A Bridlington war veteran has just received the Legion of Honour medal from the French Government.
Peter English, now aged 90, of Kingston Close, was called up to serve his country at the age of just 19, in 1943 and spent the next four years with the Army before being demobbed in 1947.
Modestly, he describes his war as “not as bad as it could have been”. He first served with the Norfolk Yeomanry, 65th Anti-tank regiment of the Royal Artillery.
Later he was to move into the administration section working in the interpretation pool and looking after married British forces families.
He was among those who made the D-Day plus one landing on the Normandy beaches one day after D-Day invasion when there were 10,000 allied casualties, among them 4,500 dead.
It is thought fewer than 500 of the 61,000 British soldiers who braved German machine-gun and artillery fire and stormed the beaches, remain. “I think we were perhaps more fortunate on the second day.
“ Our chaps had cleared the beaches and by comparison to what had gone before it was relatively peaceful.” said Peter.
Nevertheless they had to press on through Belgium, Holland and Germany.
Fortunately they were behind tanks who were supporting the infantry. “There was still a lot of mortar fire and that kind of thing and they were very difficult times but I was not involved in any ‘death or glory’ incidents,” he said.
After being demobbed in 1947 he returned to his home town of Leeds but was soon on his travels again as a cocoa buyer in West Africa.
He was sent back in 1949 after catching malaria but continued to work for Cadbury’s for 42 years as a representative and manager returning to Nigeria and then Malaysia.
He took early retirement at the age of 55 and in 1954 married his wife Brenda, now aged 87. They moved to Bridlington in 1987 and have three children, six grandchildren and a great grandchild.
Peter learned he was to be among recipients of the Legion of Honor medal in June whilst travelling back from a visit to Normandy as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of D-Day. His medal, in the Chevalier or Knight class, arrived by post last Saturday.
“I am very pleased to get it, to receive something of this nature,” said Peter.
He still attends monthly meetings of the Normandy Vets in Hull but numbers have steadily fallen. “There are just six of us left now,” he said.
A keen golfer he was responsible for founding the seniors section at Bridlington Golf Club but nowadays is a more of a social member.
The National Order of the Legion of Honour, or in French the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.
It is the highest decoration in France and is divided into five degrees of increasing distinction.