Eight Sheffield war veterans who freed Europe from the Nazis have been awarded France’s highest military honour – 72 years after their heroism.
The brave band of brothers, all aged in their 90s, were presented with the prestigious medals at a ceremony in Sheffield Town Hall yesterday by the French Honorary Counsel Jean Claude Fontaine.
Doug Parker, aged 93, of Owlthorpe – who actually landed on the Normandy beaches on D-Day itself, June 6, 1944 – Cyril Elliot, 95, of Shiregreen, Les Giles, 91, of Woodhouse, Bill Hartley, 93, of Killamarsh, John Quinn, 92, formerly of City Road but now living in Mablethorpe, Patrick Stafford, 90, of Shiregreen, and Douglas Austin, 92, of Harthill, have all been awarded the Légion d’honneur.
Charlie Hill, 90, of Gleadless Valley, who also landed on D-Day itself, has also got the award but has chosen to accept it with his regiment, the Green Howards, on May 15.
Doug, who landed on Shark Beach at 21 years old, said: “There were so many brave young men killed or wounded on D-Day. The Lord shines light on some men, but unfortunately not everybody.
“It is a huge honour to get this medal, but it’s a pity that not everybody can be here to get it too. Lads who were just teenagers gave their lives.”
Hero Bill Hartley said: “I’ve been waiting a long time for this medal and feel very proud to be given it. All of us here have definitely earned it.”
Patrick Strafford, of the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, said: “I was just 18 when I landed at Normandy. I signed up when I was underage because the Nazis had to be defeated.
“That was my motivation and there were many other underage men who signed up because they knew how important it was.
“I am really proud to have served, though, I have no regrets. The only point I would make is that nobody ever wins wars in reality. There is never a winner – but many losers.”
French Ambassador Mr Fontaine said he was ‘honoured’ to present the men with their medals, who actually received them in the post in January.
He said: “We are all free today because you made the ultimate sacrifice. At this time we are talking about the future of Europe – well, you made it.
“Today we are all free because of you, so thank you very much.”