92-year old Fred Amess, of Whangamata, New Zealand, is as pleased as punch! This veteran of the D-Day Landings in Normandy, France has been awarded the Chevalier Medal, the fifth tier of the five classes in the Legion of Honour, for his part in the Allied invasion of France. It is a belated recognition of the bravery of the veteran, who took part in the most famous amphibious operation in history.
Fred was assigned to ‘Sword Beach’ as he was a member of the Royal Navy, serving on Landing Craft Tank 611 a part of the 39th Flotilla. He remembers the day very well, “Our skipper was a publican near London Bridge, and he was a bit of a hell or glory boy and he didn’t seem to take it, how he even knew how to get through the obstacles, I don’t know.
We were very very lucky; there were snipers shooting at us, some of the snipers were French women who were tied up with the Germans. They were collaborators and sometimes the girlfriends of the Germans. When the Canadians got them they would shave them bald.”
Needless to say, Fred is extremely proud of his medal but he would not have been awarded this prestigious honour had it not been for a French au pair working for his daughter. When she heard that Fred had taken part in the Normandy landings on the 6th June 1944, she contacted the French embassy and within a month, the medal was winging its way to Fred. She believed that the veteran deserved the award because of his bravery.
Receiving the award was bittersweet for Fred. It brought back both good and bad memories.
He remembered all those that had lost their lives on those benighted beaches and was sorry that perhaps many of those men did not receive recognition for their extreme sacrifice, “There was a great loss of life, and they are the ones who really deserve it because I was lucky. We did what we had to do, and that was it,” he said.
This medal will be proudly worn along with the other eight medals that he was granted during the war when he attends a ceremony in Tauranga for the Normandy Landings anniversary later this year. The granting of this medal proves that it is never too late to thank you and reward someone for what they have done for you. Vive la France!