Cornwall

D-Day heroes: 5,500 honoured by France

Recipients Image copyright Various
Image caption From top L-R: Fanny Hugill, Dick Atkinson, Albert Nield and Mike Lane are among 5500 D-Day veterans to have been awarded the Legion d'Honneur in the last three years

The process of handing out more than 5,000 medals to British Second World War veterans who helped liberate France is nearly completed.

On the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, 6 June 2014, President Hollande of France announced that all British soldiers involved were eligible for the Legion d'Honneur.

Now, the French Embassy says there are just 100 more to be given out.

The Legion d'Honneur is France's highest military and civilian honour.

The process has been handled jointly by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the French Embassy, which says 5,500 have been awarded in the last three years.

'Not forget'

An embassy spokesman said: "The French authorities attach great importance to ensuring each veteran receives their medal, and have been working hard, in coordination with the British authorities, to ensure that all of the veterans who have already sent their applications to the MoD receive their medal."

French Ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann said: "It's always a great honour to award the Légion d´Honneur to British D-Day veterans. I have had the privilege of presiding over dozens of ceremonies around the country, but each one is very special.

"Seventy-three years on, France remembers what it owes these men and women. We shall not forget."

More than 4,000 allied soldiers died on the beaches of Northern France on 6 June 1944, D-Day, along with around 9,000 Germans. By the end of the day more than 150,000 men and 20,000 vehicles had been landed on the beach, and the liberation of France was under way.

The honoured

Captain Michael Lane RN (Rtd), from Hayle, Cornwall

Image copyright Mike Lane/ BBC

As a 19-year-old, he was a Midshipman serving aboard HMS Ramillies during the Normandy landings in June 1944, supporting the airborne troops tasked with taking Pegasus Bridge.

HMS Ramillies was on station for 10 days, surviving torpedo and e-boat attacks, and firing more than "1,000 rounds of 15" shells - more than any other ship.

He received his Legion d'Honneur on 1 December 2016 at Hayle Town Hall.

He said: "I'm very fond of France so this, in my twilight years is something really very very special. I was the only person to survive the war from my year at school and that does make it pretty intense."

Pte Dick Atkinson, from Whitley Bay in Tyne and Wear

Image copyright Dick Atkinson/ Eric Condon
Image caption Dick Atkinson is one of 5500 veterans who have received the Legion d'Honneur in the last three years

He was involved in the war from the outset, having joined the Territorial Army as a 19-year-old shortly before it started. He remained involved until it ended and finished up in Berlin.

He served with the 151st (Durham Light Infantry) Brigade that was assigned to the 50th (Northumbrian) Division.

On 5 June 1944, he left from Southampton and spent the night on board a flat-bottomed landing craft in rough conditions as the invasion was delayed by 24 hours due to poor weather conditions.

The following day he landed on the beach, codenamed "Gold", in the second wave and was involved in heavy fighting.

He received his Legion d'Honneur on 7 November 2015 at Durham Cathedral. He said "you feel big headed and mighty proud when you wear it. I've got other medals but that one takes the sheen".

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