Family lead tributes to former Desert Rat and D-Day Veteran Ernie Spacagna

Tributes after death of D-Day veteran

Tributes after death of D-Day veteran

First published in News
Last updated
Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Political reporter

HE EXPERIENCED some of the Second World War's most important moments, and never forgot what he lived through.

Ernie Spacagna was Southampton's oldest surviving D-Day veteran, one of Monty's “Desert Rats” and helped to liberate prisoners from the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.

Today his family have led tributes to the “gentle and popular” veteran who embodied the spirit of the thousands of servicemen and women who fought and beat Hitler, who has died aged 99.

Ernie had been a hairdresser in New Road before he was called up during the conflict against the Nazis.

As a Royal Army Service Corps driver, he served as one of the famous “Desert Rats” with Field Marshal Montgomery in North Africa, taking part in the battle of El Alamein in 1942.

Then, on June 6, 1944 at the age of 29 he was one of thousands of Allied troops to land in Normandy on D-Day.

He was landed in his Dodge Tipper truck on Sword Beach by an American boat and greeted by the sight of hundreds of dead bodies.

He saw friends severely injured or killed as the Allies fought to gain ground on the beach, but took his Sergeant Major's advice to “put his foot down” and managed to make it across the beach unscathed to unload the shells he was carrying.

As he recalled afterwards, “It was bad. But I had to keep driving.”

Following D-Day he worked with his unit to rebuild bombed-out roads, towns and villages in France, before he witnessed the worst of the Nazis' atrocities when he helped to liberate prisoners from concentration camps in Germany.

After the war he returned to Southampton to rebuild his business, which had been destroyed by German bombing, in Park Road, Freemantle.

There, he cut the hair of stars such as 50s rock n' roll idol Tommy Steele, actor George Sewell and Saints legends Sir Alf Ramsey, Terry Paine and Ted Bates.

He was also known for his exploits with the accordion, once playing a busking marathon to raise money for a disaster fund set up by the Royal British Legion after the death of ten members in a coach crash in 1995.

And for more than 30 years he was an integral part of the Legion in Southampton, becoming President of the Legion club in Eastgate Street.

He was a familiar sight at Southampton's annual remembrance services at the Cenotaph, where he would carry the Legion's flag and give the exhortation on behalf of the organisation.

Last year he was represented by his son Mario at the Cenotaph due to his frailties, but he had still hoped to attend this year's service.

Ernie died, peacefully and surrounded by family members, at Northlands Nursing Home in Southampton on Saturday (April 26).

Speaking on behalf of the family, 71-year-old Mario said: “He was a gentle, popular man who had a wonderful life and who left everyone who knew him with some warm memories.”

Ken Whittington, chairman of Ernie's Legion club, said: “He was an outstanding man. He was dedicated to the Legion.”

Itchen MP John Denham said: “For many people he was Southampton's Remembrance Sunday, carrying the banner with pride and all his strength.

And former city council leader Royston Smith said: “I remember him being at almost every occasion to remember our servicemen, both those that died and those that survived.

“He was the epitome of all that is good in our serving men and women and I was honoured to have met him on numerous occasions.”

Ernie's funeral will take place at St Joseph's Church in Bugle Street, Southampton at noon on May 23 and all are welcome.

To watch video footage of Ernie talking about his wartime experiences, log on to dailyecho.co.uk

 

Comments (21)

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8:18am Wed 30 Apr 14

Abkhazsoyuz says...

R.I.P. Ernie. It was a privilege to have known you.
R.I.P. Ernie. It was a privilege to have known you. Abkhazsoyuz
  • Score: 9

8:23am Wed 30 Apr 14

Maine Lobster says...

One of the last heroes of WWII. We all owe you and your comrades our freedom. Thanks Ernie. R.I.P.
One of the last heroes of WWII. We all owe you and your comrades our freedom. Thanks Ernie. R.I.P. Maine Lobster
  • Score: 18

8:38am Wed 30 Apr 14

camerajuan says...

On behalf of the fallen, the injured, the survivors and every family affected by the War, I salute you. Thank you Ernie, for assisting in the preservation of life as we know it.
On behalf of the fallen, the injured, the survivors and every family affected by the War, I salute you. Thank you Ernie, for assisting in the preservation of life as we know it. camerajuan
  • Score: 20

9:08am Wed 30 Apr 14

killared says...

A true legend who fight for real freedom ! RIP
A true legend who fight for real freedom ! RIP killared
  • Score: 8

9:40am Wed 30 Apr 14

sotonboy84 says...

He was a very good and charming man.
He was a very good and charming man. sotonboy84
  • Score: 8

10:00am Wed 30 Apr 14

Woolston ollie says...

