THE family of a war hero who helped to ambush German forces in a Norwegian port during the Second World War paid tribute to him after his death.

Signalman Ralph Brigginshaw was aboard HMS Hardy during the Battle of Narvik in April 1940 when he was just 19 but suffered shrapnel wounds to the back and arm during heavy fire.

His rescue boat became so riddled with bullet holes that it capsized and he had to swim 200 yards through a freezing fjord to shore with one working arm.

His brother Leonard, 87, from Swindon said: "He was stood next to the captain and caught all the shrapnel, then had to abandon ship because the destroyer was sinking.

"After he managed to swim ashore, he was rescued by Norwegians who kept him at their home for three days before he was evacuated to a hospital in the Lofoten islands

"The church on Beechcroft Road had him as missing presumed dead until he was sent to a hospital in Liverpool, where he spent two-and-a-half years.

"He went back out to sea before the war ended and left the Navy in 1950."

The Norwegian embassy presented him with a medal and diploma earlier this year to show their gratitude for his vital service in staving off the German threat. He died three days after receiving the honour.

The 99-year-old won eight medals during the Second World War and was the last living survivor of the 194-strong crew from the Battle of Narvik.

Born in Chiseldon, he moved to Wanborough before joining the Navy at 15, then moved to Brighton and West Sussex after he left.

Leonard joined the Navy after being inspired by his brother. He added: "He was a gentleman and very well liked and loved by all the family.

"He made a strong impression on me and his descendants. He was a lovely man, a perfect husband and father, and a hero. That's how I'd like him to be remembered.

“He only told me about what happened to once, just talking about the escape boat sinking, which he saw as the funny side of it all. We made sure to give him a good send-off."

Family members bore his coffin on their shoulders during a moving funeral service earlier this month.

Great-nephew Luke, 33, became emotional as he said: "It was a big honour to be part of that and it will stay with me for the rest of my life.

"One of my first memories is meeting Uncle Ralph, he was my hero. Grandad told me about what he did and it instilled a great respect for the Royal Navy.

"Those veterans carried the weight of the world on their shoulders along with the hopes and fears of a nation and sacrificed so much. There are not many of them left and we need to remember what they did."

WATCH: Ralph Brigginshaw talks about his experiences during the Battle of Narvik.