France honours D-Day Duo
WARWICKSHIRE, United Kingdom - Nearly 75 years after their actions on D-Day, two British Normandy veterans have been presented with France's highest honour, the Légion d'honneur.
The rare award was shared by 95-year-old Bill Cowley and 100-year-old Ron Trenchard during an emotional medal ceremony in Warwickshire.
In front of family members and dozens of well-wishers who had gathered at Birdingbury near Rugby, former artilleryman Bill Cowley appealed: "I was just doing my duty."
In June 1944 Bill Cowley was responsible for delivering ammunition and rations to British gun position across the enemy-held Normandy countryside. He said he was "very honoured" to be presented with the French award.
His comrade Ron Trenchard served in the Royal Engineers and worked on the assembly of critical military infrastructure including the 'Mulberry' floating harbours and the 'Pluto' undersea oil pipeline. He arrived in the coastal invasion area close to Arromanches on D-Day minus two.
On receiving his award, Trenchard said: "It's out of this world. It's a thing that you know you will only have once."
The medals were presented to the pair by French Brigadier-General Yann Poincignon from NATO's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps based in Gloucestershire. The British-led corps commanded Allied troops during the 1944 Normandy landings.
The general told the assembled crowd: "It's a real pleasure to see our two fellows today recognised within their own community.
"Bill and Ron have shown outstanding merits, and as a French officer I am delighted to underline what they did on D-Day and the following days as absolutely outstanding. I am really glad that young people here today can actually experience the living testimony of what they did.
"Symbolically these awards are for all those young British soldiers in 1944 who decided that they had to do something."
The Légion d'honneur was established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte. It is France's highest distinction and is awarded in recognition of both military and civilian merit. On the 70th anniversary of D-Day on 6 June 2014, then President François Hollande of France announced that all surviving British soldiers involved were eligible for the award.
Story by Allied Rapid Reaction Corps Public Affairs Office