FANTASTIC MAN
FANTASTIC MAN Woolston ollie
  • Score: 7

10:10am Wed 30 Apr 14

CaleyJag says...

I was watching a programme the other night with WW2 veterans on it. These boys should get free everything. Free food, free beers, free gas/leccy/water. Free everything. The boy that featured stormed the beach at Normandy....92 years old....should not have put his hand in his pocket since the day he got back from France. The phrase "total respect" does not even begin to cover it.

RIP to Ernie. And all the other brave men and women who preserved our conutry's freedom. God bless
I was watching a programme the other night with WW2 veterans on it. These boys should get free everything. Free food, free beers, free gas/leccy/water. Free everything. The boy that featured stormed the beach at Normandy....92 years old....should not have put his hand in his pocket since the day he got back from France. The phrase "total respect" does not even begin to cover it. RIP to Ernie. And all the other brave men and women who preserved our conutry's freedom. God bless CaleyJag
  • Score: 14

10:58am Wed 30 Apr 14

SOLENTDRIFTER says...

All the TEDDY BOYS during the 50s + 60s new ERNIE - He was the only barber in Southampton that could give us the D.A. & Tony Curtis hair style that we all had - REST WELL ERNIE.... Dave Ross.
All the TEDDY BOYS during the 50s + 60s new ERNIE - He was the only barber in Southampton that could give us the D.A. & Tony Curtis hair style that we all had - REST WELL ERNIE.... Dave Ross. SOLENTDRIFTER
  • Score: 11

11:02am Wed 30 Apr 14

skeptik says...

Another marches of to rejoin old comrades:



For gold the merchant ploughs the main,
The farmer ploughs the manor;
But glory is the sodger's prize,
The sodger's wealth is honor:
The brave poor sodger ne'er despise,
Nor count him as a stranger;
Remember he's his country's stay,
In day and hour of danger.

The poet 1793.
Another marches of to rejoin old comrades: For gold the merchant ploughs the main, The farmer ploughs the manor; But glory is the sodger's prize, The sodger's wealth is honor: The brave poor sodger ne'er despise, Nor count him as a stranger; Remember he's his country's stay, In day and hour of danger. The poet 1793. skeptik
  • Score: 4

11:03am Wed 30 Apr 14

skeptik says...

Another marches off to rejoin old comrades:


For gold the merchant ploughs the main,
The farmer ploughs the manor;
But glory is the sodger's prize,
The sodger's wealth is honor:
The brave poor sodger ne'er despise,
Nor count him as a stranger;
Remember he's his country's stay,
In day and hour of danger.

The poet 1793.
Another marches off to rejoin old comrades: For gold the merchant ploughs the main, The farmer ploughs the manor; But glory is the sodger's prize, The sodger's wealth is honor: The brave poor sodger ne'er despise, Nor count him as a stranger; Remember he's his country's stay, In day and hour of danger. The poet 1793. skeptik
  • Score: 4

12:44pm Wed 30 Apr 14

Harrysdog says...

Unfortunately, I never knew Ernie, but thanks for answering the call of your generation.
Unfortunately, I never knew Ernie, but thanks for answering the call of your generation. Harrysdog
  • Score: 4

12:50pm Wed 30 Apr 14

03alpe01 says...

RIP Pal
RIP Pal 03alpe01
  • Score: 5

1:34pm Wed 30 Apr 14

From the sidelines says...

CaleyJag wrote:
I was watching a programme the other night with WW2 veterans on it. These boys should get free everything. Free food, free beers, free gas/leccy/water. Free everything. The boy that featured stormed the beach at Normandy....92 years old....should not have put his hand in his pocket since the day he got back from France. The phrase "total respect" does not even begin to cover it.

RIP to Ernie. And all the other brave men and women who preserved our conutry's freedom. God bless
I'd be inclined to agree, but you are applying today's values to yesterday's sacrifices.

This gentleman was from a generation that would probably have considered such charity as an affront to their dignity.
[quote][p][bold]CaleyJag[/bold] wrote: I was watching a programme the other night with WW2 veterans on it. These boys should get free everything. Free food, free beers, free gas/leccy/water. Free everything. The boy that featured stormed the beach at Normandy....92 years old....should not have put his hand in his pocket since the day he got back from France. The phrase "total respect" does not even begin to cover it. RIP to Ernie. And all the other brave men and women who preserved our conutry's freedom. God bless[/p][/quote]I'd be inclined to agree, but you are applying today's values to yesterday's sacrifices. This gentleman was from a generation that would probably have considered such charity as an affront to their dignity. From the sidelines
  • Score: 4

5:17pm Wed 30 Apr 14

geoff51 says...

