Family’s tributes to an inspirational war hero

HAPPY ' John Sawford, picture with wife Audrey celebrating their diamond wedding in 2007                                                             Submitted picture
HAPPY ' John Sawford, picture with wife Audrey celebrating their diamond wedding in 2007 Submitted picture

Tributes have been paid to a former Royal Marine Commando and lifelong village resident who inspired the careers of two county politicians.

John Sawford was a veteran of the D-Day landings in 1944, a lifelong Labour Party member and a former employee of Corby steelworks.

He was born in Loddington on August 12, 1925, and never moved away.

Nicknamed ‘Big John’ due to his height and build, Mr Sawford died peacefully at Kettering General Hospital on December 27 aged 86. He had suffered from heart problems and, in recent months, cancer.

Mr Sawford had a great interest in politics and current affairs which he passed on to his family – son Phil served as the Labour MP for Kettering from 1997 to 2005, and grandson Andy was recently selected as the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Corby and East Northamptonshire.

He had already begun canvassing for Andy by talking to people he met locally and when he was in hospital.

In his military career, Mr Sawford helped in the fight to liberate Europe when he took a landing craft on to the beaches on D-Day. He also fought in the Far East.

When he returned home he married childhood sweetheart Audrey Coleman, a Rothwell girl who worked at the Avalon shoe factory. They celebrated their diamond wedding in 2007 and were married for 64 years.

John and Audrey, who survives him, have two sons, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Andy said: “Grandad was a lifelong Labour Party member and certainly inspired Dad’s politics and mine.

“He lived in Loddington for his whole life and I think he was the oldest man in the village. He was much sought-after for his knowledge about the village he loved.”

On John’s illness, Andy said: “He was struggling but he kept his spirits up for Christmas and I am sure he was determined to hold on until after then. He had terrific care at Kettering General Hospital.”

Phil Sawford also paid tribute, describing him as a “big man with a big heart”.

Mr Sawford’s funeral was at Loddington Church. Afterwards at the village hall many family, villagers and party members gathered to pay their respects.