Tony Kemmery, 94, of Broomground, Winsley, received the Legion D’Honneur medal from the French Ambassador recently.
Kemmery was an Airborne Medic with the 6th Air-landing Brigade. He was sent to capture the Pegasus Bridge in Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Kemmery has lived in Winsley for nearly 50 years. He was excited to receive the medal – the highest French order for military and civilian merit.
“It is a real honor to receive this very special medal,” said Kemmery. “I am very pleased because it was quite a big event in my life, and to come from the French is lovely.”
On his 21st birthday, he flew by Horsa glider to within a few hundred yards of the bridge along with sixteen comrades. They took the Germans by surprise. “Not many people have a birthday quite like that,” Kemmery said.
He joined the Army in 1942 at the age of 19. He was training to be a pharmacist. “We were in the medical unit,” he said, “and sheltered in a ditch while the military took the bridge and established a base on the river Orn near the village of Ranville.”
Kemmery went on to say:
“Even though that lasted a few hours, little did we know we would be gridlocked there for next three months under shell and mortar fire. Surprisingly, morale was very good. We took it like we were on holiday for some strange reason. We were also quite lucky as the Germans generally respected the Red Cross so they left us pretty much alone.”
After the war, Kemmery was stationed in Jerusalem until 1947 as a medical pharmacy apprentice. He was at Jerusalem’s 16th General Hospital before spending the rest of his career in pharmacies in and around Calne, Bath, and Bristol.
“I very much enjoyed my time in the army. The traveling, the comradeship, and spending two Christmases in Bethlehem was not bad either. We returned home from the war on V-E Day and I remember thinking, ‘I guess that is it then’ but next thing I know, within a month, I’m off to the Middle East, but that was quite a wonderful time.”