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Medal of honour for D-Day hero can't come too soon

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 18/06/2015

Neville Henshaw and his daughter Helen Henshaw at their home in Co Down
Neville Henshaw and his daughter Helen Henshaw at their home in Co Down

The memories of his experiences on Gold beach during the D-Day landings have refused to dim for decorated Co Down veteran Neville Henshaw.

As he enjoys his 91st year, now the question at the forefront of his and his daughter's mind is when the prestigious Legion D'Honneur medal from the French Government will be handed over to him.

It's a question worth asking as the last veterans - who are an average age of 96 - are reportedly dying at 10 per week.

The Legion D'Honneur is France's highest award for bravery, and it was announced just over a year ago that all of the surviving members of the Allied forces would receive the honour for the part they played in D-Day on June 6, 1944.

Last night the French Embassy in London promised that it "will be speeding things up" and will award the majority of decorations to the 2,800 veterans who applied for it in the coming months. Mr Henshaw, from Rostrevor, is keen to know when he will receive his medal; not for himself, but in honour of the thousands who died.

"It's really important, not really for me but for the 6,000 men who lost their lives that day," the spritely 90-year-old said.

Mr Henshaw was only 19 on D-Day and served as a wireless operator in the Royal Corps of Signals. The former Yorkshire man, who has lived in Co Down for more than 40 years, vividly remembers the dawn he landed on Gold beach.

"Of course I was scared, we all were," Mr Henshaw said.

"We really didn't know how important the operation was or what it entailed until the last possible minute.

"The noise of everything around us was terrific, that's what I remember most, and that day is something that I think about more as I get older. I was in a group of four but I was the only one who survived beyond the beach. Two men were wounded and another was shot dead beside me."

His daughter Helen said her father had not heard anything from the Ministry of Defence since he had filled in his application to receive the medal.

The best news that Mr Henshaw received yesterday was a promise from the French Embassy that: "The families of the deceased veterans will receive the medal if the application was submitted before the veterans died."

He said he was delighted for the families of all of those who may die before the medal can be given to them.

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