Veterans who took part in the D-Day Landings were formally recognised with a Legion d’Honneur each at a ceremony in North Devon.
Former Royal Navy seaman Len Husband, former Royal Marines Clifford Coates and Dennis Small and George Laity of the Devonshire Regiment received the awards from French Honorary Consul, Alain Sibril at the home of Commando Logistics regiment at Chivenor. Ex-Royal Navy sailor Petty Officer stoker Norman Johns was decorated posthumously through his widow Pru while a family member of Bob Harding attended on his behalf.
The French government felt it appropriate to honour any surviving veterans who took part in the D-Day Landings to mark the event’s 70th anniversary.
Clifford Coates: heavy weapons sergeant, said: “It is not only an honour for us who are here but our friends who are no longer with us. We lost a lot of good friends that day.”
Dennis Small, corporal landing craft c, said: “I will always remember the lads who never made it and the French people that woke suffered as they woke up to a horrific battle – they must have been scarred to death.”
George Laity, of the Devonshire Regiment, said: “We were trained so know what to do but on the day it was a little different – real bullets, real noise – frightening to say the least. Terrible noise but we just got on with it.”
Len Husband said: “I hope it puts an end to it all. I still get nightmares on occasions. I am hoping to put it to bed.”
John Peel, of the Royal Marines Association, North Devon, said: “It was an honour to be able to organise this event and be a part of history – particularly for fellow North Devon RMA branch members.”
The consul started his presentation with a story about the French flag featured at the event – this was made from a twig from a tree and some coloured bunting and a French lady dug out to stitch together to wave when liberation occurred. The flag has been stored in a cupboard for years. The consul was presented with it and now takes it as a prelude to all similar presentations.
He then read out part of each person’s war record of their part in D Day and then in French awarded the medal, kiss on both checks – French-style and hand shake. Everything he said was on behalf of the French Government and he expressed their gratitude for the sacrifices made in the Liberation of France.