FIVE outriders on World War Two motorbikes fittingly escorted despatch rider Andy Bramley on his final journey.

The ride through Colden Common ended at Holy Trinity Church, which was packed with family and friends who had come to pay their last respects. Andy, also known by his middle name Jim, joined the Royal Army Service Corps aged 18.

He landed on Gold Beach on D-Day “when the ramps went down, the sea was so rough that they had to put our motorbikes on top of tanks to get to the beach. Then it was every man for himself.” Andy had orders to make his way to Creully where the BBC had set up a broadcasting base in the tower of the chateau. For several weeks correspondents recorded reports on the Battle of Normandy.

The Allied invasion and the launch of the BBC War Report was a landmark in British broadcasting. The newly developed Midget recorder enabled reporters to capture for the first time, the sounds of battle and eyewitness accounts of men in action. Andy rode up and down the beaches in the midst of the battle collecting these tapes and photographic films and taking them back to the correspondents at the chateau. Richard Dimbleby was one of the broadcasters based there, having himself landed on D-Day. On the third day, Andy was knocked off his motorbike by a shell when the road he was on came under heavy bombardment. This was the first of many ‘scrapes’ Andy would recount as the correspondents followed the advance from the D-Day beaches, through the battle for Caen, the advance through Normandy, to the liberation of Paris, the Battle of the Bulge, the invasion of Holland, Operation Market Garden at Arnhem and eventually to the German surrender.

During the invasion of Holland, a staff car Andy was following struck a landmine, killing the occupants. Andy was blown off his bike. When Andy reported for duty he was told the Adjutant had already sent a ‘killed in action’ telegram to his wife. Imagine her surprise when he returned home to Wickham four days later!

Back in action again, during Operation Market Garden in Arnhem, Andy had another near miss when his bike tipped off a pontoon over the Waal river. A few days later, as Germans regained control of the area, Andy was stranded on the main road as jeeps of Germans drove past. Initially he hid behind a newspaper stall until a nun from a nearby convent sent word he should come and hide in their basement.

Speaking to the Chronicle in 2015, the then 92-year-old said of his war service: “You do not forget it, I remember every day and I would think that every veteran you speak to now would say the same.”

After the war, Andy worked as a lorry driver for the Meon Valley Timber Company where he met Iris, his wife of 27 years. He always carried a harmonica in his pocket and was quick to entertain with a tune, a song or a dance, and always had a twinkle in his eye.

Andy was a member of the Normandy Veterans Association, the Operation Market Garden Association and Project 71. Andy and Iris enjoyed trips back to Arnhem and Bastogne with Project 71 in 2016/7, which included a surprise visit back to the basement where he had hidden.

On Armistice Day 2016, Andy was presented with the Legion d’honneur at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth. Andy will be missed and fondly remembered by Iris and his family and his many friends. He was thrilled to know he had been chosen as the poster boy for this year’s Southwick Revival, having captured the hearts of everyone there last year as he beamed his way round the village on the back of a BSA, one of the bikes he had ridden during the war.