One of Marlborough’s best known and loved characters, retired grocer and veteran of the D Day Landings John Bower has died at the age of 97.

Born in Ogbourne St Andrew, son of William and Mary Bower, he had two brothers, David and Peter, and sisters Suzie, Mary (also known as Bobsie) and Margaret. He is survived by Bobsie (Mary )and Margaret.

Mr Bower attended St Peter’s Boys School in Marlborough, now the town library and he was a chorister in St Peter’s Church.

Leaving school at 14 he went to work for the high-class grocers Stratton Sons and Mead on the lower side of High Street. Apart from his army service he spent his life working for the firm and its successor company Spar that later moved to the top side of High Street and eventually became Somerfield and then Gateway

At the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the Home Guard before signing on with the North Hants Yeomanry, a tank regiment, and became a radio operator and gunner.

He was one of the bravest of the brave who took part in the D Day landings. Although his tank was hit by a mortar shell only he and the driver escaped, Mr Bower survived with a severe head injury which caused his deafness in later life. He was invalided back to the UK to recuperate.

After nine months in hospital, during which he celebrated his 21st birthday, Mr Bower re-joined his unit for the clear-up operation in Holland and was promoted sergeant.

Following the war he took up his work at Stratton Sons and Mead and took exams to become a member of the Grocery Institute.

His butchery skills and counter display skills in the Marlborough shop were acknowledged when he was awarded the title of Bacon Boning Champion of Great Britain.

In 1950 he married Babs, a hairdresser from West Overton and their first home was a flat over the shop. They had two children, Brian and Jane, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren

They married in St Michael’s Church in West Overton and celebrated their 71st anniversary two weeks ago.

Mr Bower’s hobbies included his garden, and manning the RNLI rescue boat at the sailing club at Solent Breezes on the River Hamble. Walking neighbours dogs. And latterly he loved taking part in beating at local shoots.

He was a member of Marlborough Freemasons Lodge of Loyalty, an active member of the Chamber of Commerce for many years and was one of the pioneers of the Christmas lights.

A memorial service takes place on Thursday, 2pm at St Mary’s Church following a private cremation service at Swindon.