Tributes to Normandy veteran June

Tributes have been paid to Normandy veteran June Denby who has passed away at the age of 98.

Friday, 24th September 2021, 11:38 am

June, from Sherburn-in-Elmet, served in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) as a Staff Car Driver during the War, following in the footsteps of her army father.

A month after D-Day, in June 1944, at the age of just 19, June was sent to Normandy.

June’s daughter, Veronica Jenkin, said: “Whilst we are obviously very sad, we are incredibly proud of Mum, and we should celebrate her amazing life.

“She had a real sense of pride about her time in the military and she still enjoyed putting on her medals on Remembrance Day.

“She leaves behind a tremendous legacy and is a wonderful role model to women in all walks of life.”

Nicola Cook, Assistant Director of Operations at the Royal British Legion, said: “June was an inspirational woman and it was my privilege to get to know her.

“She was very well-known to the RBL in Yorkshire and we were delighted when she was able to join us, along with Veronica, when we chartered a cruise ship to take our Normandy veterans back to France to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“It is fitting that she was awarded the legion d’honneur shortly before her passing, in recognition of her remarkable service.

“All our thoughts are with June’s many friends and loving family.”

Speaking in 2019, on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, June said: “At our young age, I don’t think we fully appreciated war and all that it meant.

“I was a driver, because in those days you didn’t need to pass a test, you just had to have L-plates, as the driving test was suspended from 1939.

“Being a woman didn’t make any difference, we were all just drivers. I remember being in convoys where there were only two or three women, but it didn’t matter.

“I don’t think we ever really considered or realised what a contribution we were making, we just took it for granted.”

Last year, June was finally awarded the Legion d’honneur, France’s highest medal, to honour and thank those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation.

She then said: “There weren’t many women in Normandy, and it often surprises other veterans when they see my medals.”

June told how she was inspired by her father and added: “My father was in the army in both wars and I was always his little girl so I just wanted to be in the army like daddy and I started to drive just before he went back into the army at the start of WW2.

“When we landed in Normandy, I was driving a fancy shiny green Humber limo, but my car was very low to the ground, so low in fact that the exhaust ripped off when I got onto the harbour. It was too low, it should never have gone there in the first place!

“Caen was maybe five or six miles away from our camp and I remember we could hear the gunfire.

“I travelled all over, and thought nothing of driving 300 miles a day, taking senior officers to various camps, sometimes staying the night. There was never any traffic on the road, which was quite eerie, unless you happened to come across a convoy.”

Two years ago, June returned to Normandy with the Royal British Legion.

After the occasion, she said: “It was lovely that the RBL were able to arrange that trip, I felt that I was being recognised for my contribution.”

June also received two long service medals from the RBL for her service to the annual Poppy Appeal, after being the organiser in Sherburn for 35 years.

June left the army in 1947 and returned to her original job with Jaeger, becoming manageress of a store in Nottingham after short spells in Regent Street and Birmingham.

She later moved to a store in York and remained in Yorkshire ever since. After getting married she worked as an auxiliary nurse for 20 years.

During her retirement, June was involved in local politics sitting on various committees, she did voluntary work as well as school talks and enjoyed gardening.

Royal British Legion Standard Bearers will be in attendance at June’s funeral which takes place at St Josephs Catholic Church in Sherburn-in-Elmet at 1pm on Friday October 1.

The RBL interviewed June at home in 2019 before she went on the D-Day 75 cruise https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/stories/remembering-d-day-june’s-story