A French diplomat has hailed a courageous D-Day veteran from Chichester one of ‘the true heroes of France’.
Captain Francois Jean made the comment when presenting six veterans with France’s highest military honour at Southsea’s D-Day Museum for their heroics in the Second World War.
Among those included Chichester man Reginald ‘Tim’ England, 93, who was awarded the honour for his effort helping liberate the French from the Nazis.
At the ceremony, Captain Jean, the Consul Honoraire of France, said: “You are true heroes and will be our heroes forever. We French will never forget what you did to restore our freedom.”
Tim, of Joys Croft, was stunned to receive the medal.
Speaking to the Observer after Friday’s ceremony, Tim said: “It’s such an honour to be remembered that we were there to help the French them when they were in trouble.
“One thinks about the courage of those young comrades of ours that didn’t come back and are still over there.
“This medal is more an honour to them than anyone and I’m so proud to have received it.”
Tim joined the RAF as soon as he could and wanted to be a Spitfire pilot.
A small hearing defect delayed him being called up, and reluctant to wait another year, he joined RAF ground support.
When the D-Day landings were being prepared, Tim’s unit was based in Christchurch on the seafront.
From his position on the roof, Tim could see the fleet preparing for action across the channel.
The grandfather-of-four added: “It was a truly awe-inspiring sight. There was a whole armada of ships there one day, then the next they were all gone.”
After D-Day, Tim’s unit was called to Dover and across to Calais.
His service took him as far as Holland and Kleve in Germany.
The specialised unit worked to disrupt signals from German aircraft control and the unit was often placed close to the front line.
He added: “It was very secretive work. We were disrupting the Germany’s bombing runs.
“We used a whole range of systems to disrupt the beams they used to navigate their planes.
“Sadly we didn’t have these set up in time to stop the Luftwaffe from bombing Coventry.”
Tim’s family were able to attend the ceremony.
The other veterans to receive the coveted medal included Albert Dyason, of Havant, Albert Edwards, of Portsmouth, Frederick Homard, Leslie Savill, of Gravesham, and Douglas Crabb, of Lee-on-the-Solent.
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