A World War II veteran from Battle has been awarded the highest French military honour for his part in the decisive D-Day offensive.
Ernest ‘Tim’ Smith, of Coronation Gardens, was part of the paratrooper regiments who were dropped into northern France on June 6, 1944.
The 91-year-old was only 19 at the time and has now been appointed to the rank of Chevalier, or Knight, in the Legion of Honour.
Tim, as his friends know him, said he was ‘honoured’ to receive the award last month and paid tribute to his comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“In 1943, when I was 18, I volunteered for paratrooper regiment and I served in the 12th Battalion and the Yorkshire Paratrooper Battalion as a Private soldier, which was part of the British 16th Airborne Division which led the assault into Normandy on D-Day,” he said.
“I was 19 when I parachuted in the early hours of D-Day, north of the Pegasus Bridge.
“I am very honoured to have received this award and if I am able to wear it on Armistice Day on the 11th of the 11th of the 11th, I will wear it in with pride in honour of my comrades who never made it back.
“They paid the supreme sacrifice and we shall never forget what they have done.”
Tim ‘dropped’ three times in total, twice in Normandy and once in Ardennes.
He was 16 when he first joined the army and served in the 70th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corp.
He said he was surprised to receive the award but unfortunately, he cannot attend the presentation ceremony in Newhaven due to his old age.
“I could but I am on oxygen and four wheels, my son said he would take me but I am not going to go,” he said.
Tim has been married to Kathly Smith for more than 70 years.
She was working in a munitions factory making hand grenades while Tim was parachuting over occupied France.
The story of their marriage beggars belief.
“I came home on the Friday, got married on the Saturday and went back on the Sunday for two years,” he said.
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