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The funeral for a highly decorated war veteran who founded an air squadron and spent his life helping others is being held today at noon.

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Leslie Norris, 86, of Defoe Way, Collier Row received the British Empire Medal for his services to the 444 Squadron of the Air Training Corps which he founded in 1941.

Hundreds of people, including flag bearers and the Mayor of Havering Eric Munday are due to attended the service at the Parish Church of the Ascension, Collier Row Road, Collier Row.

During the Second World War, Mr Norris served in Burma and later at a prisoner of war camp in Borneo and was involved with the administration of the Japanese War Crimes tribunal.

His son Ian Norris said the death of his father, who always had time and a joke for everyone, had left a huge void in their family.

Ian, 51, of Dagenham, said: “Everywhere he went he got involved. He was always telling jokes and he was the sort of person you would stand behind the queue of in Asda and you’d be put on the Christmas card list. He was never one to sit still and did lots of charity and voluntary work.”

Mr Norris married his wife Joyce, who died almost exactly six years ago, in 1952 at a church in Shoreditch and the couple renewed their vows exactly 50 years later.

Mr Norris worked all his life at the Smithfield Meat Market in the City of London and in his spare time volunteered for St John Ambulance becoming the president of the Harold Hill and Wood division in 1971.

He was awarded the Mayor’s Civic Award in April this year for his years of volunteering and service to the borough.

Six weeks ago he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died on September 4.

“You always know that your parents are going to die but it’s still devastating,” Ian said. “He died in his own home like he wanted to but it’s left a big void.”

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