JOHN MAITLAND, a decorated Second World War hero who cleared obstacles to allow ships access to the beaches of Dunkirk before the Normandy Landings, has died after a long illness aged 94.

John, of Victoria Road, Yarmouth, was known as the 'Swan Man' in his later years visiting the birds by the town's former railway station and The Mill to feed them three times a day.

He was born in North Shields and on leaving school took an apprenticeship as an electrician working in the ship yards.

He grew up with his grandmother after his mother died when he was three and his father was killed during the war while serving with the Merchant Navy as part of the Arctic Convoys delivering supplies to the Soviet Union.

His family were to be bombed out of their home in the North East before John joined the Royal Navy, originally as an electrician, before serving with the Special Boat Service as a diver and explosives expert.

John was injured in a raid in Norway and taken to hospital in Scotland before coming to Yarmouth to recuperate, where he met his future wife, Jean.

Back in action he was seconded to work with the Americans being part of the D-Day landing advance team clearing the waters of defensive obstacles at Normandy to allowed Allied craft to reach shore.

After the war he settled in Yarmouth working as a home delivery driver for many years for Harry Mills, later to become Wavells. He then spent about 20 years at St Mary's Hospital, latterly as head porter before retiring.

He was passionate about football and played for both Yarmouth and Freshwater and later in life attended to the swans on a daily basis, falling in the muddy water one Christmas Day rescuing one of them. He was a recipient of the Mayor's Award.

John is survived by Jean; children, Penny and Andrew; grand children, Sue, Mark, Paul and Steven; great grand children, Chloe, Jade, Blu, Emily and Ashley; and great great grand daughter Olivia.

A service of celebration at St James' Church, Yarmouth followed by reception at the Community Hall of Yarmouth and District has yet to be arranged.