Jim Radford

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Jim Radford
Born (1928-10-01) 1 October 1928 (age 91)
Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
GenresFolk, Maritime music

Jim Radford (born 1 October 1928) is a British folk singer and songwriter, peace campaigner and political and community activist. He is also the youngest known participant in the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. The first song Radford wrote. "The Shores of Normandy", is also his most successful and best known, having been performed by him at two televised concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in 2014 and released as a single in May 2019 to raise funds for the Normandy Memorial Trust (topping the Amazon and iTunes download charts in the first week of June 2019)..

Life and career[edit]

Radford was born in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. He was a well-known figure in the British Peace Movement and anti-war campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s (particularly in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the British campaign against the USA's Vietnam War). He was also prominent in Direct Action Housing campaigns (e.g. the King Hill Hostel campaign of the mid 1960s, the Family Squatting Associations in London in the late 1960s and early 1970s[1][2] and the occupation of Centre Point in Central London in 1974). He gained renewed prominence in 2014 when it was discovered by the BBC and the Royal British Legion that not only was he the youngest allied veteran of the Normandy invasion but that he had written a memorable song about his experiences as a young seaman on one of the Deep Sea Tugs that built the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches (Gold Beach) – and he could sing. Radford performed his song, "The Shores of Normandy", three times at the Royal Albert Hall in London in the 70th anniversary year of the invasion (2014) and two of these concerts were televised by the BBC (the BBC's own 70th anniversary commemoration event in June,[3] and the British Legion Remembrance Day concert in November).[4]

Jim Radford went to sea at fifteen when he sailed from his home-town of Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire in the spring of 1944 as a galley boy on the Empire Larch.[5] The Empire Larch was a Deep Sea Tug owned by the British Ministry of War Transport[6] and engaged in war work (assembling the convoy of block-ships for Operation Corn Cob)[7] in preparation for the invasion of France. He joined the Royal Navy on turning 18 and settled back on dry land in 1954, becoming an activist in various humanist, political and Peace Campaigns and helping to organise the first of the Aldermaston Marches in 1958 (later adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and being invited to join the Committee of 100 shortly after its foundation in 1960.[8] He retired after a varied career which included time as an Engineering Worker, in Fleet Street, as a Press Officer, as Warden (Director) of Blackfriars Settlement in South London,[9] as General Secretary of Manchester Council for Voluntary Service and in various roles in Community Work and Social Action initiatives. He is a regular attender and performer at maritime and folk music festivals around the UK and although he is best known for his sea-songs and shanties (sung a cappella) he also sings from an extensive repertoire of British and Irish (and some Australian) folk songs as well as political and protest songs.[10] Radford also remains actively involved in the British section of the Veterans for Peace[11][12][13] organisation. In October 2015 Radford was appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur[14] by the French Republic "in recognition of... steadfast involvement in the Liberation of France during the Second World War".[15]

Jim Radford is one of three brothers who all went to sea as teenagers and sailed as Merchant Seamen during WWII (his eldest brother, 'Jack', qualified as a Radio Officer at just 17 and is thought to have been the youngest Merchant Navy Officer killed by enemy action in WWII when his ship, the SS Cree, was torpedoed in November 1940,[16] just weeks after his eighteenth birthday). Radford's tribute song to the wartime Merchant Navy, "The Merchant Seaman", won the Festival on the Moor[17] 'best song award' in 2009.


  1. ^ Bailey, Ron; The Squatters (1973) Penguin:UK ISBN 0140523006
  2. ^ Curtis, Helen and Sanderson, Mimi; The Unsung Sixties; 2004 (pp 1 to 18); Whiting & Birch: ISBN 1861770448
  3. ^ "Jim Radford - The Shores of Normandy". YouTube. 16 November 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  4. ^ "Shores of Normandy - Jim Radford". YouTube. 11 November 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  5. ^ The story of how he managed to get a berth on an ocean going ship at fifteen, when this was supposedly prohibited by war-time regulations, is told in Radford's own words in the 2007 documentary film Mayday Tugs of War by US film-maker Robin Williams "Mayday Tugs of War". Mayday Tugs of War. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  6. ^ Dear, I. 'The Tattie Lads' (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), ISBN 978-1-8448-6401-0
  7. ^ Operation 'Corn Cob' was an enormous maritime engineering operation involving the precise positioning and scuttling of dozens of 'blockships' to form breakwaters and provide calmer water on the invasion beaches. Two of these artificial breakwaters (at Omaha and Gold beaches) were then used to shelter the construction of Mulberry harbours. The Empire Larch arrived at Gold Beach with part of this convoy on the evening of 6 June 1944 while fighting was still going on around the beachhead. See the section on Breakwaters in the Wikipedia Mulberry harbour page.
  8. ^ Carroll, Sam. "'Fill the jails': identity, structure and method in the Committee of 100, 1960 – 1968 : Sussex Research Online". Sro.sussex.ac.uk. Retrieved 22 November 2016. This DPhil thesis includes interviews with Radford and other activists of the time
  9. ^ "Welcome to Blackfriars Settlement". Blackfriars-settlement.org.uk. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Jim Radford". Archived from the original on 25 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Veterans for Peace". Veteransforpeace.org.uk. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Jim Radford in Los Angeles". YouTube. 4 August 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  13. ^ "Film: The Missing Peace". Veteransforpeace.org.uk. 29 December 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  14. ^ 'Folk singer gets France's top gong' South London Press, 21 November 2015
  15. ^ Extract from the letter of citation from the French Consul which accompanied the medal
  16. ^ "Cree (British Steam merchant) - Ships hit by German U-boats during WWII". Uboat.net. 22 November 1940. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  17. ^ "Festival on the Moor". Festival on the Moor. Retrieved 22 November 2016.