War hero 'felt 65ft tall' when he was handed highest French honour at D-Day commemoration (From Times Series)
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War hero Fred Harris from Mill Hill 'felt 65ft tall' when he was handed highest French honour the Legion d'Honneur at D-Day commemoration
Fred Harris, from Featherstone Gardens, was presented with the Legion d'Honneur at a ceremony held in Normandy last week
A war hero from Mill Hill has been decorated with the highest French honour for his part in the liberation of Europe during the Second World War.
Fred Harris, of Featherstone Road, was presented with the Legion d'Honneur at a ceremony held in Normandy last week during 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings.
The 91-year-old, a former soldier of Driver rank, received an email from the Ministry of Defence two days before he was due to leave for the French coast informing him he would be among ex-servicemen from Britain, the US, Canada Australia and Poland to be given the award.
He said: "I was absolutely delighted and chuffed to bits. It is a real honour - it shakes you up a bit."
The Legion d'Honneur, or Legion of Honour, is the highest award given by the French government to individuals for military and civil acts.
There are five ranks of the honour and Mr Harris, a former member of the 621 Field Squadron (Royal Engineers), was presented with the highest degree of 'Chevalier' (Knight) during the presentation in Caen, Normandy, last week.
A speech given by a senior French minister addressing the war heroes during the ceremony read: "I have read many books and watched many films and documentaries but I have not found the words that would enable me to feel what you went through on your ships, planes, gliders and craft between June 5 and 6, 1944. I am in awe."
Mr Harris made national headlines earlier this year when he was reunited for the first time with an army general whose life he had saved a short time after the D-Day landings.
He never received a medal for his heroics that day, but said he was delighted when the French minister pinned his latest honour on his lapel last week.
He said: "I felt 65ft tall. I was over the moon."
During his latest trip back to Normandy, the veteran attended the cemeteries of British, Canadian and US servicemen, as well as attending the official commemoration attended by international officials including the Queen.
The Normandy Veterans Association has announced it is folding later this year as numbers dwindle, but Mr Harris believes commemorations of the famous allied invasion will continue.
He said: "It is not a lack of interest, it is just a lack of members. There is still lots of talking about what happened in 1944 and so there should be.
"It was one of the most important events in the history of our time and the greatest armada ever set afloat. It was a miracle and a huge gamble, but fortunately it paid off."
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