Highest French honour for Northern Ireland’s D-Day veterans

The Northern Ireland veterans are being honoured for their part in the D-Day landings
The Northern Ireland veterans are being honoured for their part in the D-Day landings

More than 70 years after the D-Day landings in Normandy, the French government will bestow their nation’s highest honour on veterans from Northern Ireland at a ceremony in Lisburn on Tuesday.

Up to 20 survivors of the massive World War Two invasion are expected at Thiepval barracks where the Honorary French Consul Regine McCullough will present former soldiers, sailors and airmen with the Legion D’Honneur.

The award – properly known as the National Order of the Legion of Honour (French: Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur) – was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.

Among those being honoured are former Royal Signals sergeant Neville Henshaw from Comber who landed at Juno beach and helped neutralise a German pillbox, and Frank Ferguson from Ballycarry, Co Antrim – a flight lieutenant navigator and radar operator with 264 Squadron RAF providing air support over the Normandy beaches.

A MoD spokesman said: “This is not just a great honour being bestowed on the Northern Ireland veterans by France but is also a huge honour for the Armed Forces in Northern Ireland to be able to host these gentlemen and their families on this occasion.

“These are former soldiers, sailors and airmen who played their part at a critical time in history – under frightening circumstances.”

The spokesman added: “To be able to share with them on this occasion brings into focus the terrible forces they faced in the skies about northern France and the shells which rained round them on the waters and beaches of Normandy.”

A number of the medals will be awarded posthumously to veterans who have recently passed away.