5 June : France honours 10 WW2 British veterans

While on Arrse the French bashing goes on...

D-DAY: War hero Albert lands France's top honour

Published Date: 04 June 2009

By Sarah Crabtree

A D-DAY veteran from Sheffield is to travel to Paris aboard Eurostar tomorrow to be awarded the highest honour the French can bestow.
Albert Holmshaw, aged 84, will be presented with the Legion d'Honneur for his distinguished World War Two record and his subsequent work with the Normandy Veterans' Association.

He will be one of only 10 veterans from across Britain to be given the medal - an enamelled gilt star on a red ribbon - at a ceremony at the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur on the left bank of the River Seine.

Previous recipients include US actor and film director Clint Eastwood and Israeli president Shimon Peres.

Today Albert told The Star he felt "stressed" but "very proud".

"I didn't realise at first what an honour it was," he said. "I know now it is the highest the French can give - although there are five 'classes' within the order and mine is the Chevalier or Knight which is the bottom of the pile!"

Albert, who worked as a mechanic until he retired, lived in Sheffield all his life but now lives in Mansfield, Notting-hamshire, with wife Betty, 80. The couple have two children, two grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

He landed on Sword beach in Normandy two hours into D-Day on June 6, 1944, with the 3rd British Infantry Division.

He said: "My memory of D-Day is of the shells raining down, the sand erupting all around, and the burning tanks and bodies everywhere. It was a bloody nightmare."

Following the presentation in Paris tomorrow, Albert will travel north to Normandy on Saturday, to take part in the 65th anniversary
commemorations being held there. Veterans will march through the town of Arromanches before gathering in the square for a fly-past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and a memorial service.

And on Sunday Albert will make a personal detour to the tiny Normandy village of Périers-sur-le-Dan, where 20 of his comrades were killed as they liberated the village from the Germans on June 7, 1944.

"The people there are so proud to be associated with us and the village children all dress in white for the memorial service," said Albert.

"The village has erected its own memorial monument in the town square with the names of all the men that were killed."

The official D-Day memorial service in Sheffield will be next Friday, June 12, at 11am, and will be attended by the Lord Mayor.


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