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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
UK veterans awarded French honour
Normandy landings
The award comes in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of D-Day
Seven British veterans have been given the French Legion d'Honneur for their role in the country's liberation.

The medal, the country's top military honour for bravery, recognises their courage during World War II.

The men risked their lives and were often wounded during the fight for liberation.

The veterans receiving the honour were Alexander Barron, Tom Bird, Dennis Cox, Gordon Fleming, Frank Jones, Charles Kennedy and Percy Redfern.

Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in May 1802, the Legion d'Honneur is awarded for gallantry in action or 25 years' distinguished service in military or civilian life.

Where we pay tribute to those men and women who gave their lives, and fortunately some who are still with us today
Gerard Errera
French ambassador to Britain

The ceremony on Monday at Admiralty House in London comes in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of the Allied invasion, to be celebrated over the weekend of 5-6 June.

The medals were presented by the French ambassador to Britain Gerard Errera.

He said: "It's a day where we not only remember and have in our minds history, but where we pay tribute to those men and women who gave their lives, and fortunately some who are still with us today, for what is the most important thing in human life - freedom."

The veterans honoured were:

  • Alexander Barron, from Edinburgh, who served as a lieutenant in the 114th Armoured Regiment and landed at Sword Beach on D-Day.

    After fighting in France he was involved in the pursuit of German forces in Germany.

  • Major Tom Bird, from Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, who was serving in the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade of the British Eighth Army when he received the order, in June 1942, to supply the French Bir Hakeim garrison.

    Ferocious fighting

    At the head of a column of 25 lorries carrying food supplies and munitions, he managed to get through the minefields and reach the citadel. On the night of June 10/11 1942, General Koenig used Major Bird's lorries to evacuate the 2,700 men from the garrison.

  • Dennis Cox, from Harrogate, Yorkshire, who served on the French submarine Curie as liaison officer. He took part in patrols, mainly in the Mediterranean, until the end of the war.

  • Gordon Fleming, from Hove, Sussex, who landed on Sword Beach with the 6th Commando and took part in the ferocious fighting to take the vital Pegasus Bridge.

    He was seriously wounded in the arm at Gonneville on June 21 1944. After being evacuated he hovered between life and death.

  • Frank Jones, from Sutton on Sea, Lincolnshire who was seconded to the Free French Naval Forces in May 1941.

    A radio telegraph operator on various French ships, by the end of the war he had taken part in 65 operations off the enemy coast.

    Dangerous operation

  • Charles Kennedy, from Harlow, Essex, who took part in the Italy campaign in 1943 with the CEF (French Expeditionary Force). Later he was involved in operations in Provence, with General de Lattre de Tassigny's First Army.

    On August 24 1944, during the fighting for the liberation of Marseille, Mr Kennedy crossed the lines with his Jeep to evacuate two wounded French soldiers.

  • Percy Redfern, from Macclesfield, Cheshire, who landed on Gold Beach on D-Day.

    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

    He took part in the dangerous operation to first clear the beach, then roads, of landmines to allow the advance of the troops in the Tilly, Villers-Bocage, Vernon and Falaise sectors.

    The French government is awarding 70 of the prestigious medals in all to mark the D-Day anniversary.

    Another British veteran who attended Monday's event will be presented with his medal by the President of France, Jacques Chirac, at a special ceremony in Normandy on 6 June.

    Patrick Churchill, from Witney, Oxfordshire, was seconded as British army radio operator to Kieffer Commando. He took part in the Normandy Landings and fought at Ouistreham and Amfreville.

    The Queen and leaders of the UK, US, France, Russia and Germany will attend some of the 40 events planned in Normandy.

    Up to 10,000 UK veterans are also expected to make the trip to France.

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