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Normandy veterans are awarded France's top honour for role in country's liberation

By Tom Pugh

British Normandy veterans have been awarded France's top military honour for their role in the fight to liberate the country from the tyranny of Nazi occupation.

The seven men and women, all in their 90s and from Kent, were handed Legion d'honneur medals during a ceremony on the White Cliffs at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel le Ferne, near Folkestone, Kent.

William Jacobs (93), an able seaman in the Royal Navy who was involved in patrols off Sword beach, said the day was "the highlight of my life".

He said: "They were active men in those days and you could rely on your old shipmates. I will never, ever forget them."

Edward Snow (91), a steward in the Merchant Navy, said: "It's not how I want to be remembered, really, bringing the dead back to Plymouth, Portsmouth and Southampton. But it was all for a good cause. It was not an enjoyable time, and it's not a time I would want my grandchildren to go through."

Gordon Holland (93), a platoon sergeant with the Royal Army Service Corps who commanded 30 men, reflected on his young comrades who lost their lives.

He said: "I think of myself, nearly at the age of 94, and I've had a long life. And then I think about the lives that were cut off. They never had the pleasure of a long life."

French President Francois Hollande announced on the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014 that all British veterans who fought for France's liberation during the Second World War would get the honour.

More than 4,100 Legion d'honneur medals have been awarded since the announcement. Around 25 veterans were handed the award last year, but this is the first time the Battle of Britain Memorial, home to the National Memorial to the Few, has been used as the venue.

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