France’s highest honour for Dereham’s Normandy veteran Tom

Normandy veteran Tom Twite from Dereham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Normandy veteran Tom Twite from Dereham. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A Normandy veteran who 'got through the war without a scratch' has been awarded the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest decoration, for his part in liberating dozens of towns and villages from German occupation during the Second World War.

Normandy veteran Tom Twite from Dereham, when he was serving with the Coldstream Guards. Picture: Ma

Normandy veteran Tom Twite from Dereham, when he was serving with the Coldstream Guards. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Tom Twite, a 93-year-old former tank operator with the Coldstream Guards, has received the award as a mark of gratitude for facing some of the fiercest battles of the war in which many of his comrades died.

Mr Twite, who lives in Dereham, said he accepted it on behalf of the friends he lost during the war.

'As far as I am concerned it is not my honour,' he said. 'It is for those I had to leave behind.'

Mr Twite was informed of the award via a letter which offers congratulations from the President of France and which paid tribute to his 'military determination and steadfast involvement in the liberation of France'.

It adds: 'We will never forget the heroes like you who came from Britain and across the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe. We owe our freedom and security to your dedication because you were ready to risk your life for us.'

The award comes during a busy year of honours for the farmer's son, who grew up in Tittleshall, having been invited as guest of honour at ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day in St Charles de Percy and Montchamp Normandy and in Valkenswaard and Eindhoven for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Holland. He received a commemorative medal on his return to Valkenswaard this year and has also visited Brussels, Waterloo, Bruges and Ypres.

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Mr Twite said it was an emotional time particularly in Holland. 'I went back and met the people of Valkenswaard and they were great. I was at a concert of about 3,000 people in the square and they announced there was a veteran there. Everyone turned to look at me and played Land Of Hope And Glory. It was quite overwhelming.'

He added: 'It shows that you are still appreciated all these years on. Sometimes I wonder how I survived and I am lucky to be here.'