HUNDREDS are expected to pay their respects today to a Second World War Royal Navy veteran from Southampton who survived one of the war’s fiercest campaigns.

Great-great grandfather Henry Taylor from Shirley was a leading stoker on board HMS Forester in 1942 when he narrowly avoided being killed by a German shell.

The destroyer had been escorting HMS Edinburgh which was carrying gold from Russian to the United States on a convoy across the North Atlantic when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat.

A shell landed next to him and killed one of his shipmates but Henry, also known as Harry or Buck, survived four days of intense fighting with nothing but a scratch on his knee.

“He was as hard as nails,” said his son Robert. “He fought a good fight to the end. He never mentioned anything about the war, he was so self-effacing.”

Henry was also involved in D-Day when he had to transport Sherman tanks and troops on a carrier to Sword beach in Normandy in 1944.

After the war he worked as a roofer in Southampton up until he was in his 80s and was regularly seen riding his bike around Shirley, where he lived in St Edmond’s Road.

He married three times, his first wife being Jenny Brass, who he met while on service in Leith.

Despite having two sons they divorced in 1952 and then he married Constance Tillyer in 1956 whom he wed twice.

He had a further four sons and one daughter with Constance and is grandfather to 16 and great-grandfather to 20, and had three great-great grandchildren.

A life-long Saints fan he died after falling at home and succumbing to kidney failure at the age of 98.

All are welcome to attend his funeral at St James’ Church, Church Street, Shirley, at 1pm today.

They have asked for donations to be made to the Royal British Legion and RNLI through J Beavis and Sons Funeral Directors, Linton Street, Shirley.