Published:
October 7, 2017
Burnham-On-Sea WW2 veteran receives France's top D-Day medal

A ceremony was held in Burnham-On-Sea on Friday night (October 6th) to present a town war veteran with France's highest wartime honour for his role in the Normandy landings 73 years ago.

As we first reported here in July, the French Government has awarded Burnham pensioner Tony Winterburn, 92, with the Chevalier de L'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur in recognition of his involvement in the liberation of France during the Second World War.

On Friday evening, more than 50 local people gathered at Burnham-On-Sea Community Centre to see Colette Winfield of Burnham's U3A French group present Tony with his award, 73 years on from the D-Day landings where he was involved.

Colette read out a letter of congratulations from the French President before presenting Tony with his award. She told Burnham-On-Sea.com it had been a "great honour and privelege to present the award on behalf of France."

Tony gave a moving account of his involvement in the D-Day landings, and he told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "It's was so special to have the award presented in my home town among so many friends and local people."

"The French consul had offered to present the award elsewhere, but I said I'd prefer it to be done locally - and it was a perfect evening."

A French evening was held at the Community Centre in Tony's honour, with French food served and entertainment from a local brass band.

Tony said it was "great honour" to have received this award from France. He served in the Merchant Navy and had just been promoted to Second Radio Officer when he was posted to SS Stanridge in May 1944. The ship was ordered to load war supplies and several hundred soldiers.

Tony recalled: "Early in June, we sailed for Normandy, an area in the vicinity of Arramanches, and landed our men and cargo on the beach, via landing craft. We made five or six subsequent voyages from London Docks, landing men and materials on Gold, Sword and Juno beach heads."

"On each passage through the Dover Straits, always at night, we were in action against German E-Boats and suffered losses. Our final run to Normandy ended on August 10th, 1944."

Sylvie Bermann, the Ambassador of France to the United Kingdom, says in her letter to Tony: "I offer you my warmest congratulations on this high honour in recognition of your acknowledged military engagement and your steadfast involvement in the Liberation of France during the Second World War."

She adds: "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 of Europe by liberating France."

"We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life."

Tony told Burnham-On-Sea.com how he learned of the award: "It all came about after my daughter Miranda read an article in a London newspaper about someone who'd received the award and we realised that the French government is recognising those who were involved in the Normandy landings."

"We initially approached the MoD and sent in a record of the ships that I'd served on and the dates of my service in the war."

"The MoD confirmed I would be applicable and soon after I received a letter from the French ambassador confirming that the President had appointed me to the rank of Chevalier de L'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur."

"It is a lovely to have the recognition over 70 years on, and really wonderful that the French government is doing this."

 


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