 2022 at the age of 101.
Mr Booth was the last surviving member of a team which undertook a highly secretive mission to spy on the beaches of Normandy and pave the way for D-Day in June 1944.
Representatives from the military joined Jim's friends and family for the service at St John the Evangelist Church in Staplegrove, near his home.
His family described his life as "a long life, lived, and loved, to the full".
James Charles Macaulay Booth was born in London in the summer of 1921 and grew up in Leicestershire. In 1939, at the age of 18, Jim had just started at Cambridge University studying medicine but before the first term was over he left to sign up to the Navy following the outbreak of World War II.
Following training at the Butlins Holiday Camp in Skegness, he was sent to his first posting - mine sweeping in the North Sea.
At 22, Jim wrote to the Admiralty volunteering for more dangerous missions. He was soon enlisted into the new and highly secretive Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (known as COPP), a precursor of today’s SBS, which was formed to provide essential reconnaissance and navigational guidance in Normandy.
On D-Day itself, Jim had a front-row seat in a 51ft mini-submarine and he was awarded the Croix de Guerre for “outstanding gallantry on D-Day”.
During the post-war years, he met Berry on a blind date while stationed in Malta. At 30, Jim left the Navy, married Berry, completed a two-year agriculture course at Cirencester and moved to a farm on Dartmoor. He farmed for 30 years.
Jim and Berry had four children as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. After Berry developed Alzheimer's, he nursed her at home until she died 12 years later.
He had a great passion for music and played the piano and organ for pre-prep pupils at Taunton School in his later years. He also played the organ at his church and was a member of a number of local groups around Taunton.
In 2017, at the age of 96, Jim was the victim of a brutal attack at his home, for which the perpetrator was sent to prison for 20 years for attempted murder.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Jim reflected on the lessons he learned during the war, urging people to 'play their part' to help overcome the crisis.
During his eulogy, his family said: "We’d always thought Jim had used up most of his nine lives during his war years but now he had a different battle to fight. We were proud and impressed that he did so with courage and without any anger."
Commenting on his final few weeks, they said: "Jim was still enjoying life - lunches at a local pub, trips on the steam train to Minehead, a carol concert at Norton Manor Camp, wonderful visits from all the family including his much loved great-grandchildren.
"His was a long life, lived, and loved, to the full."
Close friend Graham Hobrough knew Jim from church and said his friends were amazed by how he recovered from the attack in 2017. Graham said: "He had that very quiet nature but behind it, there's a real steely determination. After that horrendous attack on him, within a couple of weeks he was singing in our choir for our harvest festival and also a few days later in Wells. It just shows what the man was like.
"He is loved by so many. He is just going to leave a great hole in our local life and beyond."
Chaplain at Taunton School, Eliza Getman said: "Jim was part of our pre-prep chapel services. He always came to play the piano and the organ and the children loved him.
"He was a brilliant musician. He would come very slowly through the back door and make his way to the piano or the organ and then he was a virtuoso. He would just play for us and it was extraordinary to see the way he would come alive in those moments."
Louise Leah, head of Pre-Prep at Taunton School, said: "He was prepared to stand and talk to the children about his own life experiences, and that was something that really gave them a glimpse into the social history and the changes that he'd experienced over his lifetime."