Obituary: Jim Radford: 1 October 1928 – 6 November 2020

IssueDecember 2020 - January 2021
Comment by Paul Steele , Helen Martins

COVID-19 has robbed the world of a rare person. Still very much in his prime at a youthful 92 years old, Jim Radford passed away in Lewisham hospital before old age could catch up with him.

As a 15-year-old galley boy on the rescue tug, Empire Larch, Jim was the youngest known participant in the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

His song, ‘The Shores of Normandy’, recounting his experiences of that day, was brought to the attention of a wider public during two televised performances from the Royal Albert Hall to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014.

A recording of the song, released in May 2019 to raise funds for the Normandy Trust, reached the top of the Amazon and iTunes download charts.

In both Albert Hall performances and a music video for the single, Jim is seen wearing CND badges prominently on his right lapel.

For a relentless and active peace campaigner, the little things were just as important as the big occasions.

On seeing me remove my CND badge after a protest one day, Jim said: ‘You know you don’t have to take it off, Paul’, and I have worn it on my jacket collar ever since. I have often been questioned about it in the workplace. I’ve answered that a Normandy veteran told me I didn’t need to take it off but I would happily remove it if it was problematic. Of course, Jim was right. I never had to remove it.

Back in February, our final protest before lockdown was joining Veterans for Peace UK Southeast in a demonstration of solidarity and support for Julian Assange, meeting up at Nelson’s Column then proceeding to Downing Street.

Jim, of course, was there too, and as we walked together he recounted the three times he had been arrested in Whitehall, the first of which was with Bertrand Russell.

Jim was a constant and consistent peace campaigner from the Committee of 100 and the Aldermaston marches, to campaigning against the Vietnam war, through to his more recent involvement with establishing Veterans for Peace and so much more.

Much as we would like to write a biographical piece about Jim it feels impossible for anyone who knew him to do so. Jim made us feel special – and made everyone feel special.

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