NINE Scottish veterans have been decorated with France’s highest national award – the Légion d’Honneur – in recognition of their bravery in battle during the liberation of the country in 1944.
At a ceremony on board the French navy destroyer Aquitaine in Leith, Edinburgh, the men, surrounded by family members, were recognised for their roles, many of them at the D-Day landings.
The veterans were Cyril Deas, 93, Anthony Delahoy, 92, and William Pritchard, 94, all from Edinburgh, Alexander Govan, 99, and Walter Sharp, 101, both of Falkirk, Thomas Cave, 91, from Drumnadrochit, John Greig, 90, from Dumfries, Hugh Maguire, 95, from Armadale in West Lothian, and Aidan Sprot, 96, of Peebles.
After the presentation by Rear Admiral Patrick Chevallereau and Emmanuel Cocher, Consul General of France in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Anthony Delahoy thanked France for its friendship since the war.
He said: “It is a great honour to receive this award today. On my many returns to Normandy over the years, each succeeding generation of people of France have welcomed veterans with great kindness, dignity and honour, expressing their heartfelt feelings for the return of their freedom.
“We veterans also owe the people of France admiration for their courage and determination to survive the terrible times of the occupation. We pay tribute to them, and particularly to the citizens of Normandy for their courage and sacrifice during their battles for liberation.
“This great honour today is a recognition of resistance to tyranny and a celebration of liberty.”
Rear Admiral Patrick Chevallereau said it was an honour to express his nation’s gratitude to veterans.
He said: “Gentlemen from Britain, gentlemen from Scotland, you are the witnesses to a glorious history you wrote on our soil, in France. I am truly honoured to stand before you.
“Your presence today on the flight deck of the Aquitaine is the demonstration entrustring the flame of remembrance to the younger generations so that they may keep it alive, nurture it and help it grow just as our parents and grandparents did.”
Mr Maguire, who served as a lance-corporal in the Royal Ulster Rifles, landed on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944, and advanced with his regiment to the strategically important city of Caen.
His regiment encountered heavy resistance and he was injured by a shell-burst, suffering shrapnel wounds to his back, neck and shoulders. Refusing to stand down, he silenced a German machine gun, overpowered a group of German soldiers and captured an SS officer.