Ken Haw from Harrogate was awarded the rank of Chevalier in the Legion d’Honneur for his service in the liberation of France during the Second World War on Friday, December 1.
Watching with pride as the wreath-adorned medal was pinned to his chest, members of the Knaresborough Royal British Legion, of which he was president, and his family gathered at his home. Not only had he shown heroism through his service but by sharing his experiences after the war.
His grandson, Alex Green said: “He landed at Juno beach and was immediately under heavy gun fire, we never pushed him for information but he did say that he was one of the lucky ones. His landing craft was one of the few that was piloted on to the beaches, many were not so lucky.”
He added: “We are all immensely proud of him, it isn’t just because of his bravery in the war but the fact he continued to share his experiences.
“That is something that isn’t easy for a lot of people.
“He visited schools and army foundation camps around the area for decades, including my own school, eventually going to most of the Harrogate and Knaresborough primary schools. He only stopped in the last three or four years.”
Daughter Tina, son-in-law Keith and grandsons Alex and Michael Green had joined him for the day. Paying tribute to a ‘good hearted man,’ his family and his friends from the Legion have said he will be remembered as a humble but inspiring figure.
David Houlgate of the Knaresborough Royal British Legion said: “Ken, who was a regular attendee at Branch meetings, was a humble man but one always felt humbled in his presence. To those of us in the Legion he was a giant - good hearted, engaging and great company.
“He will be sorely missed by all those who knew him and we pass on our sincere condolences to Irene, his wife of 67 years, and the Haw/Green family.”
Landing on the beaches of Normandy Mr Haw was part of the Lincolnshire Regiment, serving alongside his friend Peter Grey. While under fire it was Mr Grey who carried him to a medical centre after he was wounded on Juno Beach. Mr Haw was later evacuated to England for further treatment.
While recovering from his wounds at Harrogate Hospital he met his wife, Irene, who lived near the hospital. He was later moved to Conyngham Hall to recover and the pair married in 1950, enjoying 67 years together.
Former ambassador of France to the United Kingdom, Sylvie Bermann, paid tribute to Mr Haw’s service in a letter accompanying his medal.
Mrs Bermann wrote: “We must never forget heroes like you, who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France. We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life.”
The Legion of Honour is the highest award the Republic of France can bestow on a non-French citizen.
It was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and divided into five degrees of distinction, starting with the Chevalier or Knight rank.