Veteran tank commander Francis Denvir has been awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honour, for his role in the D-Day campaign. The centenarian, who came from Glasgow before moving to Ireland, was a sergeant in an Irish Guards armoured division. He landed in Normandy and took part in fighting throughout Northern France, in Belgium and the famous Battle of Arnhem in Holland, which was later depicted in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far. He suffered near-fatal shrapnel wounds in Arnhem when his tank was blown up.
Receiving the medal from the French ambassador to Ireland, Mr Denvir’s first thoughts were for his fallen comrades.
He said: "It is only fitting that we remember all the Irish Guards and all those who fought during World War Two and the many who did not return home.”
Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault said: "What makes this day special is not only because it is a unique opportunity to recognise his merit after quite a long time, but to remember through him also all his comrades, friends, Irish, British, French who more than 60 or 70 years ago made a decision to fight together for certain values."
It was reported in the summer that hundreds of British D-Day veterans were to receive the Legion d’Honneur before the end of this year. At a memorial event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion last year, French president François Hollande promised that all British veterans who served in France at the time would receive the medal. Lengthy delays led to fears that some veterans might pass away before the honour could be bestowed.
A number of British veterans have since received their medals in special ceremonies and some of the medals have been awarded posthumously. The French Embassy said it is still seeking other surviving veterans of D-Day and other French operations, and has appealed for veterans or their families to make contact.