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Oadby and Wigston veterans awarded the prestigious Légion D’honneur

A medal presentation took place at Oadby and Wigston Council offices (Thursday, 19 January) for five local service men in recognition and appreciation for their brave actions at the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944.

Jean Claude Lafontane from the French Consulate along with the Mayor Of Oadby and Wigston, Cllr Robert Eaton presented the medals and were joined by family, friends, the Royal Naval Association, members of the local Sea Cadets and lots of assembled media.

The French government has been awarding the Légion D’honneur to D-Day veterans as a way of honouring and thanking those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War.

The five local residents receiving the prestigious accolade were Shipmate Fred Rolf, Shipmate Derrick Smith, Shipmate Richard Laland, Shipmate Jack Coughlin and Shipmate Frank Evans. A special service booklet detailing the veteran’s naval careers and achievements has been produced and will be available to view on the day.

On the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014, the French President announced that the Légion D’honneur would be awarded to all British veterans who fought for the liberation of France during the Second World War (veterans must have taken part in military operations in France between 1944 and 1945).

Established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte, it is France’s highest distinction and is awarded in recognition of both military and civilian merit. On average, just 10 British nationals per year receive award and the application process for the five local veterans was completed by John Simpson, the Treasurer of Wigston's Royal Naval Association.

John Simpson said: “It was an honour for me to be able to help arrange today's presentation for my shipmates of the Wigston and District Branch of The Royal Naval Association. Today will be a very proud day in their lives and for all of their families and friends.

“To have taken part in such a vital historic battle must have been a truly memorable occasion which no doubt included some memories that were not pleasant to endure. However, due to their actions, and of other service men, the younger generation of today will hopefully never have to experience the horrors of such a battle again.

“A sincere thank you must go out to the French government for taking the time and arranging the presentation of these awards.”

Oadby and Wigston Borough Council were asked if they could get involved and help host the medal ceremony back in December and the Mayor of Oadby and Wigston, Cllr Robert Eaton was keen to get involved to help decorate the Borough’s local heroes.

Mayor Robert Eaton, who opened the special cermeony, said: “We did not hesitate to try to do all we could and help facilitate the hosting of this special occasion and to be able to pay our own respects to the immense acts of bravery demonstrated. This is a very proud day, not only for our five veterans, but the borough as a whole.”

Shipmate Derrick Smith, one of the five medal recipients, said: "I am proud to receive the honour and it has been a very good day for all concerned. It was an especially nice touch to be awarded the medal by Jean Claude and I enjoyed his words about our nations's special relationship."

To view pictures from the day's ceremony please visit our Facebook gallery.

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