Video: France’s highest honour awarded to Normandy veterans at Yorkshire Air Museum

Ex Light Infantry soldier 91 yr old Ken Smith from York wears his Legion d' Honneur medal. Photographs: Nigel Holland
22 May 2016 @ 9.13 pm
| History

In June 1944 these men stormed the beaches of Normandy in order to liberate Europe from Nazi control.

Seventy-two years after that astonishing display of courage, they gathered at Yorkshire Air Museum to receive France’s highest honour.

The Légion d’Honneur medals were handed to 21 veterans at the Yorkshire Air Museum in Elvington on Sunday (May 22).

Ten were from the York area, with the rest coming from elsewhere in the North and East of England.

Jeremy Burton, the French Consul to Yorkshire, and Colonel Bruno Cunat, the MoD’s French liaison officer, presented the medals.

D Day veterans at The Allied Air Forces & Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington
D Day veterans at The Allied Air Forces & Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington

Museum director Ian Reed said:

This is an historic and increasingly rare event with these very special people who represent a fast decreasing number of veterans from a period of our past history which still affects us to this day.

The French government marked the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings in 2014 by announcing that all allied survivors would receive the Legion d’Honneur.

But frustrating delays followed and York MPs had to step in to ensure the ceremony went ahead.

It was a moving ceremony. At its end, the veterans were given a spontaneous standing ovation from the watching audience.

Veteran Douglas Dawson from Throckley near Newcastle takes a look at a WWII Dakota before  the presentation
Veteran Douglas Dawson from Throckley near Newcastle takes a look at a WWII Dakota before the presentation
Comrades in arms… Bill Riley celebrates his 98th birthday with comrades Bernard Richardson (left) aged 97, and Ken Smith, 91
Comrades in arms… Bill Riley celebrates his 98th birthday with comrades Bernard Richardson (left) aged 97, and Ken Smith, 91
Shooting back – veteran Douglas Dawson from Throckley near Newcastle takes a photo of the photographers during the presentation
Shooting back – veteran Douglas Dawson from Throckley near Newcastle takes a photo of the photographers during the presentation