He has been given France’s highest military honour – but D-Day veteran Eric Hudson says nothing would mean more to him in 2019 than official recognition from the town he calls home.
He was awarded the Légion D’honneur in 2015 for his bravery – but says a medal from Bridlington would top everything.
Eric, who lives at Middleton Court, said: “I never went back to France until I was 90. My nephew’s son works for a big international company and said he wanted to take me.”
And while he was out there, Eric was treated like royalty, staying in luxurious accommodation and meeting local dignitaries.
He said: “I had my own interpreter, was taken to a restaurant every night, didn’t have to buy my own drinks and I had champagne with the mayor.
“I thought it was marvellous but I wondered why they were doing it.
“They said I was the only Englishman to be an honorary citizen of St Marie du Mont and Utah Beach.
“I was the only Englishman to land on an American beach – that’s why I was the only person to receive the medal.
“Another mayor asked me ‘what has Bridlington done for you?’ and I said ‘nothing’. France has given me two awards but Bridlington has not looked into things like that.”
In 1944, Eric was on a landing craft heading for Sword Beach in Normandy.
“On the way, we went to assist at Omaha beach but when we were between Utah and Omaha beaches, a German plane came down, 4ft above the water and started rocking us with gunfire.
“We all took cover and nobody got hurt, but it came back again.
“We were drifting, the engine had stopped, we were taking on water and I knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere.”
Attempts were made to transfer Eric’s crew to another boat but when that became overcrowded, he offered to swim to shore – knowing that many of the other men could not swim.
“I said ‘I will swim to the beach. It was 300 metres and the tide was going out. Every time I tried to swim, I was getting knocked off course
“By the time I got to the beach, I was exhausted. I couldn’t walk out of the water so I crawled.
“And I knew I had put my hand on a trip wire. It went off. If I had been stood up, I would have lost my leg.”
Eric was seriously hurt, with his injuries officially listed as gunshot wounds to his face, hand, chest and thigh.
“When I came round, I was in a Jeep and it was going like the devil.
“They operated on my face on the beach and I heard them say ‘this fella’s a mess’.
“I thought I’d had it. I thought I was a goner when I heard them say ‘I think you better get the padre to this one .’
“I thought ‘blimey, they have written me off’.”
He was sent back to the UK and was treated at an American Army hospital in Southampton. Because Eric was unable to speak, it had been assumed that he was an American soldier.
He spent five months in hospital, undergoing numerous operations before eventually returning to service.
Born in Leeds, Eric married Jean at the parish church in Heckmondwike in 1948 and in their later years they moved to the Bridlington area.
Well-known for his work with the town’s branch of the Royal British Legion, he can be spotted every year selling poppies in the Promenades Shopping Centre.
He is planning to return to France in June. “I’m a bit of a celebrity out there,” he joked.
“I have these two Citizens of Honour awards and I am so proud of them.
“It would make my day if Bridlington gave me something. I think I’ve earned it.”