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D-Day veterans receive Légion d'Honneur on French warship in Plymouth

25 April 2016
D-Day veterans who took part in the Normandy landings during the WW2 received France's highest military honour at a ceremony in Plymouth yesterday (Sunday 24 April).

The event was staged, appropriately, on board the French warship Dixmude in HM Naval Base Devonport. This was only the second such event – the first one was staged on board FS Aquitaine last year in Glasgow.  

Families representing recently deceased veterans and eight colleagues were honoured by the French Honorary Consul. Alain Sibiril, who organised the presentation of the Legion d’Honneur by Captain Eric Lavault the commanding officer of FS Dixmude in a vast hangar below decks. 

The French government felt it appropriate to honour any surviving veterans who took part in the D-Day Landings to mark the event’s 70th anniversary.

Those honoured were Ernest Carman (Royal Armoured Corps), Walter Hughes (Roayl Air Force), William Jago (Royal Engineers), Ronald Kallmeiler (Royal Navy), Dennis Loaring (Army Service Corps), Walter Payne (a Royal Marines gunner on HMS Mauritius), Lesley Scull (Royal Tank Regiment) and Cyril Walker (HMS Whitehall).

It is important for the French people and French Navy to mark the valiant service of the veterans here in liberating France 70 years after D-Day

Captain Eric Lavault, Commanding Officer of FS Dixmude

Gillian Garlick received the medal on behalf of her father Charles Dixon, a lance corporal in the Royal Signals who issued signal codes after landing on Gold Beach in Normandy.  

John Mortimer, of Calstock, received the medal on behalf of his father John Mortimer, a Chief Petty Officer who served on the minesweeper HMS Lyme Regis. 

John said: “I am proud to represent my father who sadly died a few weeks ago aged 94 and didn’t even know about this event. He was on a minesweeper making the waters safe for the D-Day landings. I will add it to his impressive collection with pride."

Walter Payne, 93, of Plymouth Barbican, said, “This has been a fantastic honour. I never expected it and it’s been a wonderful day. Today marks a fitting symbolic end to my Royal Marines career.  I really appreciate this as it has come from the French on their naval ship. It brings back my days at sea."

Walter Hughes, 93, of Exeter, said, “I don’t really feel I deserve this. I’m not a hero. But I am really pleased to be here and I know I played my part well to help the French and the Allies during the war."

“This is the latest of the Legion d’Honneur ceremonies along with other events which have marked First and Second World War anniversaries," said Captain Lavault. 

"It is important for the French people and French Navy to mark the valiant service of the veterans here in liberating France 70 years after D-Day. There are also many young people at this event and we have a duty to make sure they learn about history."

Also attending among the more than 100 guests were the Lord Mayor of Plymouth Dr John Mahony, MP Oliver Colvile Sutton and Devonport), Naval Base Commander Devonport, Commodore Ian Shipperley; HMS Heroes (the Plymouth organisation of school children of naval families), schools and youth organisations.

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