A 93-YEAR-old man, who died after a fire started in his Abingdon home, had survived two torpedo attacks during the Second World War, a neighbour revealed.
Police officers have confirmed the man’s identity as Oliver Minchin, who neighbours described as “the perfect gentleman”.
His neighbour Monica Wreyford, 79, said she saw him just an hour before the blaze in Preston Road started on Sunday night.
She said: “I left him at 4.30pm and he seemed fine. The next thing I knew there were firefighters and police all in the road.”
Mrs Wreyford said the widower would often smoke a pipe after having his dinner, adding: “I don't know if that’s what caused the fire or not, but it may well have done.
“I just hope he may have gone peacefully first and the fire happened afterwards when he dropped his pipe.”
Mrs Wreyford said Mr Minchin had served aboard battleships during the Second World War and was torpedoed twice by enemy U-Boats.
She said that he left the service aged 30 and retrained as an accountant.
The alarm was raised at about 5.30pm on Sunday after Mr Minchin’s cleaner turned up to work at his home and discovered the fire .
Another neighbour, Paul Drake, 34, said: “I had a knock on the door from his cleaner who said could I help because smoke was billowing out of the house.
“I took a look and saw the smoke was pouring out of his door.
“Straightaway, I was on the phone to the fire brigade.
“Their response was unbelievable. They were here in two to three minutes and got him out, but sadly I think there wasn’t anything more they could do for him. He had gone.”
Neighbours said Mr Minchin had lived alone since his wife Florence – also known as Peggy – died in 2008. The couple had no children.
A spokesman for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said three fire engines were called to the scene.
A Thames Valley Police spokesman said officers were called in by fire service and they were assisting with the investigation.
A spokesman said: “His death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious and a file is being prepared for the coroner.”