‘We must never take our freedom for granted’: Norfolk and Suffolk war heroes finally get the occasion they deserve
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
They are the men and women who risked their tomorrow for our today, taking part in the bloody campaign that was the beginning of the end of the Second World War – and now they have been officially recognised for their extraordinary bravery.
At The Assembly House in Norwich, a special ceremony was held for recipients of the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest decoration, who travelled from across Norfolk and Suffolk to be presented with their medals by Lord Richard Dannatt.
The French government awarded the medal to all surviving veterans of the Normandy landings in 2014, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of June 6 1944.
Since June 2014, more than 2,000 medals have been awarded.
But for many veterans, there has been no celebration, no official ceremony and no formal presentation: many medals have arrived without fanfare by Royal Mail.
At a special tea party complete with 1940s-style entertainment from Annie Filler and involvement from Reepham High School pupils, almost 30 veterans were presented with their medals.
Jack Woods of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans Association said: 'This was the biggest event of its kind to take place since the French government began handing out the medals.'
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Richard Hughes, director of The Assembly House, said: 'I had the great privilege of going to Normandy last June with the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans and spending the anniversary of D-Day by their side.
'They gave so much to us all so we wanted to give something back in return; a small gesture in the scheme of things, but it shows that Norwich will always remember.'
Lord Dannatt is a regular visitor to Normandy and has invited the veterans to a special service on June 4 in Crepon for his unit, the Green Howards.
'It's a huge privilege to be asked to present these medals to mark the bravery of those who took part in the biggest operation in the history of the armed forces,' he said.
Mr Woods added: 'We keep the memory of the Normandy campaign alive because we must never take our freedom for granted and we must never forget those who gave their lives for us.'