A TAMWORTH war veteran of the Second World War who was presented with France’s highest award for his part in the D-Day landings has been honoured by the Mayor of Tamworth.
Earlier this year, John Paterson from Wilnecote was one of three veterans of the Second World War from Tamworth to be awarded the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande for their contribution to the liberation of France.
Sadly, the two other veterans – Walter Brown from Glascote and Michael Longhurst from Dosthill – have since passed away.
Mr Paterson – who is originally from Aberdeen – joined the Merchant Navy in 1943 aged just 15. A year later, he had been promoted from galley boy to Ordinary Seaman and was involved in the D-Day landings in June 1944.
After the war, Mr Paterson joined the Army and served in the Gordon Highlanders until he was demobbed in 1949.
On Tuesday Mr Paterson, who is now 88, was guest of honour at a reception held by the Mayor of Tamworth, Cllr Maureen Gant, at Tamworth Town Hall, where he was formally presented with the Legion d’Honneur by the French Honourary Consul, Robert Mille.
Mr Mille said: “The national order of the Legion d’Honneur is the highest decoration in France and was established by Napoleon in 1802 to recognise individual merit.
“It is usually only awarded to French citizens, but the French President, Monsieur Francois Hollande, has decided to recognise the bravery of the British veterans who played such an instrumental role in the liberation of France, by awarding them the title of Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur.”
He added: “I am here on behalf of the French people to express our undying and heartfelt thanks in respect to the enormous debt of gratitude we owe you.”
Cllr Gant said: “It is a real honour to welcome Mr Paterson to the Town Hall. He has received a huge honour from the people and government of France and it is lovely that we are able to recognise that here in Tamworth.”
Receiving the honour, Mr Paterson said: “It was a real surprise to me as when I found out I was being awarded the Legion d’Honneur it as I didn’t know I would be entitled to anything like this, being in the Merchant Navy. It is wonderful to receive such an award.”
Tamworth Borough Council Chief Executive, Tony Goodwin, said: “Listening to John talk about his experiences in the Merchant Navy and in particular his involvement in the Atlantic Convoys was astonishing, especially when you consider he was little more than a school boy.
“Not satisfied with ‘doing his bit’ in one of the most dangerous and terrifying theatres of WWII, he then goes and joins the Army! His anecdotes of how his Sergeant Major in the Gordon Highlanders ‘checked his kit’ with a mirror on a stick held below his kilt was delivered with a sense of humour that only those who have experienced the horror of war possess. It was an honour to share time with him.”