TWO brothers who fought in the Second World War and died just weeks apart have been described as “the best of friends” who could not live without each other.

The families of Bill and Stan Rhymes have said they were a double act who were telling jokes and trying to make everyone around them smile until the end.

Stan, the younger of the two, passed away on Monday aged 94, just three weeks after his big brother Bill on March 20, aged 96.

Born in Marston, Oxford, they lived in the area their whole lives apart from the years they served in the Second World War. They grew up in William Street with their three other brothers – Albert, Vic and Pete – and sisters Lucy and Eda.

Bill’s funeral was held three days after Stan died, but Stan’s daughter Mandy Rodway revealed that they were reunited one last time on Wednesday night at Homewood funerals in Marston.

Mrs Rodway, who lives in Kidlington, said: “They were laid next to each other one last time, and the funeral home said it was the first time that had ever happened.

“They were joking because there was a bottle of whisky in there as well, and they said to us in the morning ‘we didn’t find any broken bottles or empty glasses’.”

Her dad and her uncle Bill, she said, had been renowned for sharing a cheeky sense of humour.

Her cousin, Bill Rhymes’s daughter Pat Crofton, said: “They were cheeky and naughty – we sometimes used to dread taking them places because their humour was right on the edge.

“They bounced off each other with these stupid little things.

“Right up until the last day uncle Stan was doing one-liners.”

She revealed that one night not long ago at the Green Gates care home in Summertown where Stan lived for the past three years, a care assistant said she wasn’t sure which bed she was sleeping in and he replied: “There’s plenty of room in mine.”

Mrs Crofton added: “They were very similar characters, they never spoke about anything negative: my dad never said anything negative about the war, and Stan was very similar – they never put people down.”

She also recalled the last time she had seen her father and her uncle together.

She said: “The last time I saw them together my dad only had a couple of days to go. They didn’t say anything, they just held hands and looked at each other.

“As Mandy pushed Stan away he said ‘my brother’s dying, isn’t he?’ and Mandy just said ‘yes’.

“As brothers, they were totally inseparable, and they were always the best of friends.

“We always said when one goes the other won’t be long after.”

Both men were presented with the Légion d’honneur at a ceremony in Oxford in November.

They were in their 20s when they went to help liberate France in the D-Day landings of 1945.

Stan Rhymes served with the Royal Navy as an ordinary wireman – an electrician – on landing craft LCT 2292 carrying tanks to the beaches.

He was 21 on D-Day, having been in the Navy for just two years.

Bill Rhymes helped liberate the French town of Cherbourg from the Nazis in June 1944 and remained in the country to rebuild it after the war.

On Thursday, Bill Rhymes was laid to rest at Headington Cemetery.

He was buried in the same plot where, exactly 50 years ago, he buried his wife and his daughters’ mother Nellie. He had reserved his own space the same day.

Stan Rhymes will now be cremated, like his wife Joyce.