Chorleywood war 'hero', Denis Heckford, author of My Life Before and on HMS Jamaica, passes away

Watford Observer: Denis was the author of My Life Before and on HMS Jamaica, which tells the story of when he opened fire and blasted a Korean Yak out of the sky during the war. Denis was the author of My Life Before and on HMS Jamaica, which tells the story of when he opened fire and blasted a Korean Yak out of the sky during the war.

A retired able seaman who fought during the Korean War and used to live in Chorleywood has been described as a "hero" following his death last week.

Denis Heckford, who was in his late 80s, passed away on Wednesday, January 29.

Mr Heckford was the author of My Life Before and on HMS Jamaica, which tells the story of when he opened fire and blasted a Korean Yak out of the sky during the war, which lasted from June 1950 to July 1953.

However, it was his actions and character outside the war that have led to him being described as "a hero" and a "role model" by those who knew him.

James Gillmore said: "He was a hero who taught us to stand up to bullies, protect the little guys and create as much mischief as possible.

"He is a role model to me and I think his life should be both mourned and celebrated."

Mr Heckford was just 22-years-old when he fought in the war. The Korean plane that was hit is reported to have been the first enemy aircraft to have fallen at the hands of allied ship guns during the war.

His book relays the account of how Mr Heckford acted completely on his own and without orders to help avert the destruction of the USS Rochester, saving many lives.

Old paper reports describe Mr Heckford’s actions in bringing down the first communist plane.

Articles describe how British gun crew "tackled the plane as it dropped its bombs near an American cruiser".

Reports go on to state that: "Stung by British fire, the plane swooped down on the cruiser and from 100 feet height raked its full length with cannon and machine-gun fire.

"The gunlayer, 22-year-old able seaman Denis Heckford, said: ‘I saw my tracers go into him.’"

The plane crashed into the water merely 30 yards from the cruiser.

Mr Heckford’s older brother, Les, and sister-in-law, Betty, featured in previous Watford Observer articles as they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2008.

The couple spoke of their meeting in a Lambourne End dance hall. Their relationship led to Les trying eagerly to get out of his contract with the British Army so that he and his new partner would not be separated by the ensuing Korean War.

The senior Mr Heckford ended up working with Chorleywood Urban District Council before he retired.

Their younger brother, Bryan, passed away in 2012 at the age of 75.

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