Top French medal for D-Day landings veteran

Albert with his wife Violet. Photo: John Kerrison

Albert with his wife Violet. Photo: John Kerrison - Credit: John Kerrison

A veteran has been awarded the highest decoration from the French Republic for his role in the D-Day landings.

On June 8, 1944, the second day of the landings, a 22-year-old gunner in the Royal Artillery Regiment was in a marine craft approaching Sword beach in Normandy.

Almost 72 years later, Albert Kerrison, now aged 94, and living in Claremont House Care Home in Caister, has been made a Chevalier of the Order of the Legion d’honneur, along with many other surviving D-Day veterans, in recognition of his bravery and contribution to the liberation of the French people.

Although Mr Kerrison is now frail and suffers from dementia, he remembers those days with astonishing clarity.

Mr Kerrison said: “I was in the landing craft surrounded by other frightened young lads and I was just praying that no-one would start crying, because we would all have joined in.”

After the landing he was transferred to the infantry and saw action throughout the Normandy campaign, including close combat in the Bocage and was also involved in the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, the decisive action of the Battle of Normandy. He continued with the campaign through Belgium and Holland, and spent the last days of his war service in Hamburg guarding high-ranking German officers and at one stage the infamous war criminal Irma Grese.

Mr Kerrison left the army after the war, marrying Violet in 1949 and raising their children, John and Susan. It was only recently that he was persuaded to apply for his campaign medals by his family. Son John, said like many veterans, his father had never talked much about his experiences on the battlefield, preferring to regale his family with tales of the camaraderie with his fellow soldiers.

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He added that his father had always maintained that the medals meant nothing to him and were not why he fought.