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Tributes paid to Shipston veteran

A Shipston veteran, who was honoured for his service during the Second World War, has passed away at the age of 96.

Eric Whitehead, who was born in the town and lived in South Warwickshire most of his life, died on 13 March at Warwick Hospital following a brief illness.

Eric was conscripted into the Royal Navy in 1939 and following postings in Scotland and Gibraltar, was made First Lieutenant of a motor launch defence craft, charged with defending merchant ships off the east coast of England.

Later Eric became the commanding officer on another ship, M.L 593, and continued east coast convoys and Z patrols until 1945.

Whilst on duty in Hastings, Eric met his Wife Ann and they married six months later.

The couple went on to have three children Vicki, Janet and John, and eventually seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Soon after the war Eric joined the Royal British Legion, serving as president of the Shipston branch in the late 1980s.

In 2015 Eric was made a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur by the Republic of France for his part in the liberation of the country in 1944, the equivalent of a knighthood.

He went to work for FB Hancock and Co solicitors in Shipston, becoming a senior partner in 1953 and remained there until he retired aged 81.

Over the years Eric served on Shipston Parish and Town Councils, was elected mayor of the town, and was instrumental in establishing Shipston’s Townsend Hall, Sports Club and Rugby Club pavilion.

Eric also tirelessly campaigned for the introduction of the M40 between Birmingham and Oxford to ease traffic in Shipston, and as a keen local historian, wrote books on the town and gave talks to local school children.

He was an active Freemason for more than 50 years, a keen golfer and an active member of Probus.

Richard Adams, chairman of Shipston RBL, said: “Eric had been a staunch Branch Member since the Second World War and served as President during the late 1980's. He remained an active supporter almost right up to the end, parading on Remembrance Sunday on his electrically powered vehicle.

“Coupled with his fine service in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, in which he served in Coastal Forces rising to command a Motor Launch, he is an example to us all.

“We mourn the loss of a comrade, fine man and friend and extend condolences to Ann and the rest of Eric’s family.

“During Eric's post war career as a solicitor he offered and gave his legal skills to many organisations in Shipston and thus was a great supporter of the community.”

A memorial service to celebrate Eric’s life will be held at St Edmund’s Church in Shipston at 2pm on Tuesday 26 April.

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