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British D-Day veteran to receive highest French accolade

March 16th, 2015

Troops on Juno Beach, Normandy, during the D Day landings (HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY)

Mr Turner will receive his award from Captain Francois Jean, the consul honoraire of France, on behalf of French president Francois Hollande.

He said: “This is a great honour that I wasn’t expecting. I know that I’ll be thinking of those who didn’t make it, my friends who didn’t come back from the Normandy beaches after D-Day.”

The French government informed the UK Ministry of Defence last year that it wanted to recognise the selfless acts of heroism displayed by surviving veterans of the Normandy landings.

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Mr Turner was born and brought up in Hilsea, Portsmouth, and at 17 he decided to go to the city’s recruiting office and sign up for the RAF, but he was too young. Instead he was taken on by the Royal Marines in January 1943.

He and three other colleagues manned a landing craft which was based at Itchenor, near Chichester. On June 4, 1944, they sailed across to Lee-on-Solent and came alongside a Canadian troop ship.

And on June 5, they sailed across the Channel in their landing craft as part of the invasion.

Mr Turner said: “It was very quiet, no one spoke. Then when we got close to the beach, the Germans started firing and it was pretty noisy. I was used to it, as my dad had been in charge of the firewatch in Portsmouth, so I’d heard air raids and gunfire anyway.

“I wasn’t frightened. I was only young, so it felt a bit like an adventure to me, even at that stage. We landed the Canadian engineers and their equipment on the beach and then backed off, so we could see what was going on. Some landing craft were hit and started sinking, some Canadians were being shot around us.

“We slept on the beach that night, and I remember a German plane coming over and flying very low. We were all firing at it. The next day, we started unloading all the ships by landing craft. Most of the boxes we unloaded seemed to be food.

“The next day, the Canadians dug a trench for the dead bodies and covered them over. But we saw a few bodies still floating on the tide, even a week after D-Day.”

Mr Turner will receive the award on Monday March 23.


World War Two

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