A naval radar operator who escorted ships during the D-Day landings has won France’s highest military award, the Legion d’Honneur.
Alvin Ansell, from Accrington, was a radar operator with the Royal Navy on the steam gunboat the Grey Goose during the operation to invade Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War.
French president Francois Hollande announced on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2014 that the distinction would be awarded to all surviving British veterans to honour and thank those who fought for the liberation of France.
Alvin, 92, joined the Navy in 1943 at the age of 18 and he became a radar operator after doing his naval training.
He said: “Around the D-Day landings we were put under the control of the United States Navy and, on June 6, we escorted block ships off Omaha beach.
“We stayed there until a huge gale blew up and we were so badly damaged that we had to return to England.”
Alvin left the Navy in 1946 and worked as a sales rep for various companies, eventually retiring from Unilever. When it was announced that British forces involved in the D-Day landings were to be recognised with the Legion d’Honneur, Alvin decided to apply.
He said: “When I heard we were to be honoured, I thought it was such a nice idea and I sat and waited for it to arrive, but of course it didn’t.”
Surviving British servicemen who fought during the invasion have to apply to the Ministry of Defence who then verify their records before making a recommendation to the French government.
Alvin added: “A friend of mine sent off all my documents and the MOD were taking a long time to the point he got so fed up he got our MP Graham Jones involved.
“On Monday a letter from the French ambassador came with the insignia in a little box.”
Since June 2014, more than 2,000 medals have been awarded to retired British military personnel who participated in the offensive.
Alvin, who lives on Park Street with his wife of 35 years Joan, will have his de Chevalier of ‘Ordre National de Legion d’Honneur officially presented to him by Hyndburn MP Graham Jones at a service at St Paul’s Church in Accrington led by Rev Ian Enticott on Sunday, October 23 at 9.15am.