D-Day veterans honoured 100 days before 75th anniversary

Gold Beach todayFour Royal Navy veterans of D-Day received France's highest honour 100 days before the 75th anniversary of the invasion.

Denis Haley, Charles Kavanagh, Patrick Reardon and John Nicholls were invited aboard HMS Belfast to receive the Legion d’Honneur from French ambassador, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, in recognition for their efforts in liberating his land three quarters of a century ago.

Over the past five years, the French government has sought veterans who played a role in the liberation of their soil, presenting more than 6,000 medals with the help of the MOD.

The four former sailors – all in their early 90s – gathered in the ward room of the cruiser, now a floating museum on the Thames next to Tower Bridge, to receive their decorations.

John Nicholls from Greenwich served aboard HMS Argonaut which bombarded German positions and also drove landing craft:

“I came out of it with just half of my hearing gone, but those poor devils – they lost their lives. I think of them all the time. Not just on Remembrance Day. They’re going through my mind all times of the year.”

Portsmouth will be the hub on this side of the Channel for a series of commemorative events involving both veterans and serving personnel.

The Royal British Legion has chartered a cruise ship to take D-Day survivors to the beaches to remember their comrades. Places are still available, but veterans and their families must register by Monday March 4. Go to www.britishlegion.org.uk.

Read more: royalnavy.mod.uk

Awards in recognition of ‘gallant and distinguished services in Normandy’ were published on 31 August 1944 (Gazette issue 36679). 

Image: Arromanches-les-Bains, designated Gold Beach 

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