Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2004 15:49 UK

Medal veteran recalls 'lucky' war

Veteran Alexander Barron
Mr Barron was among troops who landed at Sword Beach in June 1944

A British veteran presented with the Legion d'Honneur medal by France for his role in helping to free the country has put his survival down to chance.

Alexander Barron, of Juniper Green, Edinburgh, said he felt "very, very lucky" to have made it home.

Having landed at Sword Beach on D-Day, he went on to fight in France and Western Europe until the war's end.

Mr Barron, who served as a lieutenant in the 114th Armoured Regiment, said he was proud and grateful to be honoured.

The veteran, originally from Yorkshire, attended Monday's ceremony at Admiralty House in London with his wife Katie and sons Matt and Robert.

Warfare is always full of accidents, it never goes according to plan
Veteran Alexander Barron

He was one of seven UK veterans to be presented with France's military honour for bravery.

Mr Barron said military planners had "written off" his unit because they expected casualties to reach 85%. Fortunately the toll was not as high as predicted.

He said: "I feel very, very lucky. Warfare is always full of accidents, it never goes according to plan. You just don't know what will happen.

Veterans at Admiralty House, London
The servicemen were presented with the top French honour

"I'm planning to go back for the 60th anniversary to see if I can find one or two hedges I was cowering behind on the day."

The others to be honoured on Monday were Tom Bird, Dennis Cox, Gordon Fleming, Frank Jones, Charles Kennedy and Percy Redfern.

Speaking on behalf of the seven, Mr Barron said: "Today we, the new members of the Order of the Legion d'Honneur, must express our pride and gratitude most sincerely to the nation and government of France in their recognition of our activities during our youth.

"This means, from the heart we are all citizens of the Republic, a thousand thanks, Vive la France."

Timetable of events June 6
0900 Franco-American ceremony begins at the US cemetery in Colleville
1100 Bi-national service at British Cemetery Bayeux
1430 International march past on cliff top Arromanches
1730 French national ceremony in Ouistream
1730 British veterans march in Arromanches
1820 French German ceremony in Caen
All timings are local

Mr Kennedy, a former London bus conductor from Tottenham, now living in Harlow, Essex, fought alongside the French in Libya, Tunisia, Italy and Morocco and eventually helped to liberate Marseille.

The great-grandfather, now 83, said: "It is a very proud day. I was very surprised to hear I was to receive this award.

"I never dreamed of getting a medal like this."

Mr Cox, 83, from Harrogate, served on the French submarine Curie on patrols in the Mediterranean.

He said: "I think if you think of all those people in the East End of London being bombed by German aircraft, they had a much harder time than I did during the war."

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