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Humble airman Frank gets France's highest honour 70 years on from WWII

By Ivan Little

Published 27/10/2015

Frank Ferguson with his Legion d’honneur
Frank Ferguson with his Legion d’honneur

A World War Two veteran from Co Antrim has received France's highest honour more than 70 years after his heroics.

And Frank Ferguson's belated award arrived at his Ballycarry home by special delivery -through the post.

But plans are in hand to make a formal presentation of the Legion d'honneur to 92-year-old Mr Ferguson before Christmas.

Mr Ferguson, who remarkably is still working as a civil engineer, has been decorated for his part in liberating France during the war.

French President Francois Hollande promised last year during the 70th anniversary commemorations of D-Day that all surviving British veterans who fought in France during the war would be officially recognised.

Mr Ferguson, who was an RAF navigator in the conflict, heard the news during an emotional return to Normandy 16 months ago.

He went back to a number of his old wartime sites, and he also laid a wreath at Bayeux war cemetery on the grave of a friend who had been killed at Picauville airfield.

"That was very emotional for me," said Mr Ferguson, who in a wartime logbook has a picture of 64 colleagues, 16 of whom never came home.

During his visit to France he said he was taken aback after French people approached him to thank him for helping to liberate them.

Mr Ferguson, who was accompanied by his daughter Sara, was stationed at Chateau de Berneville, which had been the German headquarters for the region during the war.

Always the humble hero, Mr Ferguson, who keeps his other wartime medals inside a box, said that he had been "surprised" by President Hollande's announcement.

But did the Legion d'honneur, which some compare to the awarding of a Knighthood in Britain, entitle Mr Ferguson, who had also been involved in the Battle of the Bulge over the winter months of 1944/45, to anything in France? "Not at all," he laughed. "It's just an honour. It will go into the box with the other medals."

Sara said that, privately, her father had been deeply moved by the bestowing of the award on him.

She added: "I remember how touched he was in Normandy when people would just approach him in the street and thank him, or ask to have their photo taken with him.

"I don't think that he ever imagined that this would happen. It means a lot to him that he is being thanked 70 years later."

In Cork a few days ago another veteran was presented with the Legion d'honneur on his 100th birthday by the French ambassador to Ireland, Jean-Pierre Thebault. Francis Denvir was a sergeant in an Irish Guards armoured division which fought in Operation Market Garden following the second wave of D-Day landings.

It is understood that a number of other Second World War survivors are also in line for the French honour, which was recently presented by President Hollande in person to three Americans and a Briton who foiled a suspected terror attack on a train bound for Paris.

Mr Ferguson's Legion d'honneur may be formally handed over to him in December at a Battle of Britain 75th anniversary concert, featuring the bands of the Royal Air Force in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph

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