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Tributes paid to highly-decorated war hero Leon
HE was a veteran who served in every naval theatre of the Second World War.
Now friends and family of Leon Hanson-Vaux are remembering him fondly after he died shortly before his 91st birthday.
Leon, of Awbridge, near Romsey, joined the Royal Navy aged 16 in 1939, initially serving on light cruiser the HMS Kenya where he rose to the position of gunner and was involved in the chase of the German battleship Bismarck.
He went on to serve in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Pacific, Burma, and the Arctic and was awarded a vast array of medals.
Leon was also involved in the famous Operation Pedestal while escorting convoys to Malta, where the Germans and Italians attacked 14 British merchant ships.
Only five made it to Malta and Leon described it as the most frightening experience of his life.
Born in Yorkshire, Leon became a regulating officer, or ship’s policeman, before moving to Hampshire in 1960 when he was posted to HMS Collingwood in Fareham to train cadets and was eventually awarded the British Empire Medal in 1965 for his outstanding service.
After his discharge in 1963, he worked as superintendent of premises at Southampton College of Technology, now Southampton Solent University, living in East Park Terrace with wife Jean until his retirement in 1988.
The couple then moved to Awbridge where Leon remained a key figure in the community, chairing the village hall committee and helping raise vital funds for its upkeep.
His later life was troubled by the long-term effects of a leg injury sustained in an IRA attack while on duty in Northern Ireland in the 1950s but his friends said it never kept him down.
Friend Jim Brown, of Sholing, Southampton, said: “To say that Leon was not a talkative person is the understatement of the year, but I well remember the way he would pull a face and raise his eyes to heaven when Jean said something he did not agree with.
“Although in recent years his injured leg became extremely painful, and Leon found it difficult to walk, he never complained, merely wincing when the pain became severe. He still, however, managed to do all the ironing, something he was really proficient at, right up to nearly the end.”
Leon died in April and his funeral took place at Salvation Army Hall in North East Road, Sholing.