My Family were fellow traders in Park Road and we counted Ernie as a friend and business associate.
I personally still kept in touch when he came into the store in City centre where I work getting his shopping and getting shopping for younger neighbours!
I missed him when he could no longer come in for his shopping but was proud to have known him.
He was one of Southampton's famous Senior citizens and hope he will be remembered as such.
RIP old friend.
My Family were fellow traders in Park Road and we counted Ernie as a friend and business associate. I personally still kept in touch when he came into the store in City centre where I work getting his shopping and getting shopping for younger neighbours! I missed him when he could no longer come in for his shopping but was proud to have known him. He was one of Southampton's famous Senior citizens and hope he will be remembered as such. RIP old friend. geoff51
  • Score: 3

7:10pm Wed 30 Apr 14

Kirsty666 says...

RIP Ernie a true hero of all generations and for many more to come although you are no longer here your legacy will live on xxx
RIP Ernie a true hero of all generations and for many more to come although you are no longer here your legacy will live on xxx Kirsty666
  • Score: 2

9:48pm Wed 30 Apr 14

margie933 says...

Ernie, It was an honour to have known you. A man proud of what you had achieved. You were well thought of and loved by all here when you were living at this Court. We will miss you. Bless You. May you RIP
Ernie, It was an honour to have known you. A man proud of what you had achieved. You were well thought of and loved by all here when you were living at this Court. We will miss you. Bless You. May you RIP margie933
  • Score: 1

7:00am Thu 1 May 14

skeptik says...

The Africa star medal shown, there are some odd rules involved - those who fought at El Alamein with Montgomery's 8th Army should wear the 8 on the ribbon (1 for 1st Army) and as in my fathers case a bar with silver rosette on the ribbon (RAF and other forces) Montgomery was at times childishly spiteful and forbade men awarded the Africa Star under Auchinlek to wear the 8 and it was not issued with the star later.
The Africa star medal shown, there are some odd rules involved - those who fought at El Alamein with Montgomery's 8th Army should wear the 8 on the ribbon (1 for 1st Army) and as in my fathers case a bar with silver rosette on the ribbon (RAF and other forces) Montgomery was at times childishly spiteful and forbade men awarded the Africa Star under Auchinlek to wear the 8 and it was not issued with the star later. skeptik
  • Score: 0

6:01pm Thu 1 May 14

frenchvic says...

geoff51 wrote:
My Family were fellow traders in Park Road and we counted Ernie as a friend and business associate.
I personally still kept in touch when he came into the store in City centre where I work getting his shopping and getting shopping for younger neighbours!
I missed him when he could no longer come in for his shopping but was proud to have known him.
He was one of Southampton's famous Senior citizens and hope he will be remembered as such.
RIP old friend.
Grew up in Lisbon Rd and Earnie cut my hair from when I was around 4yrs old, took me through all the hair styles, Tony Curtiss, college boy, a real gentleman and the last of the Park road stalwarts. What business/shop did your family have in Park road.
[quote][p][bold]geoff51[/bold] wrote: My Family were fellow traders in Park Road and we counted Ernie as a friend and business associate. I personally still kept in touch when he came into the store in City centre where I work getting his shopping and getting shopping for younger neighbours! I missed him when he could no longer come in for his shopping but was proud to have known him. He was one of Southampton's famous Senior citizens and hope he will be remembered as such. RIP old friend.[/p][/quote]Grew up in Lisbon Rd and Earnie cut my hair from when I was around 4yrs old, took me through all the hair styles, Tony Curtiss, college boy, a real gentleman and the last of the Park road stalwarts. What business/shop did your family have in Park road. frenchvic
  • Score: 1

8:01pm Thu 1 May 14

geoff51 says...

frenchvic wrote:
geoff51 wrote:
My Family were fellow traders in Park Road and we counted Ernie as a friend and business associate.
I personally still kept in touch when he came into the store in City centre where I work getting his shopping and getting shopping for younger neighbours!
I missed him when he could no longer come in for his shopping but was proud to have known him.
He was one of Southampton's famous Senior citizens and hope he will be remembered as such.
RIP old friend.
Grew up in Lisbon Rd and Earnie cut my hair from when I was around 4yrs old, took me through all the hair styles, Tony Curtiss, college boy, a real gentleman and the last of the Park road stalwarts. What business/shop did your family have in Park road.
Post office,Butchers, Haberdashers and Bakers, if you are old enough to remember them!
[quote][p][bold]frenchvic[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]geoff51[/bold] wrote: My Family were fellow traders in Park Road and we counted Ernie as a friend and business associate. I personally still kept in touch when he came into the store in City centre where I work getting his shopping and getting shopping for younger neighbours! I missed him when he could no longer come in for his shopping but was proud to have known him. He was one of Southampton's famous Senior citizens and hope he will be remembered as such. RIP old friend.[/p][/quote]Grew up in Lisbon Rd and Earnie cut my hair from when I was around 4yrs old, took me through all the hair styles, Tony Curtiss, college boy, a real gentleman and the last of the Park road stalwarts. What business/shop did your family have in Park road.[/p][/quote]Post office,Butchers, Haberdashers and Bakers, if you are old enough to remember them! geoff51
  • Score: 1

