Suffolk veteran awarded highest Dutch honour dies aged 104

Major Ken Mayhew, who was awarded the highest Dutch honour, has died aged 104. 

Major Ken Mayhew, who was awarded the highest Dutch honour, has died aged 104. - Credit: Mayhew family

A Suffolk D-Day veteran who was one of only four living people to receive the highest honour of the Netherlands, has sadly died aged 104. 

Major Ken Mayhew died peacefully at home on Thursday, May 13, having played a pivotal role in the liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi occupation.

In 1946, Major Mayhew was knighted by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, the great-grandmother of the current monarch, King William-Alexander.

He was awarded the Knight fourth class of the Military William Order, the Dutch equivalent of the Victoria Cross and the Légion d'Honneur. The Order's motto means bravery, leadership and loyalty.

Major Ken Mayhew landed with Ist Battalion The Suffolk Regiment on D-Day

Major Ken Mayhew landed with Ist Battalion The Suffolk Regiment on D-Day and served continuously with the battalion until February 1945. - Credit: Mayhew family

On his 100th birthday, Major Mayhew said of the honour: "It is something that has completely changed my life. I never looked for any fuss. But the hospitality and the friendship I have been shown by our Dutch friends has been overwhelming."

Born in Helmingham in 1917, and educated at Framlingham College, Major Mayhew was a keen sportsman representing his school, regiment and county in cricket, hockey and squash. 

He joined the Territorial Army in April 1939 and was commissioned into The Suffolk Regiment in May 1940, reporting to the Depot in Bury St Edmunds.

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There he was ordered to collect 150 recruits from Warley and take them to the 1st Battalion in Somerset to join the remnants of the battalion who had just escaped from France at Dunkirk.

Once the threat of German invasion had passed the battalion started training as one of the assault divisions for the eventual liberation of France. Three and a half years later Major Mayhew landed with 1 Suffolk in Normandy on D-Day. By then he was a Captain commanding the carrier platoon.

Major Ken Mayhew

Major Ken Mayhew, from Helmingham, Suffolk, has died aged 104. - Credit: Mayhew family

He served continuously until February 1945, apart from three weeks recovering from his injuries.

In Normandy he took part in the battles for Hillman on D-Day, Chateau de La Londe and the Tinchebray crossroads.

On August 16, commanding three sections of his carrier platoon “Ken Force”, he was part of the vanguard to liberate the town of Flers, subsequently receiving the Freedom of Flers from a grateful town.

His Commanding Officer wrote: "He proved himself a magnificent and courageous company commander, showing a contempt for his own safety which shortly was to win for him the admiration of every man under his command.

"His tall figure, proceeding unconcernedly from man to man under most dangerous conditions in action have won for him a place of admiration and respect achieved by few in North West Europe.”

After the war, Major Mayhew built successful grain and transport businesses, while maintaining close contact with his Suffolk Regiment comrades.

Major Kenneth Mayhew and his wife, Trish. Picture: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Major Kenneth Mayhew and his wife, Trish. - Credit: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

At the age of 70 he took up golf, continuing to play into his 90s, and at the age of 97 he was still carrying his clubs.

He is survived by his wife Trish, his mainstay and support for 40 years, and family.

Letters of condolence should be sent to his wife Trish: Mrs KG Mayhew, C/O Regimental Headquarters The Royal Anglian Regiment, Gibraltar Barracks, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 3RN.

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