Halesworth Normandy veteran is given France’s top honour

Bryan Samain from Halesworth has been awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French Government.

Bryan Samain from Halesworth has been awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French Government. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Six days after D-Day, Bryan Samain - still in his teens - went into action.

An officer with 45 Royal Marine Commando, he went into the frontline as a battlefield casualty replacement.

His unit was tasked with shoring up the eastern flank of the Normandy beachhead against German counter-attacks.

For almost three months, the line was held, until the Allies finally broke out through the German lines and the advance resumed.

After a return to England for a refit, his unit went back into action, in Holland, and then, eventually, into Germany itself.

By the time the war ended, Mr Samain was barely in his 20s.

Now, 70 years on from the close of the conflict, he has been given France's highest honour, as one of the men who helped to liberate France.

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The 91-year-old, from Highfield Road, Halesworth, is the latest remaining British veterans of the Normandy campaign to be awarded the Légion d'Honneur.

'It's a very nice recognition by the French authorities,' he said. 'Anybody getting something like this is proud of it, but you have to remember all the people, especially your comrades, who were killed and never came back.'

Although seven decades separate Mr Samain's service and his award, he is particularly pleased with it. 'We got our ordinary war medals within 12 months of the ending of the Second World War,' he said, 'but the Légion d'Honneur is really something quite special.'

'My two sons, Paul and Peter, are very happy about the news, as are other members of the family.'

Mr Samain is the latest Second World War veteran to be recognised after French President François Hollande promised last year that all surviving British veterans who served in France during the war and who took part in the Normandy invasion would be honoured.

His unit landed on the Normandy beaches on D-Day and he joined it as a battle casualty replacement six days later.

The Commandos and Paratroops fought to secure the eastern flank of the bridgehead and later retained it in the face of the enemy for almost three months until August 17 1944, when the breakout of the bridgehead and the chasing of the Germans to Paris began.

In a letter to Mr Samain, the French Ambassador in London, Sylvie Bermann said: 'I offer you my warmest congratulations on this high honour in recognition of your acknowledged military engagement and your steadfast involvement in the Liberation.'