8:15am Fri 2 May 14

frenchvic says...

geoff51 wrote:
frenchvic wrote:
geoff51 wrote:
My Family were fellow traders in Park Road and we counted Ernie as a friend and business associate.
I personally still kept in touch when he came into the store in City centre where I work getting his shopping and getting shopping for younger neighbours!
I missed him when he could no longer come in for his shopping but was proud to have known him.
He was one of Southampton's famous Senior citizens and hope he will be remembered as such.
RIP old friend.
Grew up in Lisbon Rd and Earnie cut my hair from when I was around 4yrs old, took me through all the hair styles, Tony Curtiss, college boy, a real gentleman and the last of the Park road stalwarts. What business/shop did your family have in Park road.
Post office,Butchers, Haberdashers and Bakers, if you are old enough to remember them!
Yep, remember them all. Scott the butchers opposite Ernie's Salon,Haberdashery next door to Lawrance the cleaners, Southwells the Baker corner of Kingston rd and Post Office corner of Sir Georges Rd. A nice place to live in those days.
[quote][p][bold]geoff51[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]frenchvic[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]geoff51[/bold] wrote: My Family were fellow traders in Park Road and we counted Ernie as a friend and business associate. I personally still kept in touch when he came into the store in City centre where I work getting his shopping and getting shopping for younger neighbours! I missed him when he could no longer come in for his shopping but was proud to have known him. He was one of Southampton's famous Senior citizens and hope he will be remembered as such. RIP old friend.[/p][/quote]Grew up in Lisbon Rd and Earnie cut my hair from when I was around 4yrs old, took me through all the hair styles, Tony Curtiss, college boy, a real gentleman and the last of the Park road stalwarts. What business/shop did your family have in Park road.[/p][/quote]Post office,Butchers, Haberdashers and Bakers, if you are old enough to remember them![/p][/quote]Yep, remember them all. Scott the butchers opposite Ernie's Salon,Haberdashery next door to Lawrance the cleaners, Southwells the Baker corner of Kingston rd and Post Office corner of Sir Georges Rd. A nice place to live in those days. frenchvic
  • Score: 0

11:20am Fri 2 May 14

frenchvic says...

frenchvic wrote:
geoff51 wrote:
frenchvic wrote:
geoff51 wrote:
My Family were fellow traders in Park Road and we counted Ernie as a friend and business associate.
I personally still kept in touch when he came into the store in City centre where I work getting his shopping and getting shopping for younger neighbours!
I missed him when he could no longer come in for his shopping but was proud to have known him.
He was one of Southampton's famous Senior citizens and hope he will be remembered as such.
RIP old friend.
Grew up in Lisbon Rd and Earnie cut my hair from when I was around 4yrs old, took me through all the hair styles, Tony Curtiss, college boy, a real gentleman and the last of the Park road stalwarts. What business/shop did your family have in Park road.
Post office,Butchers, Haberdashers and Bakers, if you are old enough to remember them!
Yep, remember them all. Scott the butchers opposite Ernie's Salon,Haberdashery next door to Lawrance the cleaners, Southwells the Baker corner of Kingston rd and Post Office corner of Sir Georges Rd. A nice place to live in those days.
Forgot the Bakery at the bottom of Park Rd, Permains.
[quote][p][bold]frenchvic[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]geoff51[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]frenchvic[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]geoff51[/bold] wrote: My Family were fellow traders in Park Road and we counted Ernie as a friend and business associate. I personally still kept in touch when he came into the store in City centre where I work getting his shopping and getting shopping for younger neighbours! I missed him when he could no longer come in for his shopping but was proud to have known him. He was one of Southampton's famous Senior citizens and hope he will be remembered as such. RIP old friend.[/p][/quote]Grew up in Lisbon Rd and Earnie cut my hair from when I was around 4yrs old, took me through all the hair styles, Tony Curtiss, college boy, a real gentleman and the last of the Park road stalwarts. What business/shop did your family have in Park road.[/p][/quote]Post office,Butchers, Haberdashers and Bakers, if you are old enough to remember them![/p][/quote]Yep, remember them all. Scott the butchers opposite Ernie's Salon,Haberdashery next door to Lawrance the cleaners, Southwells the Baker corner of Kingston rd and Post Office corner of Sir Georges Rd. A nice place to live in those days.[/p][/quote]Forgot the Bakery at the bottom of Park Rd, Permains. frenchvic
  • Score: 0

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