TRIBUTES have been paid to Cumbria’s most-decorated war veteran, Major Jos Mark, who has passed away at the age of 95.

The Normandy veteran, former Gurkha officer and Honourary Life President of the Carlisle and Stanwix Branch of the British Legion, was surrounded by his family when he died at Penrith Hospital at 7.20pm on Saturday.

The Carlisle great-grandfather, who was born on December 26, 1923, dedicated his latter years to visiting schools in and around the city to tell his tales from Normandy, and ensure the next generation are aware of the sacrifices of their forefathers.

Tony Parrini, a former RAF officer from Carlisle, told the News & Star: “Jos was a longstanding member of the Royal British Legion, who was respected by all who met him.

“He was a gentleman and a gentle man and will be sadly missed by all who knew and met him.”

Margaret Wadsworth, branch chairman of the Carlisle and Stanwix British Legion, added he was an ‘amazing gentleman’.

She said: “Jos was a valued member of the Carlisle and Stanwix branch.

“He always helped with the poppy appeal.

“Branch members are shocked and saddened at his death.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

At the outbreak of World War Two Major Mark, at the age of 16, became a ‘boy soldier’ setting up anti-aircraft guns in the London area.

His claim to fame during this time is that he helped set up the anti-aircraft gun emplacement at 10 Downing Street. Later, as D-Day approached, he had joined the Royal Logistics Corp.

He was in the second wave of troops during the Normandy landings and one of over 3,000 soldiers of the brigade tasked with capturing Hill 112, southwest of Caen that overlooked Normandy.

The battle for the hill started in early July 1944 and it wasn’t until August 4 – and the loss of several thousand soldiers – that the German forces withdrew from the hill and left it in the hands of the British.

Having survived Normandy, Jos was assigned to reinforce the army at Arnhem in September 1944 and then crossed the Dutch border to Nijmegen.

Finally he was assigned to enter Bergen Belsen, the notorious German concentration camp where he rescued the woman who would later become his wife.

Jos was commissioned after the war and served in Borneo as the transport officer for the Gurkha Brigade based there during the Malaya emergency. He later reached the rank of Major.

On retirement he settled in Carlisle and was branch president of the British Legion in the city for 10 years and has been made the honorary life vice-president of group.

Major Mark, of Lowry Hill, was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and undergone chemotherapy, preventing him from being able to carry on with his school visits.

One of his final talks was held at Yewdale Primary School, in Yewdale Road, Belle Vue South.

Shortly after his cancer diagnosis, Major Mark received another medal - France’s highest honour.

His role in the capture of Hill 112 in Normandy during World War Two led to him being awarded the Légion D’honneur, a prestigious accolade, established by Napoleon in 1802 to recognise individual merit.

About 3,000 French people are made members of the Légion each year, with just 400 people from the rest of the world afforded the honour – although they do not become members.

Most veterans receive their award in a large ceremony, but due to his health, Major Mark’s medal was sent in the post and was officially presented to him in Cumbria.

The French medal is one of only two which can be worn alongside British medals – the other is the Malaysian medal, which Major Mark has also been awarded.