Three Second World War veterans who took part in the Normandy D-Day landings finally collected France’s highest award for bravery - 71 years after the event.
Les Budding, Ernie Covill and Frank Richards represented just a handful of the local men who would have been eligible for the Legion d’Honneur. The award cannot be awarded posthumously, meaning many veterans died waiting for the medal and the medals will not be sent to the families of those who have passed away.
The Mayor and Mayoress of Boston Coun Richard Austin and his wife Coun Alison were proud to award the men with their medals in a small ceremony at the council offices last Tuesday.
Presenting the medals Coun Richard Austin said: “We have three very special people here today who took part in an operation that changed the future of the world. These medals have been given by the French people to mark their part in Operation Overlord which changed the history of the world.”
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during the Second World War. It was a major offensive against the Nazis, with thousands of paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines. It also led to much bloodshed as 4,000 men perished at the hands of the Nazis before they were defeated the following year.
The D-Day landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment and an airborne assault which carried in the largest armada ever seen. Around 24,000 British, American and Canadian airborne troops landed shortly after midnight on five beaches across Normandy on June 6, 1944 - on the beaches of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach. The weather was described as far from ideal but postponing would have meant a delay of at least a fortnight and the tides would not wait. The men landed under heavy fire from the enemy and the beaches were mined and covered with obstacles such as wooden stakes, metal tripods and barbed wire.
During the 70th anniversary commemorations of D-Day on June 6, 2014, President Francois Hollande announced the news to honour all surviving Allied servicemen who fought to liberate the country in the war. However, the announcement caught the Ministry of Defence unawares, as all applications have to be vetted by the MoD before being passed on to the French.
Due to delays, many men died before getting the chance to receive their medals.
The men who have received the medals are sure to have accepted them not just for themselves - but on behalf of all their comrades.