Veteran from Sprowston receives honour for Normandy invasion
- Credit: Archant
A Sprowston man has received France's greatest honour.
Leonard Mann, 91, was in the 12th Battalion Devonshire Regiment, Airborne Division, during the Normandy invasion.
The veteran was just 19 years old when he fought on the beaches on June 6, 1944.
Now, 72 years later, he has been awarded the Légion d'honneur. He said: 'It has taken so long as they only expected between 60 and 70 people to apply but there were more than 3,000 people. It is a great honour, but I wouldn't call myself a hero, I was just doing my job.
'It was a hard time and I was scared, but I just told myself that if I died I wouldn't know anything about it, so it kept me going. I remember when we got to the beach, 162 people were killed in five minutes.'
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On June, 6, 1944, during the battle, a piece of shrapnel injured Mr Mann and he was taken to the medic.
'They told me I was going to stay there and I told them I was going back to join my friends and that was the end of it, so I went back in - I still have the scar across my head where the shrapnel hit me.'
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He travelled to Germany, France and Holland during his service.
During the presentation of the medal at the Diamond Centre, in Sprowston, yesterday, Mr Mann told stories from his four years in the army.
'I met lots of lovely German people and I remember they would ask for photos with us in our uniforms. They said, 'we don't want this war' and I said, 'neither do we'.
'I made friends with a young woman in Holland and she invited me for coffee with her parents as people liked to meet soldiers, but it was just burnt wheat, so I asked my mother to send me a package and I gave the family two pots of coffee - you would think I had given them the world.'
A letter sent to Mr Mann, from the Ambassador of France, Sylvie Bermann, offered congratulations.
She wrote: 'As we contemplate this Europe of peace, we must never forget the heroes like you, who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation. We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life.'
Ian Moncur, chairman of Sprowston Town Council, presented the medal. He said: 'I think it's nice to meet a true hero, I'm an ex Royal Marine so it's an honour for me to present this medal.'
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