Doncaster World War 2 hero receives France’s highest military honour

Wartime airman Ken Johnson, aged 90, of Balby, with a picture of a Lancaster.

Wartime airman Ken Johnson, aged 90, of Balby, with a picture of a Lancaster.

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A Doncaster World War II hero is to officially receive France’s highest military honour for his involvement liberating the nation from the Nazis.

Ken Johnson, aged 91, of Lovell Avenue, Balby, has already received his medal through the post, but he attended a special ceremony arranged by the French Embassy yesterday.

Ken Johnson, now aged 90, in an illustration of him in his flying gear.

Ken Johnson, now aged 90, in an illustration of him in his flying gear.

Mr Johnson joined 20 other veterans coming as far as Northumberland and Lincolnshire at the event held at The Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum in York.

The Légion d’Honneur medal was officially presented to the veterans on behalf of the French Government by the French Consul to Yorkshire, Jeremy Burton.

Other special guests included Colonel Bruno Cunat, French Liaison Officer to the Ministry of Defence and representatives from the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

RAF gunner Ken was lucky to escape alive when a British Lancaster bomber dropped a bomb on his plane around seven days after D-Day in France.

Wartime airman Ken Johnson, now aged 90, of Balby, is pictured in 1943, aged 19.

Wartime airman Ken Johnson, now aged 90, of Balby, is pictured in 1943, aged 19.

Speaking to The Star in January he said: “We were flying in a formation and I looked up and saw the plane above us open up its bomb doors.

“We tried to radio but it was too late, the bomb dropped and took our tail clean off.

“A Canadian lad, Carson Foye his name was, got taken out by the bomb. Our pilot managed to fly us to safety, God knows how.”

Ken still keeps in touch with Carson’s sister in Canada.

Wartime airman Ken Johnson, aged 90, of Balby, with his medals.

Wartime airman Ken Johnson, aged 90, of Balby, with his medals.

He said: “I consider myself a very, very lucky man. I did my bit and I’m proud that I did so. To receive the medal is such an honour.”

When Ken received his medal, he had to sign for it with the postman.

He said: “My daughter was saying to me, ‘What have you been buying?’ She probably thought I was doing some online shopping!”

In 2014, French president Francois Hollande, on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, pledged that all servicemen who fought alongside France to defeat the Nazis would receive the nation’s highest military honour.

Museum director, Ian Reed said: “This is a 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.

“From our experience, we know that this will be a very emotional time for all the veterans, as they remember many lost colleagues and friends, but a day also of pride, for the many family members supporting them on this special day.”