On Thursday the 3rd March, the Chairman of Cornwall Council, Ann Kerridge hosted on behalf of the French Government and the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall an award ceremony in recognition of the gallantry and bravery shown in the liberation of France in 1944-1945.
The French Honorary Consul presented the 21 veterans with the Legion d’honneur in the Council Chamber. In reading out the citations you heard how ordinary men did extraordinary actions in France.
The veterans where from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, including the Parachute Regiment and a whole host of other regiments, and the RAF. All had served in Normandy. Many people will have seen ‘Saving Private Ryan’ or ‘Band of Brothers’ but many of these veterans had actually hit the breaches or parachuted into France on D-Day.
One veteran a coxswain of a landing craft made landings on Sword, Juno, Gold and Omaha beaches all under fire. Before that he took part in the Dieppe Raid. Another had parachuted into Normandy. Talking to one veteran who had been injured fighting near Caen, he showed me his wartime glasses case which had stopped a bullet from killing him. Each one of the veterans had a story to tell and each one was extraordinary.
There were speeches by the Honorary Consul and the Lord Lieutenant, which was followed by the National Anthem and the Marseillaise. The Consul said he was humbled to be standing in front of these veterans who had helped liberate his country.
I had the privilege to help out during the ceremony as a ex-serviceman. Other former servicemen helped out included Cllrs Armand Toms, Steve Chamberland, John Keeling and Tom French. We were there to help the veterans and serve the post ceremony tea and cakes. Also on hand to help with the tea was the Leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard and the Vice-Chairman of Cornwall Council Mary May.
All those who made this happen deserve our thanks. The French Government also deserves our thanks in recognising these veterans by awarding them France’s highest honour. I salute you.