D-Day 75: Légion d’Honneur presented to D-Day veterans on HMS Belfast

Image of veteran Mr Denis Haley (right), who received the Légion d’honneur medal today (26/02/2019) on HMS Belfast in London. Today, four Royal Navy veterans arrived on the deck of HMS Belfast to receive France's highest honour, the Légion d’honneur, for their service in helping to liberate France almost 75 years ago. HMS Belfast, which was the flagship for part of the allied armada and fired on German positions on D-Day, is now an iconic London landmark and branch of Imperial War Museums. The famous ship hosted the medal presentation in its Ward Room with the French Ambassador, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson and Diane Lees, Director-General of IWM, in attendance. The French government has been awarding the Légion d’honneur to D-Day veterans for the last five years as a way of honouring and thanking those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War. Since June 2014, more than 6000 medals have been awarded with the applications being processed by the Ministry of Defence and the French government. Today’s event offered a rare chance for the veterans, each of whom took part in the landings in 1944, to catch up and share stories with those who lived through that experience. The presentation coincides with exactly 100 days to go until D-Day75 with an ambitious programme of events in the UK and in France being organised to mark the milestone. The Defence Secretary and the French Ambassador toured the vessel and heard how IWM will retell the extraordinary land, air and sea story through its Second World War collection and its three historic sites: HMS Belfast, IWM Duxford and Churchill War Rooms. Working in partnership with Daks Over Normandy, a mass flight display from IWM Duxford will culminate in a cross-channel flight and parachute landing in Normandy on 6 June.

Veterans awarded France’s highest honour one hundred days before 75th anniversary of Normandy Landings

Four British Royal Navy veterans were awarded France’s highest honour today for their service in helping to liberate France almost 75 years ago.

The French government awarded medals to Denis Haley, Charles Kavanagh, Patrick Reardon and John Nicholls, who all took part in the allied Normandy Landings, as a way of honouring them for risking their lives to secure France’s liberation in the Second World War.

Since June 2014, more than six thousand medals have been awarded by the French government.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

Today is a reminder of why this June we must show our special generation, that we will never forget the debt we owe for the peace and freedom we now enjoy. I would like to thank the French Embassy for their efforts in honouring these men for helping to liberate Europe 75 years ago.

HMS Belfast is a perfect setting and I would like to commend IWM for an ambitious programme of events across their UK sites that offers people the chance to experience the extraordinary story of D-Day at their doorstep.

Denis Haley, 92, served as a signalman aboard HMS Southward Ho towing parts of the mulberry harbour from Portsmouth to Arromanches. He said:

A lot of the things that occurred at that time are lost to people’s memories now especially the relationship between members of a ship’s company – you become more than mates, you share things. It was my whole life for nearly 4 years. It’s a very, very, very special day today. I’m absolutely overwhelmed.

Patrick Reardon, 93, volunteered for D-Day aboard HMS Sheffield, landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day.

John Nicholls, 93, served on HMS Argonaut, firing on German gun batteries on Normandy and driving landing craft to deliver supplies from ship to shore.

Charles Kavanagh, 92, helped to land tanks on Sword beach on D-Day and then supplies for the American Army on Omaha beach.

One hundred days to D-Day 75

With one hundred days to go until D-Day 75 commemorations in the UK and France, the event offered the chance for the veterans who took part in the Normandy landings in 1944 to share their stories and experiences.

The medal presentation took place on board the historic landmark HMS Belfast in its Ward Room with the medals presented by French Ambassador Jean-Pierre Jouyet with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in attendance.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson toured the vessel alongside the French Ambassador to hear how the Imperial War Museum will retell the magnificent land, air and sea story through its Second World War collection and its three historic sites: HMS Belfast, IWM Duxford and the Churchill War Rooms.