D-Day veteran Alan King awarded top French honour

Alan King who has been awarded the Legion d'Honneur medal from France for his role in the D-Day land

Alan King who has been awarded the Legion d'Honneur medal from France for his role in the D-Day landings. He was a wireless operator in a Sherman Tank deployed in numerous attacks aimed at containing the German Panzer units. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

On June 6, 1944, Alan King landed on the beaches of Normandy as part of the D-Day landings before battling his way through France, Belgium and on to Germany.

Now, the 91-year-old has become one of just a handful of people in our region to be awarded France's highest honour for bravery – the Légion d'Honneur,

The award, which was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is an acknowledgement of extraordinary bravery and service in times of war.

Mr King, of Thornham Parva, near Eye, served as a wireless operator in Sherman tanks in the East Riding Yeomanry as part of 27 Armoured Brigade.

In a letter from the French authorities, Mr King was told he had been appointed to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur in recognition of his involvement in the liberation of France during the Second World War.

Mr King was 18 when he started training as a wireless operator in 1942. In preparation for the landings, Mr King was sent to Fritton Lake, near Great Yarmouth, on a secret training mission to turn Valentine tanks into amphibious vehicles.

On D-Day Mr King landed on Sword Beach shortly after 7am as part of the initial assault.

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He said: 'The sea was wild on D-Day. We were deployed in numerous attacks aimed at containing German Panzer units. We moved on to liberate the area around Cambes-en-Plein, and from there we fought in Operation Charnwood on the northern outskirts of Caen.

'On July 18 we took part in Operation Goodwood, where many of our men and tanks were lost. We started with 600 tanks and at the end of that day we only had 100 left.

'Following this battle those of us left were sent to Le Havre to attack the German gun batteries. I lost my best friend and many comrades during the Battle for Normandy.'

Mr King crossed the Rhine into Germany in early 1945, he said: 'Nobody wanted to fight any more. We'd had enough.'

Mr King recalled one incident when an attack blew off the left tracks on his tank: 'I saw a German through the periscope slowly turning to face the tank. We were hit and managed to escape to hide in a ditch.'

Mr King's daughter, Joyce, said: 'While in Holland and in the battle of 's-Hertogenbosch he was instrumental in rescuing a family with three children. Last year my sister and I accompanied Dad back to 's-Hertogenbosch for the 70th commemoration of the liberation of the city where he was able to once again meet one of the rescued children who is now aged 74.

'My father saw and experienced some terrible sights and sounds. It is right that all these veterans should be honoured, not only by the French but also our own country.'

Mr King will be officially presented with the award on Tuesday, in London and said: 'Somebody once said to me 'how do you remember so much?'. When you're sent to meet your maker you don't forget the journey.'

Do you know someone who has been rewarded for military service? Email kate.royall@archant.co.uk