Pensioner, 96, battered with a hammer is a D-Day war hero

A 96-year-old Second World War veteran and ‘secret hero’ of D-Day was battered in a hammer attack at his home it Taunton this week.

Father-of-four Jim Booth, who once danced with the Duchess of Cornwall, was left with serious injuries to his head and body after he was attacked during a brutal distraction burglary.

Mr Booth is the only survivor of a crack 10-man team who spent five days half a mile underwater in two mini subs X-20 and X-23 before the D-Day invasion of 1944.

The daring operation helped guide Allied landing craft to Sword beach instead of drifting on to jagged rocks.

He and the team spied on Nazi troops across the shorelines before shining beacons across the sea to guide Allied forces across the treacherous rocks.

Mr Booth was savagely attacked after answering the door of his bungalow home in Gipsy Lane,Taunton, just after 4pm on Thursday.

The thug asked him if he wanted some work done on his house and when he refused, he was attacked with what police believe was a claw hammer.

Mr Booth suffered serious injuries to his head and body. It’s unclear how many time he was struck.

After the attack, he stumbled outside his house when he was spotted by a passing woman.

She took him to the nearest house with lights on – which happened to be that of William Watkins directly opposite the victim.

Mr Watkins, 86, said: “The doorbell rang about five. He was walking around the corner of the street and was spotted by a lady who I don’t know.

“I sat him down in a chair and rang the police. There was a lot of blood. He was in a hell of state. He was covered, really.

“He said he had been hit on the head but I’m not sure with exactly what.

“The police have been here all night. They took photos of my conservatory and all the blood over the walls.”

Mr Booth was rushed to hospital for treatment. His injuries have been described as potentially life-threatening.

DCI James Riccio said: “This was a vicious and sickening attack on an elderly man in his own home and we’ve launched a full-scale investigation to find the person who did this.

“The victim managed to raise the alarm with a neighbour before being taken to hospital, where his condition is described as potentially life-threatening.

“We cordoned off the scene and carried out house-to-house enquiries last night. A dog unit was also involved in an initial search of the area, but more searches will be carried out .”

He added: “Offences of this magnitude are rare but I’d like to reassure residents that we’re using all necessary resources to investigate this crime.

“It’s hard to imagine how anyone could attack a 96-year-old man in his own home and I believe there will be people who have knowledge about who was responsible.

“If you do, I’d ask you to examine your conscience and do the right thing in calling us with a name.

“There will be increased police activity around the Gipsy Lane area over the next few days.

Mr Booth was awarded the Croix de Guerre French military medal and was part of the Combined Operations Pilotage and Reconnaissance Parties honoured with a granite memorial donated by Prince Charles on Hayling Island, Hampshire.

Reliving his wartime mission, he said: “People don’t realise how difficult it was to navigate – there was no satnav and we had to do it the old-fashioned way using charts.

“You couldn’t stand up and we had to share a sleeping bag – it was very smelly.

“I was either on the steering wheel or the periscope, and we had very basic food like baked beans or soup.

“When we found out the mission had been delayed for 24 hours we were worried we might run out of oxygen – we nearly did, but we were OK.”

The D-Day Normandy Landings saw 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French troops begin an airborne assault shortly after midnight.

This was followed by the war’s largest amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions at 6.30am with 160,000 troops.

The secret mission of the two five-man crews submerged in their tiny craft remained virtually unknown until decades later.


A 39-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and aggravated burglary on Friday.


This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.