Decades After D-Day, WW2 Hero Receives Highest French Honor

British Forces Storm the French Beaches on D-Day
British Forces Storm the French Beaches on D-Day

The invasion of Nazi-occupied France is considered a major turning point of the Second World War. Scores of British and U.S. soldiers perished during and after the D-Day invasion of Normandy beaches. Those who survived told the tales of bravery and gallantry by the Allied troops while pushing their way into Nazi-held France. A British war hero has now received France’s highest honour in recognition of his bravery during the allied invasion of France during the Second World War.

The resident of East Sussex in England, Patrick Kent, can now proudly pin the prestigious Legion d’Honneur medal to his chest with a feeling of gratitude, filled with memories of war and his comrades who fell while fighting alongside him. Mr. Kent could only receive the medal thanks to the timely intervention by his local MP, who pushed the efforts for the medal long promised by the French.

Maria Caulfield received the information that Mr. Kent had been waiting to receive his medal for over a year and has not received any help from the French or even local authorities. She acted promptly on behalf of the veteran, who had already written numerous letters and made many calls to all concerned authorities. The Ministry of Defence was contacted and later notified of the matter by Maria Caulfield, asking French authorities about the honour promised to Patrick Kent, as that British soldier deserved it for his sacrifices more than 70 years ago.

Mr. Kent had previously been awarded the medal as gratitude for his efforts and bravery during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Kent, along with his comrades, was part of the first wave of Allied troops that stormed the French coast across Sword Beach on June 6, 1944. Many of his fellow soldiers perished on the beach as a result of fierce German bombings. However, Kent survived the ordeal.

Recalling the gruesome days of the war, Kent, 91, said that he was one of the youngest amongst the Royal Marine force that stormed the French beaches, and told of how they had to face the German fire that never seemed to stop for even a second. Kent still finds it extremely hard to talk about the events of the war and could only describe his experiences as a sheer “bloodbath” in which an awful lot of young men perished, to the point that wherever one could see there were piles of bodies.

The Legion d’Honneur is France’s highest decoration awarded to those who sacrifice for France and the values it holds precious.

On the 70th anniversary of the landmark invasion of D-Day, French President Francois Hollande announced the extension of France’s highest medal award to British marines who took part in the battle. The award is a gesture of gratitude to those men who took part and sacrificed for the liberation of French territories from Nazis’ claws in the days during and after D-Day, from 1944 up until the end of the war. Within months after the French announcement of the medal, a total of 300 applications were filed by British veterans of the Second World War hoping to receive the medals from French authorities.

Talking about the award, Mr. Kent said that although he feels extremely honored to have received the highest decoration from the French government, he is not doing that entirely for his own sake but for the scores of his fellow Marines who could not make out alive and perished in the struggle to liberate France and defeat the Nazis. He said that he wished to wear the honour in memory of the fallen soldiers of the World War and not for himself.

Kent expressed his concerns about the neglect he had to face after the initial announcement by the French President regarding the award. He said that the Ministry of Defence and French authorities did not show any interest despite his numerous calls and applications to remind them to act on their promise. Kent then was contacted by his local MP, who promptly took notice of the matter so that Kent received the award in a matter of a fortnight.

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield said that she felt delighted upon meeting with the war hero, and especially after helping him get the honor he truly deserved. She said that the legacy of heroes like Patrick Kent is what has made Europe a flag-bearer of liberty and freedom all over the world and that their sacrifices must never be forgotten. Maria expressed her gratitude upon meeting the great man and hearing from him the memories of the legendary invasion of France that contributed significantly towards the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE